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Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Strategy #4—Choosing Location Decks

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

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

When you start playing a Pathfinder Adventure Card Game scenario, the first question you need to answer is which locations to send your characters to. You must decide whether to congregate (group the characters together) or separate (keep them apart).

It's usually better to keep your characters apart, to avoid the multiplicative effects of barriers and monsters that either damage everyone at a location or that cause everyone at a location to fight monsters. Spreading out also gives you the opportunity to temporarily close more locations when you find a villain. This is critical at the end of the game, but it can still be helpful early in the game since it limits the number of places that a villain can flee to, and limits the number of cards removed from the blessings deck if you lose the battle.

It's also better to keep specific characters apart from others if they're built to work on their own. Harsk is able to help characters at other locations, and Merisiel is a better fighter when she’s alone. Characters that have the Ranged skill generally tend to be better by themselves.


Does not play well with others.

It's sometimes better to keep your characters together, particularly if they have cards or powers that allow them to help other characters at their location, or if they need to face a monster or barrier that requires multiple checks to defeat. In particular, many villains require two checks, so it's often helpful to attack a villain with two characters.

It's also better to keep specific characters together if they're built to work with others. Valeros and Lem are the prime examples of this, since Valeros automatically adds to combat checks at his location, and Lem can recharge cards to add to any check at his location.


One is the by-the-book veteran one week from retirement. The other is the wise-cracking maverick with nothing to lose. Together, they fight evil.

Corollary #1: Consider splitting up when you've closed two locations. If you have been keeping your characters together, consider splitting them up when you've closed two locations, because you should now have one character per open location—enough to temporarily close everything when you find the villain. Otherwise, really consider splitting up when you've closed three locations, because you now have enough characters to double-team one location or to keep helpers like Lem and Valeros with someone else.

However, the question of choosing location decks goes beyond whether you should congregate characters or separate them: you also need to select which characters to put at which locations!

Choose Based on Your Character and the Locations' Challenges

When you initially choose where to place your characters, do it based on the skills and cards of each character and how they interact with the specifics of an individual location.

Corollary #1: Select characters able to deal with a location's closing conditions. Closing locations is one of the most important actions in the game. That's how you gain ground against the blessings deck countdown: by removing a location deck before you dig all the way through it, you reduce the total number of cards that you need to look at before you find the villain. This means the prime criteria for selecting where to put a character should usually be whether that character is good at closing that location or not. So you send Lem or Seoni to the Prison, because of their high Charisma skills, and you send Kyra or Seelah to hallowed (or unhallowed) ground, because of their high Divine skills.


You gotta get in to get out.

Corollary #2: Select characters able to deal with a location's effects. Some locations, such as the Mountain Peak, have really painful effects. If one character can deal with them better than the others, send that person there. (This usually also plays into the former corollary, because special effects and closing conditions are often linked.) Thus, you could send Kyra to the Mountain Peak, because she has the Wisdom to deal with both the special effect at the start of the turn (which could cause her to bury a card) and the closing condition. Amiri is a less traditional choice, but very helpful because she can disappear from the Mountain Peak at the start of each turn; as it happens, her survival skill is also good for closing the location.


Yep—the answer to altitude is Wisdom.

Corollary #3: Select characters able to deal with a location's cards. Finally, you can send a character to a location because they're the best able to deal with the cards there. If a location is full of monsters, send a bruiser like Valeros or Seoni rather than someone like Lini or even Harsk, who isn't as good at one-on-one combat. Similarly, if a location is full of barriers, Merisiel is often the best choice because of her high Dexterity and Disable skills (though specific barriers might call for Wisdom, Perception, or other skills).

Choose Based on Your Character and the Locations' Benefits

The flip side is that you can look at the benefits at a location and send the person who is most able to take advantage of them.

Corollary #1: Get the boons quickly! Quite simply: go to the locations with the most boons first, using the characters most likely to acquire them. If a location has a lot of blessings, send someone with a good Divine skill, such as Kyra; if a location has a lot of allies, send someone with good Diplomacy, like Seoni. This way, you can collect the good stuff before you fight the bad stuff... and if the game ends early due to excellent corralling of the villain, you'll have spent all of your time encountering boons instead of banes.

