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Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Strategy #6—Closing Your Location

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Before we jump in to Shannon Appelcline's latest strategy blog, we'd like to let you know that we're now offering promo cards from Rise of the Runelords and Skull & Shackles for sale here on paizo.com. These cards are not reprints—they are the very same printings that we shipped to subscribers a couple of years ago (so the cut and color of the RotR promos in particular is slightly different from the cards we print today). (So, why haven't we put up promos for newer sets? Being a subscriber has its privileges!)

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

The main goal for almost every Pathfinder Adventure Card Game location is closing it. Though you may send characters to locations due to other challenges or benefits inherent in them, closing conditions should weigh heavily in your decisions. But there's a flip side to closing locations: abandoning them. Sometimes you'll realize that a location just got much harder to close, and that should make you consider moving away from it. Closing and abandoning: they're the final yin and yang of working with locations in PACG.

Visit the Hard-to-Close Locations First

It may seem counterintuitive, but it's usually helpful to visit the hard-to-close locations first. If a character is going to need a high roll or a blessing to close out a location, go there first.

This is because you only want to close these locations, at whatever high cost or low odds, once. And you don't want to do it when you're concentrating on other things. If you visit a hard-to-close location first, then you should finish with it well before you're fighting the game's final villain, so you won't need to mess with it while you're also trying to collect together blessings to fight the villain, and you won't need to temporarily close it multiple times if the villain manages to escape.

(Yes, you might still face the villain early in the game, but if so he's going to get away anyway, so temporarily closing that hard-to-close location isn't a do-or-die requirement.)

Save the Impossible-to-Close Locations for Last

If a location is nearly impossible to close (because it doesn't correlate to the skills of your characters) or if it's undesirable to close (because it requires you to do something like banish a card or take damage), then follow Paul McCartney's advice: Let it be.

The reason is that you are less likely to find a villain in the early locations: at the start of a standard scenario, the odds of finding a villain at any random location are 1/(n+2) where n is the number of players. As you close locations, a random open location will be more likely to contain a villain, either because that's where the villain started or because that's where he fled to; by the time that it's possible to actually beat the villain, the odds of the villain being at the impossible-to-close location are 1/n, and the odds continue to increase as you close locations. And, if you defeat a villain at the location in question, then you don't have to close it via the normal means!

(Yes, you might still have to try and close that nasty, nasty location, but you're minimizing the odds as much as possible.)

Don't Close Locations You Don't Want to Close

Hold on a second, though. Do you actually want to close a location? There's no choice when you beat villains, but when you defeat a henchman you can decide whether or not you want to try.

Warning: No lifeguard on duty.

There are only a scant few situations where the answer might be no:

  • You might defer closing a location if you have no chance of closing it or if doing so might cause characters damage. For example, you might not close Junk Beach if you're unlikely to defeat the Poison Trap, because failing would damage you, and possibly your friends.
  • You might not close a location if you really want a type of card or even a specific card that you spied at that location.

There are also some situations that might strengthen your resolve not to close:

  • If a location deck contains just a few cards, there's less concern about finishing it off.
  • If you've already decided that you've lost the game, you might as well keep the location open if there's any reason to do so.

However, the answer should almost always be yes: you should usually close locations given the opportunity. Quite simply, if you choose not to close, then you've massively increased the odds that you're going to lose this session of play. So make sure that you understand that it's probably a trade-off versus winning the game.

Abandon Your Location If You Fail to Close It

Absent some of these reasons to stay at a location, when you beat a henchman and fail to close the location, you should also beat feet. That's because there's no longer a way to close the location early, which means that you're going to have to dig through the whole deck. Unless you really want the boons there, don't bother. You'd do better to go to another location that you might close easier, then return to the hench-less location only (1) when you need to be stationed there to temporarily close it to trap the villain or (2) after you chase the villain there, making it possible to close the location easily once more.

