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Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Strategy #8—Acquiring the Boons

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

This is the eighth installment of our strategy blog written by game historian Shannon Appelcline. You can read all the installments here.

Though they're wholly good, boons can be hard encounters to deal with, because you must decide how much effort to expend when technically none is required. The catch is that you need to acquire some boons for the continued health of your deck. Prioritize their acquisition appropriately.

Spend the most effort to get cards for your deck

It's worth expending effort to get cards that would improve characters' decks, because improving decks is the name of the game. This means that you should prioritize the acquisition of cards from the current adventure deck, because they're likely to be better than what is currently in your group's decks. In addition, you should focus on any cards that will benefit your character. You'll know what the gaps are in your character's deck—where he's got a surplus of lower-level cards and which cards work well with his skills and powers. So it's easy to know when you should expend effort.

Don't be afraid to discard and even bury cards to get boons of this sort. Be careful that you don't expend so many resources that you take a chance of losing the game... unless the card is that good, or unless you're losing already. In the latter case, go pig-from-hell wild and start expending all of your resources to get cool stuff.


This card really doesn't have much to do with the topic—we just like saying “Pig from Hell.”

Spend some effort to get cards for your hand

It's slightly less worthwhile to expend effort to collect boons that might be useful in your current game, but which you don't plan to keep. This includes allies and blessings that can give you turns, weapons that can let you attack, armor that can protect you, and spells that can do cool stuff.

How much effort should you spend? That depends on how good the card is.

For cards that can give you an exploration, like most blessings, it's worth spending a single blessing to guarantee (or nearly guarantee) its acquisition. Healing might allow you to see the new blessing more than once in a game, so at worst it's a break-even and at best it's an extra exploration later on. But one blessing should be the limit for a card you won't keep. And if you can instead expend a card that isn't worth an exploration (like Aid) or recharge a card to help, that's better.

For cards that don't give you an exploration, it generally isn't worth spending a blessing, because you're effectively trading an exploration for it. However, acquiring a decent weapon or armor that would be helpful in the short term could be still be worth discarding a non-exploration-granting card or recharging something.

And then you get to the bottom of the heap: cards that don't grant you a turn and aren't that great. Don't entirely ignore them; take a look and see if it serves a short-term purpose, like filling a gap in your hand. For example, if you don't have a weapon and you need a weapon, then it might be worth a minor cost to pick it up.

Of course, context is always key. If you're going to have to stop exploring because you don't have a weapon in your hand, then clearly it's worth spending a blessing to get that weapon, but that's a relatively rare case.

Spend less effort to get fuel

Some characters can use cards for fuel: Lem can cycle them for spell bonuses, Lini can discard them to increase her stats, and Amiri can bury cards to get stat bonuses. For these characters, all cards are useful. As with any less useful cards intended just for your hand, it's probably not worth a blessing to acquire these cards, but it's definitely worth some effort. For a character that must bury cards for fuel, like Amiri, it's even more worthwhile, because she faces the danger of her deck decreasing in size over time (something that Lem rarely worries about).

Spend the least effort to get hit points

Remember that every card is, at the least, a hit point—something you can discard as damage. Since even the least useful card still has some value, it's always worthwhile to pick up a random card at no cost (and maybe at the cost of a recharge), even if you plan to throw it out at the end of the turn. Don't forget about your reveal and recharge abilities even when you're rolling for boons that are pure dross.

Spend at least some effort to gain trading stock

If you're playing Mummy's Mask, then you have an extra card-sink to think about: traders, who let you exchange boons you don't want (of a particular adventure deck number or higher) for something better. To avoid wasting this opportunity, make sure your party has picked up some extra boons by the time you win a scenario! You don't have to worry about this if you're just trading at the Sunburst Market, which has a cost of one boon: you'd usually be swapping something in your hand for something at the market, so no problem. But, the more specific a trader is, the higher his cost. For example, Agymah and Shardizhad require three boons for each of their items. Then you should worry!


You get what you pay for. Corollary: You pay for what you get.

To ensure that you always have enough trading stock for all your characters to trade, you need to have won a number of throwaway boons equal to the cost minus one for the trader that each player wants to visit. For example, if three players all wanted to visit Shardizhad and a fourth was going to the Sunburst Market, they'd need a total of six throwaway cards (plus the one each that they will usually be removing from their deck). However, this is probably an excessive count, because it's likely that many cards traders have to offer won't be any good for you. So, you'll only need enough throwaway boons for a few of the characters to trade — which is why trading stock is listed as the lowest priority here. If your group as a whole has already won a few non-interesting boons, you're probably fine. But maybe you need a few more if you plan to visit the more specific traders. However, if you're getting close to winning a scenario, and you don't have anything, then spend a little effort to grab some boons so that you can take full advantage of the traders at game's end.

