I was going to be lazy and just post pictures of our final character sheets... then I realized the forums don't support posting images. Welp, since I already went through the trouble of uploading them, I'll link them anyway!
The wife and I played two characters each. We had one death early on (a stock Lem, in the prequel scenarios), then had a more notable death during Fortress of the Stone Giants (a reflavored Amiri-zerker who enjoyed raging a little too much).
Character Name: Freestyle (Lem)
Character Name: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (Sajan)
The Wifey's Dudettes
Character Name: Valerosa (Valeros)
Character Name: Loravyre (Seoni)
(I know the Paizo stocked decks wasn't an official option, but I'd much rather pay an extra dollar or two and get it from Paizo's store.
Bonus points for making it available through the ACG subscription and/or including some promo cards to sweeten the deal)
Yep, any combat check includes spells, weapons, and even the soon-to-be released "Hugs and Kisses" promo combat cards.
Anytime you are rolling a check against a monsters' "Check to Defeat (Combat)", you may recharge your tiger to get that extra d6. This is regardless of whatever other cards you play (still subject to the 1 card per type, per check rule, of course).
Lini definitely is more of a "force multiplier" character. She combos well with any of the other characters, and is great at filling in where needed.
She can explore more often than others by recharging animal allies and recycling blessings via Cure spells, but she's not going to typically do well at locations with lots of monsters/tough villians.
Personally, i find her balanced and very fun to play (running her combo'd with Amiri). For a solo run, I'd only do Lini if I were looking for a challenge.
Sorry you have had problems with her. I haven't and my one complete pass through was with her and Amiri. Tough combo. Especially if Amiri gives up a weapon to Lini early in the game.
Indeed, it's a great combo ;)
I never thought about passing a weapon to Lini, but it makes a lot more sense than waiting to draw Amulet of Mighty Fists. Doing so also frees up one of those oh-so-precious item slots, maybe allowing for some damage mitigation (e.g. the basic, rechargable amulet that stops 3 damage).
Having not thought of that, I feel almost as silly as when I realized (after the first 5 senarios) that the 1d4 animal ally bonus applied to spell recharge rolls!
Well yeah, I'd agree that Lini is better suited to handle most non-combat encounters than the fighter types. She's a decent fill in whenever someone more specialized isn't available to handle a particular check.
I just don't find that as a reason to start saying that the character is better than the others overall.
When the game is primarily about killing monsters within a time limit, a character that sacrifices combat power should be better in other areas.
That's why I brought up Valeros/Amiri's combat stats. If Lini at her best is barely on par with their "not really trying" combat checks, then i am not sure where people get the idea she's OP. Lini is better at non-combat things, and they're better in combat. Sounds right to me.
Regarding the OPs question, I think the basics have been covered pretty well:
1.) always pack an Amulet of Might Fists
My preferences beyond that are to concentrate on location deck searching, so Detect Magic/Detect Evil/Augury are some of my favorite picks (currently running cure x2, augury x2, holy light, fiery weapon). Personally, I found the basic combat/buff spells (Strength/Inflict) redundant due to shapeshift, but try them out for yourself. Just got both holy light/fiery weapon in my last game, so they may be leaving the deck too.
When deck building/upgrading, remember that animal allies not only are +1d4 on checks, but the ones that let you explore automatically recharge (instead of discard). So I'd recommend preferring animals that can also explore over any other kind of ally.
It's your game, so feel free to houserule, but I really find that discarding for a d10 (even assuming you've got a bird/AoMF) still puts Lini behind any of the fighter types simply revealing a decent weapon.
Once any of the fighter-types discard, they blow away Lini's best efforts. Lini does have better utility outside of combat, though, so its a fair trade off IMO.
Sure, it's nice that Lini can discard to get decent combat rolls on the fly (and Cure away the pain should she fail), but it seems a lot easier to just to roll a fighter and get permanently better combat rolls. That way you avoid taking any damage/discards in the first place. ;)
In other words, I wouldn't nerf Cure spells since packing too many of them just reduces your ability to dig through the decks (increasing the likelihood of running out of blessings). To each his own, though.