Abandon Your Location If You Chase Away the Villain

You should similarly abandon a location if you fight a villain there and lose. Yes, the fleeing villain could return to his original location, but unless it's the only location that was open, he might have gone somewhere else instead—and if he did, your current location just got really hard to close.

Imagine that you have two other open locations when you lose to the villain. Each of those other locations now has an average of 1.33 cards that can close the location: the deck's original henchman (there's your "1") and the 1-in-3 chance that the villain fled there (there's your ".33"). However, since the villain's original location didn't have a henchman, it now has only the possibility that the villain fled there, so it has an average of just .33 cards that can close the location. Obviously, that makes it less desirable, barring other factors.

Abandon Your Location If You Temporarily Closed It

There's one other closure-related reason that might lead you to abandon a location: when you temporarily closed it during a fight against a villain, and the villain fled somewhere else. Clearly you don't want to leave your temporarily closed location if you have enough coverage to close everything down again next time you fight the villain. But if you've still got one or two extra locations, then you'd do better to visit the locations that weren't closed. That's because the location you temporarily closed has just one card that can close the location: the henchman. But the n locations that were open when the villain fled have a higher average: the henchman and a 1/n chance of a villain.

Of course, you need to decide if you actually want to encounter the villain or not, and either go to the unclosed locations or not based on that decision.

Next time: Rolling your dice.

Shannon Appelcline
Game Historian

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Hmm... some stuff in here that is counter to what I normally do. I tend to choose the one's I'm most sure to close first, figuring if I encounter a villain while at my initial locations, I have a very good chance to temp close everything else I'm at. And if I repeat that I can narrow down where teh villain is.

But I've not done the math to check the odds.

Very interesting. Something to think about.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I also personally never like to close a location if there is a big fat stack of boons in there that I know I want to grab - if I think I can get away with it and still win the scenario.

But that's just me.


My main group is made up of five players who play one scenario roughly every other week. Successfully completing the scenario takes precedence over everything except dying, so if we get a chance to close a location we take it unless the scenario dictates otherwise. Time to go through a stack of boons is a luxury we don't have.

We normally start at locations we have a good chance of closing without dumping a bunch of resources on it, hopefully leaving hard-to-close locations for villain funneling and team efforts.


Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

My group and I tend to prefer to finish of the Easy To Close location first too. We do this so we can corner the Villain to Hard-To-Close locations, so we don't need to make the required checks for those, since the Villain will end up there.

I could draw out the percentages here, but I won't. I do really think that starting at the Easy locations is the better option.

Leaving a failed-to-close location is a must... You don't want to be at a location without a henchman or villain, but with 8 cards in it. Ugh. Waste.


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

Interestning because we play exactly as Parody described. I gues there is quite a difference between small and large parties, and also between parties where a sigle player plays multiple characters and the others.

3 things change depending of the party playing:
- odds to encounter the villain in a given location at start
- will to take the risk to kill a character or not
- focus on loot or focus on wining the scenario

I know there are exceptions, but as a general rule:

A single player playing a single character tend to focus on loot (games are short and easy to replay so "cost" of losing scenario is low... it could even be perceived as positive if you grab good equipment early and in great amount in a AD by replaying the first scenarios)

A player playing multiple characters also is more ready to take risks of dying (less personal role-play/interest in a given character)

A large party of characters have less risk of encountering the villain before closing the first location... thus aiming to easy to close locations for the first 2 locations makes more sense with 6 characters than 1.

All in all very good blog, but I wouldn't take all advices for granted.


All things being equal, what I generally want to do (with a large party) is:
1. Focus-fire until two locations are closed.
2. Spread out with a player at each remaining location. Generally every location has at least someone who can close it. From now on once you see the villain they're done for.
3. If you fail a close now, leave one player there to temp close it but don't prioritise their extra explores and don't double up there. Similarly don't double up anywhere else you know the villain isn't for any reason. In particular if you fail a temp close, then everyone who's not the only person covering another location should pile in on that location.

If you do this right, you'll only close each location (temp or perm) once. The only time this won't be true is in the middle of spreading out, which is why you should save your extra explores until that's finished.