Prioritize boons over banes

There's a big coda to this priority list of “boons to get”: You should generally work to encounter more boons than banes. Some of this is already covered in Choosing Location Decks and Moving to New Locations: you might choose to start at a location because its boon-heavy, or you might choose to move to a location because a boon is on top of a deck. But be aware that you can also manipulate your decks to maximize boons. Use Auguries to push monsters and barriers down to the bottom. Use a Magic Spyglass to look at the top three cards in a deck, and if they're all banes, find a way to reshuffle the deck—perhaps even by leaving a bane undefeated! Mind you, if you're playing Mummy's Mask, Trigger cards can make explicit examination more difficult, so in that game consider other means to maximize your boons, like moving away from a deck when you've cleared out most of the boons. Just remember: To acquire boons, you must encounter boons. (Some restrictions may apply; always worry about closing locations first!)

Next month: Fighting the banes.

Shannon Appelcline
Game Historian

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Mummy's Mask Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

"Prioritize boons over banes" I think that is Calthaer's personal PACG motto.

Lone Shark Games

2 people marked this as a favorite.

That caption for the three traders is so much a Mike Selinker caption that I'm stunned I didn't write it.


7 people marked this as a favorite.

I actually strongly disagree that "it's always worthwhile to pick up a random card at no cost". If it has no useful purpose except as a potential hitpoint, then if I'm not in danger of dying, I'd far rather not dilute the effectiveness of my deck by including it. Plus hopefully its basic and I can banish it and never see it again...


It probably depends where you are in the game. Hit points are certainly much more important early on and much less later on.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

"For cards that can give you an exploration, like most blessings, it's worth spending a single blessing to guarantee (or nearly guarantee) its acquisition."

This makes no logical sense. Even in the mathematical best-value case (which I believe is changing d4 for 5 into 3d4 for 5, unless there's some secondary bonus) you're giving up 1 explore to gain 15/16ths of an explore. In a more typical case it's generally giving up 1 explore for roughly half an explore. That's not a profit, that's a loss.

Sure there's the argument that blessings are awesome and shuffling them into your deck is good, but that's quite a small effect. So small that further down in the same article you completely ignore it (as Scripted pointed out above).

Recharging cards for a blessing is great, and spending a blessing for a blessing I actually want is great too, but I'd never spend a blessing just to get a blessing I won't keep.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Scripted wrote:
I actually strongly disagree that "it's always worthwhile to pick up a random card at no cost". If it has no useful purpose except as a potential hitpoint, then if I'm not in danger of dying, I'd far rather not dilute the effectiveness of my deck by including it. Plus hopefully its basic and I can banish it and never see it again...

This x100. It kind of bugs me that the rulebook also suggests this; I think there are a number of cases where you shouldn't bother picking up a boon even if you have a slight chance of getting it.

There's obvious situations where this comes up like Scarnetti Manor and the Vaults of Greed of course, but even with no extra penalties for acquiring a boon, I typically won't unless I have a use for it now or coming up soon (like if there's a location that would require me to banish a card to close).

Even if you end up immediately discarding a card you pick up, you might get hit with a cure spell later. I definitely would rather have, say a disintegrate going back into my deck than a shortsword I picked up a few turns ago. Of course, this is a bigger deal with fewer players than more: after all the more turns each particular character has, the more likely they're going to end up seeing cards in their deck multiple times. In 6 players games you might not even get through your entire deck by the time the game is over... but even then I typically won't make an attempt to pick up a card I don't want.


Irgy wrote:

This makes no logical sense. Even in the mathematical best-value case (which I believe is changing d4 for 5 into 3d4 for 5, unless there's some secondary bonus) you're giving up 1 explore to gain 15/16ths of an explore. In a more typical case it's generally giving up 1 explore for roughly half an explore. That's not a profit, that's a loss.

The strategy only works if you follow some of my earlier suggestions and are pushing your cards aggressively back into your deck with Cures or other healing. But, if you are, there's a good chance you'll see the blessing again, which is what I mention. So you could easily be giving up an explore for 30/16th of an explore. Or maybe just 22/16th of an explore.

Of course, your individual play strategy will tell you more about the odds of seeing that card again. (As well as where you are in the game.)

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

Interesting that the post leaves out deliberately failing boons to purge Basic and Elite cards from the box. It's a strategy I use to trade (possibly) a tougher game now for a better boon selection later.

Once adventure 3 starts it's time to get those Basic cards out of there as fast as possible.

Lone Shark Games

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I'll admit, my personal play style is to eschew health in pursuit of an optimized deck, so I am _very_ banish happy, and when I acquire a boon we want but I don't think I'll use or give away immediately, into the discard pile it goes.


Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber
ShannonA wrote:
Irgy wrote:

This makes no logical sense. Even in the mathematical best-value case (which I believe is changing d4 for 5 into 3d4 for 5, unless there's some secondary bonus) you're giving up 1 explore to gain 15/16ths of an explore. In a more typical case it's generally giving up 1 explore for roughly half an explore. That's not a profit, that's a loss.

