Designing for the Adventure Card Game

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Greetings! I'm Liz Spain, the newest game designer press-ganged to join the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game design team. It's electrifying to work with such an amazing team and get to play with adapting such a rich world. You might know me as the mad mastermind behind the steampunk exploration game, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis, which hits wide release in January.

Since the work I'm putting into the next set for the Pathfinder ACG remains tightly under secret protection by blood-oath and ninja guards, it seems like a good time to wax rhapsodic on game design.

Designing the Aesthetics of Gameplay

Even the thinkiest of games can be considered an aesthetic experience. The feeling of rolling smooth, cool dice, the laughs you share with friends, and the calculations you run in your head all add up to the experience of the game as a whole. A well-crafted game design builds highs and lows into the gameplay.

The first scenario of "The Wormwood Mutiny" executes this idea beautifully. The adventurers have finished the base scenarios; they've defeated a number of villains and scavenged some good equipment. Spirits are running high. Everyone's excited to open the box of Adventure 1 to continue kicking pirate butt. Instead the table goes quiet as they read the first scenario and it's implications become clear:

Where I come from, the DMs call this "a kick in the teeth." The tricks the players have learned won't help them here. Each person has only the one precious thing they managed to slip in a boot before being captured. A cadre of tough henchmen before you, with one card in hand you feel exposed and desperate. The sudden transition from the highs of finishing the base set to losing nearly everything is a cold-water shock. Starting with only one card in hand makes the stakes of every card draw more intense.

Suddenly, scavenging and cooperation are paramount to the group's survival. Of course, holding this tension is nerve-wracking, so, if successful, the characters ramp back up to their expected power quickly. If our heroes survive, they'll be all the stronger for it and proud of their victory. From high to low and back again. The timing of these feelings is something game designers work to create. And if they're really good, we experience it as a seamless whole, without ever realizing their intent. Mwah ha ha ha!

Events at Board Game Geek Con

Board Game Geek Con in Dallas starts tomorrow! I'll be at Paizo's area running demos and games of Skull and Shackles. We have brand new Organized Play scenarios to test even the briniest of souls, so bring your Class Decks along and get spiffy promo cards. See you there!

Liz Spain
Adventure Card Game Designer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Conventions Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Skull & Shackles

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Alright! Now it is Tuesday for real!

Hi Liz!


Hi Liz!

Welcome to PACG...

What do you think about colour coded dice for PACG ? ;-)

Shadow Lodge

Myfly, if the PACG weren't rooted in roleplaying history, I could see it. But the polyhedral set of dice are an RPG staple, and the card game borrows heavily from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game as its inspiration.

If it was a completely original game, I could see using color-coded dice. But one steeped in RPG mechanics and history? Especially a history that encourages gamers to own unique sets of dice that are personal and unique to them? The current system captures that feeling better.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Ninja guards...is that...a clue?

Shadow Lodge

Calthaer wrote:
Ninja guards...is that...a clue?

Jade Regent confirmed!!!

It wouldn't be a proper welcoming without dissecting your post for hidden clues on upcoming products. :)

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

Folks, I hope you liked Liz's first blog entry. Let's see if she survives BGG.Con to write a second.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Mike Selinker wrote:
Folks, I hope you liked Liz's first blog entry. Let's see if she survives BGG.Con to write a second.

I know I did. Nothing like getting kicked in the teeth. Very insightful into the hiring practices at Lone Shark as well, where it seems employment isn't always voluntary. Though being forced to work at what is probably a great company wouldn't necessarily be the worst coerced vocation.

So, when exactly did Liz become part of the team?

From Tanis's comments on BGG about BGG.Con, it looks like Paul will be joining Liz at BGG.Con. If I could be there, I would totally be there.

I hope we'll see Liz pop up on the forums. You have to get Paul to do a blog post too now. Looking forward to more great things from all of you.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

Hawkmoon269 wrote:
So, when exactly did Liz become part of the team?

About a month ago. I met her at PAX Prime, played her game at the opening of a local game store a week later, and hired her at Geek Girl Con. Sometimes you just know.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Mike Selinker wrote:
Hawkmoon269 wrote:
So, when exactly did Liz become part of the team?
About a month ago. I met her at PAX Prime, played her game at the opening of a local game store a week later, and hired her at Geek Girl Con. Sometimes you just know.

Hmmm...that sounds like a pretty good recommendation for her game too. I'll have to check it out.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Great to see you here Liz! Incredible Expeditions was the game that persuaded me to sign up for Kickstarter so I could back it. (I found out much later that my friend Stu even has his photo in the game - I kind of wish he hadn't told me, then it would have been a huge surprise.)

As for Press Ganged, it's a kick in the teeth all right.

Alahazra, peeking at what comes next - no it's not.
Lirianne, helping combat at another location - nope.
Seltyiel, playing a weapon and recharging a spell - good luck doing that with one card in hand.
At least Valeros had a good time.

Liberty's Edge

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I really wanted to go to Board Game Geek Con but the timing was terrible! Hopefully next year.

