Core Principles: Efficient Gameplay in the Pathfinder ACG

Friday, May 17, 2019

Hi. I'm Aviva, and I'm new here. Sort of. I was an intern at Paizo in 2012, so when I began working with Lone Shark in 2016, Pathfinder wasn't totally new to me. I've never really considered writing a PACG blog before, but now that I've contributed for a while, I have some important things to say. So I've poured a glass of cheap rosé, illuminated a 3-wick vanilla butter–scented candle, and hit play on an acoustic Spotify playlist, all to create my perfectly chill atmosphere. But you know what's not chill? The inefficiency in OG PACG.

Maybe you think the earlier products have gotten better with age, but I think new players may not have quite the experienced palette you do. This isn't making the game sweeter. (I have looked ahead, and yes, the wine puns are just going to keep coming. —Mike) The adjustments we're making to the flow of your adventure mean you'll be engaged in all the turns and will probably have more fun, which... like, why else would you play the game?

Yes, sometimes the game was too slow. Part of speeding up the new Core Set involved filling it with cards that are simpler, both mechanically and visually. This allows us to design crazier cards later without obstructing your flow more than otherwise.

Immolate from Mummy's Mask; Right: Immolate from Curse of the Crimson Throne.

Let's talk visuals first. The additional power on the Curse version of Immolate would make it an unreadable font size if templated with the previous card design; here, even with an extra power, there's still enough room for traits and the check to acquire without covering three different sides of art. (The updated wordings also help—you're welcome.) #efficiency.

A location from Rise of the Runelords (or should I say Rosé of the Runelords?); Right: one from the Core Set.

On The Leng Device, an entire character is blocked by the decklist. With the new card layout, you can see all of that skeleton in the Cell. And since there's no back, there's no flavor text. That's good because a location doesn't always have just one story. In Core, the Cell is used in Scenario 1B: The Blood Vow, in which an ally is held captive; and in Scenario 2C: Spirited Away, in which a villain lurks. So we've put the story where it belongs: in the storybook. Your stories will be much larger and contain more depth without us being so specific on these cards. #efficiency.

Let's move on to mechanics. One minor speedup comes from making checks to acquire mandatory, just as checks to defeat have always been. No more analyzing your decisions; just roll! If you want, you can take a result of 0 on any check and move on. However, you still play out the consequence of that 0.

Let's re-wine a prosec. Why is this faster, you ask? Making you do a thing every time there's a thing to do must be longer! But, my friends, you're forgetting about that time you spent 10 minutes trying to decide if a check was worth rolling for, and then another five minutes trying to figure out if the power prefixed by “if you did not succeed” would apply here. There is no more design around whether you perform the check or not, which saves you from having to work out the difference between “choosing not to make a check” and “failing a check.” Let me show you some examples that'll make you say chardon-YAY:

In Mummy's Mask, we wanted things to happen to you if you chose not to acquire or if you failed. If you simply decided to not make a check against an ally like Azaz Arafe and Zazu, what happens then? It doesn't make sense for you to come out better when you didn't try, rather than try and fail. So we added the rule “If you choose not to acquire it, it counts as failing to acquire it.” If you don't try, you still fail (just like real life, amirite?). Now, this is a global rule, which eliminates that extra step of you making a choice to make a check. Grandmother Nightmare's “hour power” cares for an entire turn, so you better give things your best shot! #efficiency

Another thing making the game faster: recovery. By having this step at the end of your turn, you don't need to interrupt your turn (i.e., the game flow) or whatever check you're making to see if you get to recharge the card and then have it matter for damage and bad stuff that might happen to your deck. Recovery happens at the end of each turn, so you can still recover your cards off-turn, but in many cases, the next player can get on with the start of their turn while you're cleaning up your own. #multitasking #efficiency

Setup of the game is also much quicker (yay, you can play sooner!). A big contributor to this is the use of proxies, making it so you don't have to search through a million duplicated henchmen to find the one you need. Mike talked about proxies in his blog Rethinking Complexity, Part 2, so I'm going to be #efficient and not re-explain here. (But I will mention something he didn't: You also use proxies in place of the old character token cards when you need to, like when your token card would get shuffled into a deck.)

Speaking of tokens (sort of), we now have markers. Mike showed you the scourge card design, but not the markers themselves. I will, so now you can imagine them together:

That pink marker could mark that I'm wounded, but then again, I like pink, so maybe I want this to mark my Brooch instead. The point is I GET TO PICK.

Look at all those When Closed powers that help all local people! Well, except Twisting Passages.

One of the larger visual changes will be noticeable as you start to accomplish your default goal of closing locations: locations are now removed when they're closed. Don't worry, though; everything happens for a riesling. This is going to speed up your game while increasing both tension and cooperation, thanks to the many "local" powers that exist. We know you need a chance to heal or buff yourself, and this is exactly what the closing powers on many locations will do for you—the nice ones anyway—before they're banished and you get to move (usually to a location of your choice)... and off-turn, if you weren't the active player. You will be fine. This also means the entire board is empty when you win! So, less cleanup too. #efficiency

Okay, time for me to wine this up.