In practice we're usually more spread out in step 1 than going all-in on two locations, but that's the theory anyway.

For smaller parties, if there's somewhere hard to close we tend to procrastinate it, as per the "impossible location" instruction. Certainly solo this is 100% correct, do them from easiest to hardest to close.

One other type of location that can change your plans is nightmare locations like the Torture Pit and Shrine to Norgorber. I learned the hard way not to procrastinate these until the end because you often need to take a rest from them so make sure there actually is somewhere left to rest.


I generally weigh the difficulty of closing locations against the difficulty of defeating the villain.

If the villain is relatively easy to beat (e.g. one combat check with only a penalty for failing) I'll be more inclined to actively chase it into hard to close locations.

If the villain is hard to beat or a major resource drain (multiple checks, automatic damage, summoned monsters - you know the sort) then I'll close as many other locations using henchmen as I can, and try to fight the villain only once.


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

Also, a scouting-heavy large party changes a lot of things. If you know in advance when an henchman or villain is on top of a location, it may impacts which other locations you explore or close.

Especially as it gives you a much better idea on how many explore you have left to do to complete the scenario, thus how many explore on the average each character should now aim for, thus maybe a change on the best use they can do of their ressources (allies, blessings...)

Typical example: 6 players, 8 locations, average 44 explorations to meet henchmen and villain (1 to 10 for each of the 8): normaly it's a run against the 30 turn blessing clock. But if we scout and discover that 3 henchmen are positionned 1 or 2 in their location deck, then we throw the guys and resources to close those immediately, whatever the difficulty.

Say we close 3 locations during the first 6 turns (1 per player), now triple benefit :
- We are now enough characters to spread and corner the villain
- Average now only 28 explores needed with 24 turns left (much better ratio)
- And if someone runs into the villain before we can corner it, the number of turns we will lose if we fail to defeat it will be much less

To build on that last point, we had an interestning discussion in my group on the "turn cost" (key issue with 5-6 players) of defeating or failing to defeat a villain. In addition to the obvious removal of blessings from the blessing deck in case you fail to deafeat, the addition of new blessings in locations also has a cost that is hard to evaluate and depends on your party (if all characters are divine, it's pure benefit at no cost, if none are, then you are out of luck) and the likeliness of being able to play those blessings, once acquired, more than once.


I've found that the few times we got greedy and opted not to close a location due to juicy boons, it cost us the game (or nearly so).

As some folks have said, there's certainly a difference between an easy-to-kill villain and a hard one, and that should be taken into account. My advice here mainly revolves around a hard-to-kill villain, where you don't want to fight him again and again (and again).


We're generally fans of hitting easy-to-close locations first, but we tend not to clump, so first or second round villains happen quite frequently.
And if they don't, it usually means someone has instead had the chance to go far enough thru their deck that they defeated its henchman and closed it. Especially if it's a blessing- or ally-heavy location (ahh, the stories I could tell about Alahazra at the Holy Isle).

What is curious to me about the article is how it kinda contradicts the first one about locations. "Choose Based on Your Character and the Locations' Benefits" is the opposite of "Visit the Hard-to-Close Locations First", isn't it?
I mean, obviously the subject has no clear answer and both aspects have to be taken into account. It just gave me pause. :)


I love these posts. They have been super informative when going through the app version of the game. They would also have been helpful when playing the physical version, but we finished that a while ago. They have made me a better player, and have actually improved my play style.

The delay between the posts can be frustrating, but they are always worth the weight. Thanks for putting these together, and please keep them coming!

Lone Shark Games

bishop083 wrote:

I love these posts. They have been super informative when going through the app version of the game. They would also have been helpful when playing the physical version, but we finished that a while ago. They have made me a better player, and have actually improved my play style.

The delay between the posts can be frustrating, but they are always worth the weight. Thanks for putting these together, and please keep them coming!

Trust me, there are a bunch more coming.

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