Sovereign Court

So there's only one location for this first scenario? and it's filled with henchmen, barriers, and the villain? Maybe I'm missing too much information from the back of the card?

I'm so rude! Sorry!

Welcome Liz! This post is very interesting to me.. keep them coming!


Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

Hi Liz! Welcome! I may have bumped into you at GeekGirlCon without knowing it. (I bumped into Mike that weekend, knowing it :) and got him to sign my puzzle book)

Actually, Press Ganged seems kind of fun! Sure, you only get 1 card at the start. Sure, it's your Favored Card Type, so the only character you picked with FCT Weapon gets to fight somewhat effectively.

But you don't have to hold back for boons, because there aren't any. You can go a few turns without exploring to recharge if you just defeated a few banes, because there's a lot more time. If you run into a chest style barrier and are able to get it, even more fun.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

CajunAtx wrote:
So there's only one location for this first scenario? and it's filled with henchmen, barriers, and the villain? Maybe I'm missing too much information from the back of the card?

The back just says:

1-6 FOG BANK
YOUR SHIP IS ANCHORED AT THE FOG BANK.


So happy to see Liz and Tanis working on this game. Boardgames need more women and more varied representation in general both in playing and designing, so this is very welcome news!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

Ilpalazo wrote:
So happy to see Liz and Tanis working on this game. Boardgames need more women and more varied representation in general both in playing and designing, so this is very welcome news!

We like hiring the best people, regardless of what kind of people they are.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Mike Selinker wrote:
Ilpalazo wrote:
So happy to see Liz and Tanis working on this game. Boardgames need more women and more varied representation in general both in playing and designing, so this is very welcome news!
We like hiring the best people, regardless of what kind of people they are.

As somebody who had the pleasure of meeting almost all of the Lone Sharks at GenCon (only one escaped me), I would say that they are the right kind of people: fun people.


Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

Love seeing blogs about the design of any stripe, you guys couldn't make enough for me to read. Thanks, and welcome!

Pathfinder ACG Designer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Ilpalazo wrote:
So happy to see Liz and Tanis working on this game. Boardgames need more women and more varied representation in general both in playing and designing, so this is very welcome news!

Don't forget Gary!

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Mike Selinker wrote:
CajunAtx wrote:
So there's only one location for this first scenario? and it's filled with henchmen, barriers, and the villain? Maybe I'm missing too much information from the back of the card?

The back just says:

1-6 FOG BANK
YOUR SHIP IS ANCHORED AT THE FOG BANK.

...which further hampers Alahazra's attempts to peek into the future...

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

Tanis O'Connor wrote:
Don't forget Gary!

Who could?

Paizo Employee CEO

2 people marked this as a favorite.
zeroth_hour wrote:
Actually, Press Ganged seems kind of fun! Sure, you only get 1 card at the start. Sure, it's your Favored Card Type, so the only character you picked with FCT Weapon gets to fight somewhat effectively.

Not if you are playing Ranzak, since he doesn't have a favored card type. Makes for some tense moments at the beginning of this scenario!

-Lisa


Kind of tough for Jirelle, too, since her favored card type is ally, instead of weapon.

...Huh, how does she smuggle an ally in? Maybe I don't want to know.


S&S is a bigger "kick in the teeth" as an RPG compared to the card game. But it's all in good fun either way.

Looking forward to more challenging and innovative scenarios.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

And this is why you play an Alchemist. Even if the item isn't entirely useful, you can use it to blow something up.

Pathfinder ACG Designer

ThreeEyedSloth wrote:
Calthaer wrote:
Ninja guards...is that...a clue?

Jade Regent confirmed!!!

It wouldn't be a proper welcoming without dissecting your post for hidden clues on upcoming products. :)

The ninja guards are real. One is hovering behind me in smoke form casually spinning a kunai. They've made it very clear that violation of corporate NDA is grounds for dismissal... from this plane of existence. Send help in the form of pirates.

Pathfinder ACG Designer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
CajunAtx wrote:

So there's only one location for this first scenario? and it's filled with henchmen, barriers, and the villain? Maybe I'm missing too much information from the back of the card?

I'm so rude! Sorry!

Welcome Liz! This post is very interesting to me.. keep them coming!

Yep, there's only the Fog Bank in this scenario and it's full of henchmen. The trick is that you have to bide your time until you can whack a henchman, enabling everyone to raise their hand size, then repeat. It's a very different kind of rhythm compare to most scenarios. To me, it evokes the sense that the heroes are waiting for their windows of opportunity to sneakily take out their kidnappers one at a time.


Liz, Was lovely meeting you over BGGCON, I want to play this game of yours!

(And you now know my chosen Icon at left actually looks eerily like me ha! )

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

Liz Spain wrote:
The ninja guards are real. One is hovering behind me in smoke form casually spinning a kunai. They've made it very clear that violation of corporate NDA is grounds for dismissal... from this plane of existence. Send help in the form of pirates.

You misheard me when I said "grounds for this missile."


Yarrr! Coming to help. I even know the secret path around the cave raptors.

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