Corollary #2: Get the boons greedily! You can take a step further and go into full-on greed mode: send characters who are able to get the boons at a location even if they aren't that great at closing the location. This is a calculated risk, because it might keep you from winning the game. However, if a character’s deck is really lagging in a specific type of boon, it's often a good idea. And, you might get away with it and still win if you focus most of the other characters on challenges instead of benefits.

Corollary #3: Consider other benefits of a location. Very occasionally, locations will have beneficial special effects that are great for a specific character. The Old Light is probably the best example: it gives an extra d6 to checks that have the Fire trait, so it's a great option for Seoni, who has a power that adds the Fire trait to her combat checks.


Anybody got a light?

When choosing how to match characters to locations don't use just one criteria; consider all of these options!

Next time: Moving to new locations.

Shannon Appelcline
Game Historian

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Adventure Card Game Strategy Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Rise of the Runelords

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Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

With regard to choosing a location because of its challenges when it is a real challenge, my group will take one of two different approaches, depending upon the overall challenge of the scenario:

1. When closing a location is difficult or painful (i.e., "discard/bury/banish a card or take damage type locations), we tend to explore it first. This gives our characters enough time to recover (i.e., heal) for the endgame. Also, the locations that are easier to close are the ones that will be occupied when we are seriously attempting to corner and defeat the villain.

2. When closing a location is difficult or painful (as above) we might save it for last, trying to chase the villain to that location so that we don't have to go through the pain of closing if we are able to defeat the villain.

Both options depend upon a lot of factors, though we'll usually opt for option 1 on our first run through a scenario and move to option 2 on subsequent attempts.

The above doesn't counter the advice that Shannon provided, though.

Also, the link to the Mountain Peak image isn't working. :(

Shadow Lodge

So wait, which one of them is the maverick?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
TOZ wrote:
So wait, which one of them is the maverick?

Didn't see that question coming—I was expecting "which one of them is the by-the-book veteran?"


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

Great blog as usual.
If I may, you could add a few ideas concerning the order in which you can select locations to explore/close. We are a large group and those following things also come into consideration:
- If closing a specific location has a positive/negative impact on the rest of the game (like if closing gives you a +/- on specific checks for the rest of the game, or allows you to remove haunts or gives you access to a given loot, or forces you to banish/bury important stuff, and so on). Remember you can win most games without suffering the closing effect of a specific location, it's just a matter of cornering the villain elsewhere and just having to temp close the nasty location.
- If the condition to close a specific location is really difficult to reach (like a check that nobody in your group is good at), then it may be a good idea to "send" the villain there, by emptying that location without closing it, and then spreading the group on the other locations.
- If a location has a positive/negative impact only by exploring it (like encountering monsters here creates monsters elsewhere...), then keep it for last. Maybe you will just have to temp close it and never need to explore it.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
TOZ wrote:
So wait, which one of them is the maverick?
Didn't see that question coming—I was expecting "which one of them is the by-the-book veteran?"

Speaking of Valeros, we call it Lethal Weapon, thinking of how many bad guys this man defeated during his one week before retirement.


This was the introduction to locations. I talk more about closing locations in part six, and the first two sections are "visit the hard-to-close locations first" and "save the impossible-to-close locations for last", which sounds uncannily like what Brother Tyler said.

And Frencois' comments on beneficial and harmful location is quite a good addition. Something I should add if I ever take these to a full book.

Lone Shark Games

ShannonA wrote:
This was the introduction to locations. I talk more about closing locations in part six, and the first two sections are "visit the hard-to-close locations first" and "save the impossible-to-close locations for last", which sounds uncannily like what Brother Tyler said.

SPOILERS, MAN.


I now literally include that as part of my "teaching the game" spiel - "you should probably start at a location you can close"


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber
ShannonA wrote:

This was the introduction to locations. I talk more about closing locations in part six, and the first two sections are "visit the hard-to-close locations first" and "save the impossible-to-close locations for last", which sounds uncannily like what Brother Tyler said.

And Frencois' comments on beneficial and harmful location is quite a good addition. Something I should add if I ever take these to a full book.

