One of the most exciting things about following tabletop games is having a front row seat to the constant innovation unfolding in modern game design. New RPGs, card, dice, and board games are releasing all the time, and every year we see big surprises that offer fresh ideas that in turn help to fuel next year’s ideas.

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (designed by Mike Selinker) is one of those titles that sparks the imagination with its approach to gameplay and story. Drawing on the classic traditions of tabletop role-playing games, the Pathfinder card game sees a cooperative party of adventurers working together to delve into dungeons, travel to towns, and vanquish villains. Over time, your characters level up, acquire better equipment, and return for new stories and adventures. However, unlike classic RPGs like D&D (or the Pathfinder RPG, for that matter), no game master is required.  

Getting Started

The core release of the Pathfinder card game is the Rise of the Runelords base set, which includes nearly 500 cards and a set of polyhedral dice that can be easily organized into a smartly appointed box inset. That’s important, because the numerous card types would get unwieldy without designated spots for each.

This initial Rise of the Runelords set is enough to keep you busy for many games, but the game is ultimately structured to be expanded over time. Like new modules of a role-playing campaign, new adventure deck packs periodically release that add new storylines, villains, and treasure into the mix for the party to confront. Each pack is meant to be added in sequentially, gradually increasing the power level of both the monsters and equipment as your characters level up over the course of many game sessions. 

The forward-minded box inset also includes slots to place these expansion decks as they arrive, so that you can keep everything together in one box. 

Pre-game card setup is a bit of a chore the first few times you do it. Each time you play, you choose a particular scenario. Multiple scenarios make up an adventure, and multiple adventures make up an adventure path, which is akin to a whole campaign. Each scenario dictates specific villain and location cards that must be placed out on the table, and each of the locations has a certain number of monsters, items, and other discoveries to be found there. In addition, the first time you play, you need to choose a character from an initial group of seven named heroes and build their custom deck of allies, spells, weapons, and other equipment. In other words, expect to do a good bit of rifling through and shuffling card decks before the action gets going.

Like any game setup, this process gets faster every time you do it, and it’s worth noting that in most cases your character decks will persist between sessions, so that step is only required your first time out. Thankfully, once everything is laid out and organized, game turns are quick, and scenarios play out in short order. 

[Next Up: How the game is played]