Aviva Schecterson
Adventure Card Game Designer

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Tags: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I love the recovery phase! Recharging midturn always seems 'off'. I'm glad they fixed this.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Welcome Avivia, and thanks for all the wine puns!

Brooch of protection. A limited muti-use armor like item. Using tokens as charges like this is a great idea, and something I think can go a long way to improving functionality of this already fun game. I hope there are more cards that make use of this mechanic!


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Pathfinder Card Game, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Hi, Aviva. Thanks for writing a blogpost, and giving us the merlot-down on the #efficiency improvements in the new Core set!


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Nope. Still not buying "less cleanup" as the reason for banishing locations, but if that's the version y'all want to stick with...

I hope that's not a representative selection of the game's locations and I suspect we have a very different definitions of what a "nice location is". My group usually divides locations into "bane-heavy" and "bane-light" when coming up with start-of-game approach, and the ones up there are... Jeez, to locations with 5 banes and one with six - before Hench/Villains! - looks like we're straight back in "Runelords" days, when it all about "pump you combat stat to the MAX and get the biggest weapon spell"... I thought there was a conscious de-emphasizing of combat even as far back as S&S, but I here I get the feeling I should prep for another WotR.

For crying out loud, Academy doesn't even make sense! It used to be one of the friendliest locations around, and one of the only ones where the eternally boon-disadvantaged RotR casters could shop for spells. Now *more than half* the location is actually banes, and there are a meager 2 (TWO!) spells in it! I don't know what sorts of learning institutions y'all have been envisioning here, but it's no place where I would want to try for a degree."Failing your exam" here probably means "getting your head bit off by a Chimera"or something...


Longshot11 wrote:
Nope. Still not buying "less cleanup" as the reason for banishing locations, but if that's the version y'all want to stick with...

I'm not sure what the hidden agenda might be, but regardless I'm sure there's more than one reason.

I suspect the main reason is that the developers want to encourage party members to stick together to support a greater emphasis on local effects and cooperation. But could banishing locations also save 30 seconds of clean-up? Sure.

As mentioned in other threads, there's also the fact that banishing locations was tested in Apocrypha and seemed to work OK there. Whether it also works OK in PACG remains to be seen. It probably will work fine in the Core and any new campaigns, but we already know it will have wacky effects in certain scenarios in older organized play campaigns. Those scenarios will probably be errataed so that locations don't banish, or something similar.

This blog does have me curious about the new "freely" mechanic. Over the recent blogs, I expected to see more cards making use of this mechanic - blessings, in particular. I haven't seen many yet, though. Or I haven't been paying proper attention, more likely.

Paizo Employee Designer

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"Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, precisely because the stakes are so low." -attribution unknown


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
wkover wrote:

This blog does have me curious about the new "freely" mechanic. Over the recent blogs, I expected to see more cards making use of this mechanic - blessings, in particular. I haven't seen many yet, though. Or I haven't been paying proper attention, more likely.

I suspect they've been showing us cards that mostly resemble PACG 1.0 with small modifications so we can contrast the two without descending into more jargon than we know how to handle.


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wkover wrote:
Longshot11 wrote:
Nope. Still not buying "less cleanup" as the reason for banishing locations, but if that's the version y'all want to stick with...
But could banishing locations also save 30 seconds of clean-up? Sure.

Saving 30 seconds of clean-up... by spending 30 more seconds of in-game time doing it. That's rather funny, I mean:

Blog wrote:
Another thing making the game faster: recovery banishing locations. By having this step at the end of your turn game, you don't need to interrupt your turn game (i.e., the game flow)

Am I the only one who finds this kind of... contradictory? "Interrupting your game to make recharge checks? Absolutely inefficient, let's make a new rule about that! Interrupting your game to banish locations? So efficient, let's make a new rule about that!"

Also, I'm really not seeing what's better about "instead of rolling for your check, you can choose to take 0 (which is a failure)" rather than "instead of rolling for your check, you can choose to not roll and count it as a failure". You still "take the time to decide" between taking 0 or rolling the dice...

Don't get me wrong, I liked the blog post as a whole, informative and interesting, and I'm sure that games with the new Core will be overall faster than the previous sets; but it shows how you can turn anything into a positive by putting the right spin on it, even contradictory statements and non-changes...

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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While I personally agree that not having to clean up locations saves only a fairly small amount of time, there really isn’t a contradiction to the fact that moving location cleanup into the turn saves time and so does moving recharge checks to the end of the turn.

The reason is multitasking. Both have changed from being dependent tasks (meaning you have to wait for them to be completed before doing the next thing) to independent tasks (meaning other people can start doing the next thing while those things are still being completed).

Because most recharge checks used to happen in the middle of an encounter, everything usually had to stop and wait while those checks were resolved; now, the next player can usually get on with their turn while other players process recovery. (Ok, this isn’t true when the next player also has to do recovery, but since it’s true more often than not, it does save time.)

On the other hand, when you were playing multiple scenarios in a row, if there was only one person doing cleanup and setup, the time it took them to clean up locations unquestionably increased the time between scenarios, even if only a little. Because location cleanup can now be handled by that person while someone else is doing something, it is a bit faster.