The strategy only works if you follow some of my earlier suggestions and are pushing your cards aggressively back into your deck with Cures or other healing. But, if you are, there's a good chance you'll see the blessing again, which is what I mention. So you could easily be giving up an explore for 30/16th of an explore. Or maybe just 22/16th of an explore.

Of course, your individual play strategy will tell you more about the odds of seeing that card again. (As well as where you are in the game.)

I think part of that is driven by your character powers. If you are a character that cycles their deck A LOT, but there are limitations on cards you are likely to cycle (ex - Kyra in WotR or Alahazra in S&S), deck pollution can be a problem. Hit points really aren't worth it if they take up space in your hand.

The flip side is right now I am playing Zhadim in MM, and his look ahead ability with any card means getting extra boons is usually good (except when I come across a trigger trait, at which point there will be substantial swearing.


Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber
ShannonA wrote:
Irgy wrote:

This makes no logical sense. Even in the mathematical best-value case (which I believe is changing d4 for 5 into 3d4 for 5, unless there's some secondary bonus) you're giving up 1 explore to gain 15/16ths of an explore. In a more typical case it's generally giving up 1 explore for roughly half an explore. That's not a profit, that's a loss.

The strategy only works if you follow some of my earlier suggestions and are pushing your cards aggressively back into your deck with Cures or other healing. But, if you are, there's a good chance you'll see the blessing again, which is what I mention. So you could easily be giving up an explore for 30/16th of an explore. Or maybe just 22/16th of an explore.

Of course, your individual play strategy will tell you more about the odds of seeing that card again. (As well as where you are in the game.)

I can give 2 good examples to back this up - Seelah and/or Kyra in Runelords. When I've played them, I usually have them start in the Temple, and their goal is to get as many of the blessings as possible. Kyra's ability to spend blessings and then heal on the next turn, so that she can pound out 3 or 4 cards from a location on her turn makes getting more and more blessings in her deck a definite plus. And with Seelah, using her power of top card blessing recharge means I can use that more often if I have more blessings, without a penalty.


Keith Richmond wrote:
I'll admit, my personal play style is to eschew health in pursuit of an optimized deck, so I am _very_ banish happy, and when I acquire a boon we want but I don't think I'll use or give away immediately, into the discard pile it goes.

I just play characters that can cycle anything so even a dead hand is useful (e.g. Harsk, Varril, Damiel, Merisiel)

Paizo Employee Designer

ShannonA wrote:
Irgy wrote:

This makes no logical sense. Even in the mathematical best-value case (which I believe is changing d4 for 5 into 3d4 for 5, unless there's some secondary bonus) you're giving up 1 explore to gain 15/16ths of an explore. In a more typical case it's generally giving up 1 explore for roughly half an explore. That's not a profit, that's a loss.

The strategy only works if you follow some of my earlier suggestions and are pushing your cards aggressively back into your deck with Cures or other healing. But, if you are, there's a good chance you'll see the blessing again, which is what I mention. So you could easily be giving up an explore for 30/16th of an explore. Or maybe just 22/16th of an explore.

Of course, your individual play strategy will tell you more about the odds of seeing that card again. (As well as where you are in the game.)

In the high-heal case, though, gaining those random low value boons from the tip "Since even the least useful card still has some value, it's always worthwhile to pick up a random card at no cost (and maybe at the cost of a recharge), even if you plan to throw it out at the end of the turn." is particularly troublesome, since those boons will waste your heals on poor targets and then clog up your deck in future draws. Like Keith, I have found that taking those random cards for hp is significantly detrimental compared to having a more optimized deck. The fact that I can't (or at least couldn't last time I played) choose to auto-fail boon acquisition in the Obsidian app has led to some frustrating close losses on legendary difficulty when I acquired boons I didn't want that clogged up my deck (despite switching to roll the worst possible skill for the job).

That said, our group had a lot of success with Runaway Bride Reta as a way for the rest of us to get rid of weird boons we had acquired, and in general it makes any character with a bury ability deceptively useful when you want to acquire a boon that is useful for somebody else (or especially in organized play or Mummy's Mask, useful for trader/deck upgrades due to being in a high part, despite being a boon nobody on the whole team actually wants you to give them) especially when the bury ability lets you explore again, like Reta.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Mike Selinker wrote:
That caption for the three traders is so much a Mike Selinker caption that I'm stunned I didn't write it.

Hmm. Apparently I can channel Selinker captions now.

So I got that goin' for me...

Paizo Employee Designer

Vic Wertz wrote:
Mike Selinker wrote:
That caption for the three traders is so much a Mike Selinker caption that I'm stunned I didn't write it.

Hmm. Apparently I can channel Selinker captions now.

So I got that goin' for me...

The question is whether you're an occultist using one of Selinker's implements or a new-to-ACG medium, channeling his legend (and if so, what legend would Selinker be? probably trickster)

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