Sorry Shannon, didn't want to spoil anything from your next (great as usual I'm sure) blog. Feel free to reuse/modify any remark you think valuable. Speaking of book, I'm doing a best of from all those blogs as an help to new players at my table and it's a big big help. Keep going and thanks a lot.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

When I play solo, I generally sort the locations from easiest to close to hardest, figuring that way the most difficult will have the villain and I won't have to make the check. Heck, it's not rare to never have to make a closing check but instead to fight the villain three times.

When playing with multiple people, we almost always save "banish to close" locations for last, in the hope that we won't have to actually do it.

Another strategy is to prioritize locations based on their "when permanently closed" text. It does little good to go straight for a location that heals you when closing, if you're not going to be damaged when the time comes. Or locations that give +2 vs a creature type when all the henchmen and villain are that type become a higher priority.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
ryric wrote:
When playing with multiple people, we almost always save "banish to close" locations for last, in the hope that we won't have to actually do it.

It's funny. I like to get these done as quickly as possible, to avoid the possibility that I'll have to temp-close it later, possibly several times.

Also, this gives me the most focus to grab a card I won't mind banishing (such as a boon I just picked up and have no use for. I'd normally discard it, but would rather burn through a location quickly to banish this card and get it out of my hand.)


Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

I think that all of these factors illustrate why the decisions are complex and "artsy" (rather than "scientsy"). The solo play (presumably a single character) is an example of how temporarily closing isn't a factor, so you can chase a villain around without having to worry so much about the painful closing conditions. Larger parties, meanwhile, will most likely have to contend with temporarily closing locations, possibly multiple times, so those locations with painful closing conditions might be good candidates to get out of the way early (and only once). And these all drive other strategies and tactical considerations that appear to be coming in the next two or more installations of the advice that Shannon is providing (as well as in previous blog entries).

I must say that I look forward to these blog entries as they both validate many of the decisions that my own playing group has made, but, and far more importantly, have given us many things to think about in terms of doing things better and differently. And this doesn't only draw upon what Shannon has posted, but also on the comments provided by other players.


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My group only has a couple of rules.

1. If we need to worry about temp-closing, go to where you can close.
2. Save healing locations for the end (like the Surgery).
3. Always go to the Warrens last.
4. Leave Holy Isle for Eliandra.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber
zeroth_hour2 wrote:
I now literally include that as part of my "teaching the game" spiel - "you should probably start at a location you can close"

Because coffee is for closers.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Rebel Song wrote:

My group only has a couple of rules.

1. If we need to worry about temp-closing, go to where you can close.
2. Save healing locations for the end (like the Surgery).
3. Always go to the Warrens last.
4. Leave Holy Isle for Eliandra.

I would have proposed a fifth: "Don't let Tyler near the Family Tomb." Except the recent ruling on that card makes it much less deadly for the entire group.

Silver Crusade

Calthaer wrote:
Rebel Song wrote:

My group only has a couple of rules.

1. If we need to worry about temp-closing, go to where you can close.
2. Save healing locations for the end (like the Surgery).
3. Always go to the Warrens last.
4. Leave Holy Isle for Eliandra.

I would have proposed a fifth: "Don't let Tyler near the Family Tomb." Except the recent ruling on that card makes it much less deadly for the entire group.

Taking Holy Isle from me is much more dangerous. But. I will usually take the Shrine to Lamashtu, for similar reasons.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

DOOOOOOOOD, Lamashtu's Flower got reprinted? In portable card format?

KICKASS!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber
zeroth_hour2 wrote:
I now literally include that as part of my "teaching the game" spiel - "you should probably start at a location you can close"

I find myself imagining, as you give that instruction, that your facial expression is exactly the same as your avatar.


In the digital game, I've gotten into the habit of sending the team supreme Valeros and Lem into new scenarios first. And I rarely split them up.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I've gotten RotR Ezren through the Academy in one turn before because he's almost guaranteed to get at least one extra exploration per turn (as the Academy will give him one unless his first exploration encounters a spell, in which case he's likely to acquire it and get a free explore through his ability) and is excellent at acquiring all the spells and magic items he encounters on subsequent explorations, giving him even more free explores. When he runs into something like an ally he can recharge a spell like Haste to keep it going even longer!

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