These time savings are *not* theoretical: I have personally observed both of them in play. You may or may not value them, but I guarantee that some people will.


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Mark Seifter wrote:
"Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, precisely because the stakes are so low." -attribution unknown

Is that also the reason why HOA politics are also really vicious and bitter?

Lone Shark Games

zeroth_hour2 wrote:
Is that also the reason why HOA politics are also really vicious and bitter?

For that, you would have to ask Gaby, who is for reasons I cannot fathom the president of her HOA.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

(BTW, I do recognize that I have misused terms... that in project management, a “dependent task” is one that depends on another task rather that a task that itself causes dependencies... but y’all knew what I meant.)


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

We did most of location clean up anyway on someone's off turn , unless the location had rules that kept or added cards to it. So the only real difference clean up wise is saving that last 5s of putting the location back in alphabetical order at the end. It does reduce table clutter, which in our limited play space will make the game easier to manage.


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

Hi Vic, hi Mike. We were very confident you had done a great job taking into account all your own tests and all our feedbacks. Now we know you did :-)
Great first blog Aviva.

Sovereign Court

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I like the thought that went into even the smaller improvements. Looking forward to seeing this game in my hands very soon!


After 7 years, we finally introduced hashtags into the blogs here in the PACG. Thanks Aviva! :)

Now all we need are emojis.


Malk_Content wrote:
We did most of location clean up anyway on someone's off turn , unless the location had rules that kept or added cards to it. So the only real difference clean up wise is saving that last 5s of putting the location back in alphabetical order at the end. It does reduce table clutter, which in our limited play space will make the game easier to manage.

We always did this too; someone off turn would put the extra cards back in the box. Now I'm trying to figure out if there was a rule we were missing. Most of my group started with the app game, which shows the locations banishing those cards when closed, which is why we did it that way.

I'm embarrassed that I never once thought of putting the locations in alphabetical order...


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
DM Livgin wrote:


I'm embarrassed that I never once thought of putting the locations in alphabetical order...

Henchmen too! Makes setup so much faster.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Malk_Content wrote:
DM Livgin wrote:


I'm embarrassed that I never once thought of putting the locations in alphabetical order...

Henchmen too! Makes setup so much faster.

Now that each henchman (story bane) will (typically?) only have one copy, the alphabetization is even more handy!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

The main reason our group ever chose to "auto-fail" checks to acquire was to perma-banish Basic(Elite) boons after AD3(5) started. I'm given to understand that culling the box will happen differently with this version so we may not do that nearly as much.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

One member of the physical group I play with hated picking up junk cards (notably; whilst you could choose not to acquire cards, he still would crack open a Locked Chest and pull out 2 daggers, a short sword, a longsword and a mace... then he'd discard them at end-of-turn, since he was an Oracle, then when he's healed later to try to get back some spent blessings or allies he'd just be healed 3-4 cards doomed to be 'dead draws' later).

Note that we play 6 player parties, so healing is largely unnecessary to avoid death, and it's main purpose is to increase the quality of the cards in your deck, since allies and blessings are overstated due to the demand for additional explorations.

However, I can already see that Core has less examples of 'bad' cards, more characters may have means of expending cards from their hands to power, and if culling the box happens differently then encountering junk cards will be less common - to say nothing about the lack of duplicates meaning that the exact situation I present is less likely than ever before.

I think he'll be unhappy about the "forced acquisition of boons" rule, but I'll encourage us to enforce it and see how it plays given the amount of other changes. If worst comes to worse, I'll houserule it away and just bump up the difficulty a little to offset a houserule that's in our favor.

Doesn't bother me too much, but I understand the drawbacks of losing the chance to leave boons alone. It also is a significant impact to some older scenarios and locations - some RotR locations like the Glassworks or the Halls of Greed (or something like that) potentially penalize you greatly for making unnecessary roles or acquisitions.


Yewstance wrote:
I think he'll be unhappy about the "forced acquisition of boons" rule...

I'm not sure that this is the new rule. Per the description above, you have to roll, but you can pretend that you rolled a zero if you want.

It's functionally the same as the old rule, I think.

All-knowing Aviva wrote:
No more analyzing your decisions; just roll! If you want, you can take a result of 0 on any check and move on. However, you still play out the consequence of that 0.


Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

Not exactly. If you take 0 you fail the check and suffer consequences. In old r.ules you could just chose not to check. This new one is somewhat better because it does not allow ”gaming” the system.


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Yes. I once ended up in an argument with a colleague because I didn't realize that "employed", "unemployed", "not employed" and the less common "not unemployed" were four different things from an economics standpoint, not two.

So it is with checks under 1.0 rules. Just because a bane is not defeated does not imply it is undefeated. (You can evade it, for example. You didn't defeat it, but it is not undefeated.) If you pass on a check to acquire a boon, you didn't fail a check, though you did fail to acquire the boon.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I understand, of course, Aviva is a young lass, writing about the Pathfinder Card Game. But I couldn't help myself, it's natural I suppose, with the "efficiency" hashtag - I kept reading this blog post in the voice of John Houseman, when he was wearing a grey suit and sitting in an Eames chair, like in "Rollerball".

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