Apocrypha: the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game goes to a Secret World

As mentioned several times in the Top Ten Solitaire Board Games thread, I recently picked up Apocrypha and its two expansions. They arrived on Monday and I’ve been spending my gaming time playing the base game ever since.

So far I have completed two of the Candlepoint missions while solo. I controlled 4 Saints (player characters), and I’ve won both times. I guess winning is to be expected since I’ve read several places that Candlepoint is more or less an extended tutorial for the game. Does this game really need tutorial missions though? Well… okay yea. But 9 of them? Well… okay maybe that’s a bit much for one guy playing solo and quadrupling down on his learning while controlling 4 separate player characters, but I can certainly understand why it might actually take nine full (easier) missions to properly train a full table of players.

As for learning the game, I had the benefit of spending a week watching gameplay and tutorial videos for the game, as well as perusing BGG’s forums for the game just to bone up a bit on the rules before even having the box in my hands and diving in. And it was certainly a week well spent, in that regard.

I don’t want to drone on too much about the manual or the difficulty a lot of people have trying to make sense of the game when sitting down with it the first few times, but suffice to say that I was in a much better place with the game when I first started than I could imagine anybody being by going in blind. I like the manual. I LOVE the keywords. I A D O R E the symbols. I love how they work, I love how clean they leave the cards looking (unlike Erranoth Reborn, god I refuse to play that game again till they fix the card textWALL), and I love just how much more information the card can actually convey, thus giving a single card (like Gifts) several completely separate uses during different phases of a game without ever seeming cluttered. And I love that about the cards too, how differently they’ll work depending on when they’re used.

I’m not ready to call this the greatest solitaire board game of all time. I don’t yet have the experience with it (or any other solitaire games) to give anything close to an informed opinion on that front, but what I can say is that I’m already genuinely enjoying my time with the game. From the art, to the setting and lore bits, to the way Structure and Nexus cards promise to change the feel of the game from mission to mission. If I did have a complaint at this point, it would be that when I complete a mission it just seems to end too abruptly. With a name like Patrick Rothfuss on the side of the box as a contributing author, I would really like each mission to wrap up with a cool epilogue, like something a DM might read off to RPG players at the end of a swanky module. So while the stories do have interesting intros, they seem a bit lopsided because they aren’t book-ended with a similar ending to them (or if they are, I just haven’t looked in the right place).

I never played the Pathfinder card game, which uses the same underlying game system as this one, so I can’t compare it to that, but what I’ve hard of it I do like certain changes made between that release and this one on the dice front. I like that dice checks are limited to three resultant dice being taken into account after a roll. I like that there are only 4 of each type of dice allowed (not counting wild die, of which there are another 4 that can be used as bonus dice when appropriate). I don’t like games where I have to roll 30 dice and then assemble them in this order or that order. maybe I’ve been playing too much One Deck Dungeon recently, but I do sometimes find myself sometimes losing track a bit when comboing, totalling and applying the handfulls of dice that one much roll, cheat out, and manage in that one.

Anyway. Apocrypha, it gets a thumbs up from me. I like it. I’m glad I have it. And I can’t imagine playing it with others because I really wouldn’t want to spend time with other people trying to piece together the best string of combos and bonuses I could Assemble between all my (our) characters, Omens, gifts, fragments, and so on… for the best handfull of dice each encounter. Though I’m sure the game would be perfectly fun in multiplayer if everybody at the table already knew everything.

Shit, I’d make this post only using Apocrypha symbols and keywords if I could.

PACG dice rolling is much simpler than Apocrypha in my opinion, save that they’re not all D6. It’s pretty rare to have more than four dice, you count them all unless there’s some card/location specific rule in play. You may have an ability to reroll, but it’s not as integral as it appears to be in Apocrypha.

Since getting into Apocrypha I’ve been wanting to watch a playthrough of Pathfinder, but I didn’t want to confuse myself while trying to learn Apocrypha. I was merely regurgitating what little I’ve heard of the game, but perhaps the Youtube guy was being a tad histrionic about it heh.

I’m about to set up a new Apocrypha solo game for myself. I’m tempted to build and swap in a new Saint for this run. When I assembled my first set of 4 Saints it wasn’t with any form of balance or synergy in mind. The only reason I ended up with these 4 is because they just happened to be the first four Saint decks I built, at which point it finally clicked what the instructions said when they mentioned that I couldn’t just assemble all 10 Saint decks because there wouldn’t be enough cards left to play with.

