You might know Pathfinder as the name of a popular tabletop role-playing game system. And so it is.
But the publisher also commissioned a stripped down card-based version, snappily called the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.
A solitaire or co-op title, it took the board game world by storm when it came out in 2014. An app version was inevitable.
It's super-simple to play, although the built-in tutorial over-complicates things. You pick two or more characters, who have a bonus and a different kind of dice to roll for stats like strength and dexterity.
Then you give them each a deck of skills and equipment cards, most of which can be played to add extra dice and stats. When that's done, off they go adventuring.
Quests consist of piles of cards, each representing a different location. Most of the cards are monsters, traps, or items but each deck also includes a henchman or villain of the quest.
Your job is to close each location by defeating the henchpeople so that you can eventually corner and beat the villain before the turn limit is up.Trailblazer
There are lots of neat tricks hidden in the design. Your deck of cards doubles as health, for instance, with warrior types typically having smaller hand sizes than wizard types.
So, at a stroke, wizards get lots more skill options but also tend to cycle their decks faster, making them easier to kill.
All this smart design does a fine job of replicating the sense of exploration and advancement of a full tabletop RPG. There are different places to go, each with its own special rules, deck composition, and distinct feel.
Items you find during a quest can be swapped in and out of your characters deck, so you slowly get better equipment. A lot of dice get rolled and the stakes for failure are high, so it's exciting and tense.
Yet often it feels like there are perhaps too many dice. Almost everything in the game boils down to the same mechanic. You turn over a card, see what stat you have to test, see if you've got anything in your hand to buff the dice and then roll against a target number.
It's how you defeat villains, avoid traps, encounter strangers and pick up items.
It doesn't take long for this to become somewhat repetitive. Worse, everything eventually becomes a blur where you stop caring whether you're rolling to defeat a villain or acquire an object. They're all handled the same, so what's the point?
Given the mixed bag of the mechanics, I quickly decided that the tabletop version wasn't for me. Each time you wanted to play you had to build decks for characters and locations anew.
And after you had to re-sort all the unused cards back into their individual types for next time. It was way more faff than the game was worth.
This, however, is a digital version. It does all that heavy lifting for you in the brief dark between different screens.
And it transpires that when you take all that drudgery away, what's left is actually pretty ace.Explorer
Sure, it's still just rolling the same test over and over. But the app leaves you to focus on the fun bits - picking which cards and powers you can afford to use, and sorting through your character decks and upgrades after each quest.
They've even added a bit of low-grade storytelling to link the adventures together. The package isn't just entertaining, it's really addictive.
You want to try one more time to close that location, beat that villain, snag that essential upgrade for your party.
Not everything is up to scratch. There are some nasty bugs in this current version, although not all users seem to be affected. And the pricing system is peculiar and, although fair, potentially very expensive.
Compared with the tabletop sets though, it's a bargain. Especially when you factor in that moving to iOS makes the game a ton more fun in the first place.
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