The Battles of Marathon: The Pathfinder ACG at BoardGameGeek.Con

Sunday, January 26, 2014


At BGG.Con, an attendee wins a stack of games while playing the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Photo by Brian Bagenstose.

A few weeks ago, most of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game development team landed in Dallas with a mission: to play all 30 sessions of the Rise of the Runelords campaign by the end of BoardGameGeek.Con. That meant six sessions a day for five days, playing adventures we hadn't opened since the playtests in February. For us, it was a trip down memory lane.

But for more than a hundred gamers, it was an exposure to the future of the game. Sure, they knew how to beat goblins. Staring down gargantuan dragons, giant thaumaturges, and succubus queens was another matter entirely.

We'd built six characters: Valeros, Merisiel, Lem, Ezren, Kyra, and Harsk. Developer Paul Peterson arrived a day late, so he didn't get to make his personal favorite character, Lini. (This was a tactical decision on my part: If we included Lini, Paul would never let anyone else play her.) With our sextet ready to go, we waded into BGG.Con hoping to find some people who wanted to play a game with us.

Developer Tanis O'Connor had built us a schedule which we intended to carefully adhere to—and then I blew it out of the gate by launching the Attack on Sandpoint an hour early. Tanis is used to this. I'm not the easiest person to keep on a timetable.

Within an hour, our Wednesday signups were overflowing. We barreled through "Burnt Offerings", teaching new players and giving veterans a chance to show off their skill. But then our big problem evinced itself: At this breakneck pace, with new players at every session, the characters were getting to be…odd. Good, solid boons were being chucked in the box in favor of flashy cards. And that meant one thing: Suddenly, we were losing games.

We back-to-back nosedived the last two "Burnt Offerings" scenarios, Approach to Thistletop and Thistletop Delve. In the Delve, my team ended with villain-fail with two cards in the blessings deck, then villain-fail with one card in the blessings deck. It was brutal. Tanis said, “We have no time to die!” We resolved that we wouldn't lose again all weekend.

So between scenarios of "The Skinsaw Murders" on Thursday, we looked at the character rebuilds and see if we could make a few strategic decisions. Harsk didn't need another Potion of Healing as much as he needed a Spyglass. The Merisiel player—whoever that was at the time—kept tossing out Ilsoari Gandethus, and developer Chad Brown kept tossing him back in. Auto-evading the Sandpoint Devil is something that can't be overvalued.

And then some crazy stuff started happening. In Them Ogres Ain't Right, the first scenario of "Hook Mountain Massacre", Paul found the villain on turn 1 with an Augury. In the next scenario, Here Comes the Flood, we rescued 13 of the 15 available allies through blind luck. Then in Battle at the Dam, Paul's team closed three locations on the first three turns.

And all of that paled to my tweet during "Hook Mountain Massacre's" final scenario, Into the Mountains: “First turn villain, third turn villain, fourth turn villain.” Gah.

On Friday afternoon, the convention stopped briefly for a moment of silence for the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. You don't realize how loud 3,000 gamers are until they all decide to hush themselves at once. Quite the moment.

Back at the table, we were cruising. We had a few touch-and-go sessions during adventure 4, "Fortress of the Stone Giants". The Black Tower nearly killed a couple of characters, with its overabundance of harpies and difficult locations. (You are not going to like the combo of Courtyard and Giant Lair, I promise you.) But going into Friday night, we were feeling confident of our chances to complete the marathon on time, with no casualties.

Then, oh yeah, "Sins of the Saviors" did its level best to shatter that confidence. Adventure 5's scenario Rimeskull is a weird one, with lots of big stone heads blowing up all around us. We were ripping through it, looking like we'd have a victory with 15 blessings to go – until we weren't. Like by a lot. We had our first encounter with a big-time dragon, and it broke us over and over. Suddenly, we were staring at one card in the blessings deck and a unpromising sink-or-swim roll in my hands. I nailed it by 1.

And now we were racing a different threat: the weather. On Saturday night, Dallas was being hit by an improbable ice storm, and flights were being cancelled all over the place. Now we didn't know if we'd even have people around to play. But we weren't going to let a little hail (in Dallas!) take us out. Our characters were now titans, bristling with artifacts and the favor of the gods.

It was fitting that the impending blizzard mirrored our most difficult task of the weekend, Sunday morning's scenario 3 of "Spires of Xin-Shalast". That's called Scaling the Mhar Massif, a giant mountain cliff, and it's terrifying. There's a location called the Death Zone, and – no, check that. There are many locations called the Death Zone, and they lived up to their name. Harsk, Ezren, and Lem were all at next-turn-we-die when we hit the top of the peak.

With the convention closing around us, we assayed our last task, Into the Eye. This is a make-or-break throwdown against Karzoug the Claimer, who is the toughest thing in the game. The scenario rips your cards away from you, so much so that TableTop producer Boyan Radakovich realized that he might die before he took his first turn. We really didn't have a chance against Karzoug, with all of us at death's door, until by some miracle we skated out with a victory just as they were turning off the lights.

Amazingly, we realized that we'd just played almost 60 hours of gameplay, and never once got tired of the game we were playing. We have more than 100 people to thank for playing with us (especially our handler, Felipe!), and we hope to try it again with Skull & Shackles next year. Thanks for having us, BGG.Con!

Mike Selinker
Designer, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Sounds epic! Thanks for sharing this! It really makes me pumped to finally start playing the game. I've had it for a while, but haven't had a chance to actually start it up yet. Now, more than ever, I can't wait!