So my current team of four is very strong on the Mind & Soul front but has just about no Body and only middling Rage. Thanks to the way most enemies allow players to do a roll check vs different attributes it hasn’t been too much of an issue, but I have had to work harder to overcome certain threats I haven’t had a great way to handle. Perhaps instead of swapping in a new character I could try to focus more on funneling certain Gifts all into the hands of select Saints during gameplay, but at the same time I am a bit of an altaholic when it comes to generating endless RPG-style characters in games.

Omg, that first post is a huge hurdle to climb over for readers. OP should have at least included a screenshot in his gushing.

This is pretty cool. I love the aesthetic.

I’m reading the manual and it seems good to me. I also watched the ‘enter here’ videos and am pretty sure I understand what is going on.

This should get its own thread. I think there are enough of us playing, or who will soon be playing, or who have played, that we don’t have to be buried in other boardgaming threads.

Yeah, Apocrypha situates a lot of its gameplay around manipulating those dice before and after rolling them. Pathfinder is pretty much fire-and-forget. Whatever random dude kerzain found on YouTube was probably just talking about how hard it can be to calculate the odds when you have so many different types of dice.

@kerzain, I don’t think I realized you hadn’t played Pathfinder. I figure a lot of folks coming to Apocrypha have the advantage of knowing some of the basics from Pathfinder. That’s all the more impressive that you just skipped that entirely and you’ve wrapped your head around the basics well enough to play four characters.

So which characters are you using, @kerzain? Do you have any favorites yet?

One of the things I’ve learned from playing Pathfinder and especially Apcocrypha is to arrange each character’s hand of cards so that I can easily see which cards are relevant when it’s not that character’s turn.

This means any cards that can’t be used on other character’s turns are put on the bottom. Omens, for instance. If it’s not a character’s turn, I don’t generally care about what Omens he has. But cards that can be useful are fanned out and put on top so they’re readily visible. Which you might think is most cards, right? But that’s not always the case.

Many cards apply to everyone else at the investigator’s nexus, so I’ll go through at the beginning of an investigator’s turn, and check everyone else’s hand at that nexus for those up arrows. If there’s no up arrow, or if they’re not at the nexus, there’s no need for me to care about those cards, so they go to the bottom of the hand, with the Omens.

It’s a bit of busywork at the beginning of each turn, but I’m convinced it’s better than doing that thing of scanning each card in each character’s hand, to see if there’s anything you can use. And I’m also convinced the symbols make it really convenient. Left or right arrow? On top. Up arrow? On top when playing someone else at that Nexus. Pretty simple.


Gotta admit I only play this one dual fisted, not with both hands and feet. I’m probably missing something of the core dynamics, but easier to manage and I know from experience that makes the difference between me pulling the game out again and me shelving it indefinitely.

I want to emphasize to anybody reading this thread and thinking I’m some sort of savant, I had the extreme benefit of coming into this game YEARS after it hit the street, and consuming vast quantities of videos and discussion about the game in the days leading up to my first playthrough. If the game’s fans hadn’t already had those years to figure out and share the best way to present all this info for new players like myself, I’m sure my initial impressions and progress would look quite different.

I am currently using:

  • Dr. Zeez (Unlicensed Necrosurgeon)
  • River Batiste (Vodouisant)
  • Ruby Doomsday (Rollergirl)
  • Diana Jones (High Roller)

These are the only four saints I’ve tried so far, and because of this I won’t be able to say which of the ten (in the base box) might eventually turn out to be my favorite, but I do have a couple favorites so far.

Dr. Zeez has so far proven to be vastly more capable in clearing out nexuses than my other Saints. He not only has the extreme benefit of looking really cool with is Plague mask, but his starting deck has 2x Monstropedias, 1x Extra Razor Blades, and a Grifter, which are themselves pretty great.

I think the main reason I have enjoyed Dr Zeez so far is because of his larger hand size. I was able to Transfer him a couple extra Omens throughout my games (or get him to acquire them in other ways), and allow him to do a lot of the Investigating and Confronting on his turns. Because of the combination of cards he had, his larger hand size, and HIS HEAL 1 ability after victories vs threats, he never seemed short of cards and almost always seemed to have something useful to do.

