Dragged out Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull and Shackles for the first time in ages. We tackled a scenario which had us fighting off a ghost ship and its undead crew while rescuing people in a thick fog bank. This was frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful, but also displayed some of the reasons I think Skull and Shackles is a much better (and more challenging) set than Rise of the Runelords. The central challenge here was that you can’t close either location until you’ve completely emptied them, and you’re dealing with a ridiculously obnoxious pirate captain who makes you do FOUR separate checks and then doesn’t even get defeated unless the location’s empty and a crew of swarming zombies that are immune to both poison and fire. (Plus various random other monsters, undeadified by their location.) Usually, you’re hoping to close at least a couple of the locations through early to mid-deck henchmen and if you have to clear every location in full, you’re probably going to lose. Here, with just two locations (though with a bunch of extra cards based on character count) your timer isn’t quite as tight, but you still have significantly more cards to clear than time to clear them. And any time you encounter the villain, welp, that’s a turn wasted -and- a turn cleared from the timer (because you can’t defeat him or close locations, so it’s always a blessing from the deck, not the box). And that’s best case, if you manage to succeed at literally every check of the four, so as to not take damage. He is a supreme ass. Furthermore, his henchmen are, as I say, immune to poison (irrelevant in ROTR, mostly, but a bunch of stuff does poison here) and fire (a wide range of combat spells and alchemy, etc), making them surprisingly challenging.
So yeah. That’s rough. On the other hand, like I say, it demonstrates the improvement in design since the first set. Lots of checks that aren’t combat. Traits that become very important to your tactics (immunities, for sure, and also a bunch of items, weapons and so on with handy conditional bonuses, or monsters with additional weaknesses/penalties based on checks you’re contributing). Bunches of ways to contribute to one another’s checks (e.g. the warpriest displaying cards for plusses to checks, the gunslinger contributing damage at range, the alchemist throwing potions as bombs, various bonus items contributing their bonus at range at a slightly steeper usage cost). Items in general being more useful, particularly consumables, which were never worth an item slot in your deck due to being banished on use…until the alchemist, who recharges them instead. A rechargable Potion of Heroism (+1d6 on all checks for a character for a turn) is a beautiful thing. Etc.