What I get from this and our multiple play sessions is that the game is too easy for larger parties. 6 possible blessings on a check plus all the other bonuses make many "difficult" encounters laughable. I hope the dev team looks at balancing the game for larger parties for the next core set or even as an errata. Some of the examples I've seen include limiting the number of blessings that can be played on a check, making all blessings only add a 1d4 die, and only allow blessings from your current location + adjacent open locations.


What an epic ride. Congratulations!


delslow wrote:
What I get from this and our multiple play sessions is that the game is too easy for larger parties. 6 possible blessings on a check plus all the other bonuses make many "difficult" encounters laughable. I hope the dev team looks at balancing the game for larger parties for the next core set or even as an errata. Some of the examples I've seen include limiting the number of blessings that can be played on a check, making all blessings only add a 1d4 die, and only allow blessings from your current location + adjacent open locations.

Take a look at this post: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1103682/increased-difficulty-rules

From that list, our group (6 players) uses Party and Travel, No Distant Blessings, Lose More Than Your Dignity, and Blessings Per Location. The difficulty feels much better since being unable to play blessings on characters in other locations combined with needing to roll a die to travel means it's not as viable to spread all characters out at completely different locations, however the game already has lots of banes that punish players for stacking in the same location, so it evens out very nicely!


I dunno, I've played some 6 player and while, yes, you *can* add 6 blessings to a check, that also means that quite often you just used up most of the available blessings so if one of the next couple of characters meet something tough before very many cards can be drawn, there's nothing to be added.

Also that's basically 6 points of damage that have been taken overall by everyone in that one fight by discarding all those blessings (minus the occasional recharge of course). And, the increased amount of locations to explore with still only 30 turns somewhat balances that out as well.

A couple examples of why I think this is fairly balanced.

Sajan - to be most effective on his turn he needs multiple blessings to recharge. From personal experience I can tell you that if people are throwing large amounts of blessings on checks, when his turn rolls around he's going to be missing out on getting the most of his own abilities as they will be used up, maybe he has one left but that's probably about it.

Harsk - I've seen Harsk in a 3 player and a 6 player game - in the 3 player, he recharges a card or two out of turn, then when his turn rolls around he still has enough cards to take a fairly well rounded turn. In the 6 player game he quite often does a lot of helping out of turn *but* when his turn rolls around many times all he has for cards is the one weapon he didn't recharge so he takes one somewhat dicey explore (since he has nothing to add to his base roll + weapon) and then is done.


I played two sessions in this (first of deck 3 as Valeros and last of deck 5 as Ezren starting after midnight) and it was a blast. I used this opportunity to introduce friends who weren't part of my PACG group to the game and they've bought their own set since (introducing more people).

Some of the choices made by previous players were pretty unusual.

Personally, I find the game to be easier with fewer players.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

delslow wrote:
What I get from this and our multiple play sessions is that the game is too easy for larger parties.

Mike is saying that his groups were often narrowly pulling wins from between the jaws of defeat. That's not "too easy"—that's exactly where we want to be.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

And our groups had us in them. We're very good at this game, as you might expect.


Some sessions also decreased the number of locations because of clock time problems.

My experience is that more characters makes things harder. So does having people around who know picky rules :)


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
mlvanbie wrote:

Some sessions also decreased the number of locations because of clock time problems.

My experience is that more characters makes things harder. So does having people around who know picky rules :)

Funny. Out of curiosity, what rules came up that people were getting wrong?


I think it was corner cases on when you could play particular cards. I specifically recall in a fuzzy way that Chad made a call about playing a cloud when a golem was involved after 02:00 (I was trying to cycle it out of my hand).

Things not to try in the future: Ezren with a 10-card hand due to a location effect.


I had the pleasure of playing twice and it was a blast. Thank y'all so much for running this at BGG.con!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

You're welcome!


Mike Selinker wrote:
And our groups had us in them. We're very good at this game, as you might expect.

Sorry to post this here, but I can't find another space, and I know you're one of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game designers.

I can't seem to find in the rules where it states if another player can help with checks.

1. To help someone with a check, do I need to be in the same location?

2. Can blessings be used to help someone no matter if characters are in two different locations? What about spells? Weapons? Alleys? Etc...

Thanks!


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Location only matters if the card you want to play or the power you want to use says it matters.

Blessing of the Gods says "Discard this card to add 1 die to any check." If a character is making a check, you can play that card to add 1 die to it. It doesn't matter if the character making the check is you or someone else. It doesn't matter if they are at your location or another location. As long as the card applies, you can play it.

The Longbow has a power that says "If you are proficient with weapons, you may discard this card to add 1d4 to any combat check at another location." You can only use that to help a character at another location. You can't use it to help someone at your location (and obviously by extension it can't add to your own combat check, since you can't be at another location from yourself.)

Ring of the Beasts will help your check, but not another character's.

Jakardros Sovark will let you help another character, regardless of your location, but he won't help your own check.

A Blunderbuss won't help anyone but yourself, since the only power it has is for "your combat" check.

The limits will be in the powers of the cards itself, with one exception: you can not succeed at, fail, defeat, acquire, evade, or resolve an encounter for another character. So the Thieves' Tools will only defeat a barrier you encounter. Paralyze will only evade a monster you encounter, not one another player encounters.

You might find this guide helpful. Good luck on your adventure.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Vince Schreck wrote:
Sorry to post this here, but I can't find another space...

You'll find the PACG rules forum here.

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