My second favorite character so far has been Ruby Doomsday. I love loading her up with Examine cards like Magic Mason Jar, or healing cards like Extra Shot, and letting her serve as my scout. In those situations where she can’t simply examine and choose not to investigate if she doesn’t like what she finds, I can still utilize her Avoid to shuffle the threat back into the nexus and let somebody else prepare for the encounter. She always feels low on cards to me because I’m constantly Transferring her cards to other Saints (or letting Saints like Dr. Zeez just take them with, uhh, some card I forget the name of) that I would prefer have them; and she’s also low on cards because of the huge Discard pile she seems to accumulate given my tendency to use her as an Examine scout among other things, so heals are always especially useful for her.

Her “Sense 2” ability has also come in extremely useful versus several specific threats I had to deal with numerous times in my second mission, so that was cool too.

I don’t feel like I’ve used either River Batiste or Diana Jones to the best of their abilities yet. I can see how Diana’s Sanctify power would come in extremely useful in certain encounters or missions, but the ones I’ve played so far haven’t needed a power like hers just yet. And as for River, I don’t think I’ve been facing the types of threats he’d be best at just yet, and one of his Powers has been all but useless to me so far (his Conjure gift cost reduction). Plus, his 4 soul attribute is matched by Diana’s, and her Evaluate power make it better for her to confront Soul threats/gifts than him.

Yes, yes, yes, yes. yes to everything you just said there. Accuse me of suffering from a bit of tunnel vision if you’d like, but my natural tendency to is do exactly this, especially for bottoming Omens (there’s got to be a better phrase for this).

I suspect you’ll come to really appreciate his ability to reduce the cost of healing and Wicked cards, especially once you’ve taken him through a few missions and managed to load him up with Wicked cards. Characters who cost-reduce can work wonders in Apocrypha.

And in case it’s not obvious to you yet, those ability keywords like Sense and Hack and Strike are the key to deckbuilding. You want those bonus dice kicking in as often as you can get them, and the starting decks are terrible for that.


This may have been covered somewhere else already, but what’s the degree of persistence of characters?

One of the things I liked about Pathfinder was being able to add/replace cards from my characters’ decks, which made me feel like I was progressing. The additions may not have been very impactful, but I still liked the idea.

Does Apocrypha have anything like that?

Edit: I should clarify, is it like Pathfinder, where I “win” or “unlock” additional cards, or is it like Marvel Champions, where I just have access to a pool of cards from which I can build whatever deck I want?

It is exactly the system from Pathfinder where you can gain cards during play and then at the end of the scenario you sort back down to your deck limit. (And your character can then be taken into the next scenarios with that modified deck, to clarify.)

I haven’t played Pathfinder, but in Apocrypha, you can also exchange cards between players during play and give excess cards (above your deck limit) to other players after each scenario.

If you win a scenario, you also get a “fragment” which is a card with a special ability that you can slot into your halo. If you fail a scenario, at least one player will also slot a death, which clogs up your halo and given enough deaths will kill off the character permanently. (Your halo is a set of 8 slots that are arranged in a 3x3 grid around your character card. The ability of each card in the halo is dependent on where it is slotted in the halo.) Each scenario typically has a special permanent “enduring” fragment unique to that scenario, and there is a deck of generic “fleeting” (usually one-shot) fragments as well.

Also, the generic decks themselves change gradually to become more difficult as your characters become more powerful.

Yeah, all that stuff is true in Pathfinder as well, except for the fragments and death cards. Those are unique to Apocrypha.

Dang…I might as well pull this back out now as the discussion here might help me figure this game out. Bye, bye Combat!

I didn’t know about the existence of this game, but enjoyed PACG and love the idea of solitaire-style games like this so happy to see there here, but what prompted the sudden interest? It appears this game is in fact pretty old - I was puzzled when I looked it up on BGG and saw something “not this year”.

So it seems to me as if things are a 3 way coin flip.

Fun times!

It seems you of all people would have clicked on the thread that prompted this:

So, just a reminder that this site has a front page. It even has a Patreon campaign where this sort of thing is announced. And for as little as $1 a month, you get a bitchin’ eyeball icon stamped on the bottom right of your avatar and the tag of your choice next to your name. Barring that, even just following the Twitter account will get you announcements for this sort of thing.


Please do! I’m really enjoying reading about people discovering or rediscovering this. Even if it doesn’t work for them.


Sorry - I did indeed see that thread (and even read it!). It was just odd to see one game singled out and have a sudden jump in interest like that (I mean… I don’t see the Tiny Epic series threads on a sudden surge for example, and those were mentioned in that thread too).