Campaign adventure boardgames -- the new hotness?

This was the best thing I’ve read on this forum in at least a week.

Some of us just started a bona fide cooperative campaign of the latest Pathfinder: The Adventure Card Game game, which is basically version 3.0 of Mike Selinker’s design. Version 1.0 was the release, which was really cool but needed a ton of work as it got more and more content. As the series progressed, the rules got hammered into better shape with the later campaigns. I’d consider the later releases version 2.0 of the system, and it was the basis for Apocrypha, which used the design for the publisher’s own (very good, IMO) horror setting. Given that Apocrypha very aggressively fixes and streamlines the rules, I’d consider it version 2.5 of the Pathfinder system.

But now the latest release – unceremoniously called Pathfinder: The Adventure Card Game, which is the exact same thing it was called before – is a complete and total rework of the rules, and it’s almost all for the better. I’d call this version 3.0 of the system and it’s aces for how it incorporates what they’re learned – and especially the approach they took in Apocrypha – to make a baseline set of rules for two distinct but complimentary purposes: 1) streamlining the experience for the players, and 2) giving the scenario designers lots of room to play. And based on my time with Apocrypha, the folks behind these games take full advantage of that room to play.

I’ve been sitting on this game for a while, plinking away at it casually. It should be pretty easy to find, because I don’t think it sold very well, and I get the sense Paizo treats it like a red-headed stepchild next to the Pathfinder tabletop RPG. There’s a core set, which is really just a starter kit, and one full adventure called Crimson Throne, which is where you’ll get the bulk of the content. On Amazon, they’re sold in a bundle for $100:

Looking around, that seems to be the going price. I figured there would be a ton of used copies available on BGG, but apparently not. I found zero.

So after reconnecting with a couple of friends I didn’t get to see during the pandemic, the three of us sat down, picked characters, and played the first couple of scenarios, with plans to continue with weekly sessions until we get through all the content (currently about 40 scenarios, with options for open-ended difficulty scaling to allow, effectively, infinite play).

I’m playing a ranger, who I didn’t realize was a dwarf until I was looking for the standee and noticed it consisted mostly of white space because the ranger is so short. Because, you see, it turns out he’s a dwarf. He carries a ton of weapons, no spells, no armor, but he’s hardy and he gets a special bonus with axes and bows. During the course of the first scenario, I found a magnificent double-bladed axe! And then failed to acquire it.

Then, at the end of the scenario when we were drawing our rewards, my friend Bogi drew that exact double-bladed axe as his quest loot! How is that fair??? If this had been a solitaire game, I would have definitely equipped the axe with my dwarf ranger because it would have been the most optimal move. But this wasn’t solitaire and I wasn’t about to take my friend’s axe that he found it fair and square, especially because he was playing a fighter and what fighter doesn’t love a double-bladed axe in his deck?? Besides, that’s part of how cooperative gaming works in situations like this: the tension between enlightened self-interest and party optimization is much more real when you have multiple individuals playing at once.

But now that Bogi drew an additional weapon, he had to get rid of one of his old weapons. So while I was quietly grousing about not having enough axes for my axes and bows bonus, he gave me the bow he was going to discard now that he had a massive double-headed axe. Ah, so that’s how coop gaming works! Compromises can be more fun than ruthless optimization!

Anyway, this is new for me, the idea of an ongoing cooperative game that I could just as easily play solitaire. And I barely even mind that I accidentally rolled up a dwarf!

-Tom

It did so poorly they cancelled development on the game line. That bundle is all of the 2nd edition there’s ever going to be. Well, that and whatever league stuff they put out, but they cancelled that too so I think there’s like, one season of that.

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No traitor mechanic necessary! :)

I definitely deserve all the joshing I get for this, and that’s partly why I’m posting here. To take my licks! :)

-Tom

I actually consider this a plus, and it’s part of how I pitched it to my friends: “They’ve made all the content they’re ever going to make, so this isn’t a lifestyle game!”

Of course, what you and I are neglecting to mention is that the new system is backwards compatible* with all the other Pathfinder sets. So if this goes well, we’ve got something like four more full sets of adventure paths and the hundred plus scenarios that entails. And after that, it should be trivially easy to segue them into Apocrypha. I’m running a long con here, @malkav11!

-Tom

* actual viability TBD

(I wouldn’t be so patronizing, except that I figured that was the case.)

Oh! I just assumed that wasn’t the case! That’s pretty awesome then. (If it works.)

One of my kids really loves the Pathfinder game. I always found it a little janky. Might invest in this new edition eventually. Is this the 2019 release?

Uhhhh, caveat pathfindor on that, I’m afraid. While it may nominally, technically be kludgable, it sounds like there are a lot of nit-picky exceptions. Considering how often players get rules wrong when the cards are printed correctly, might make sense to play these games as they were intended – as separate games.

There’s also the additional issue that the 1.0 adventure paths were intended as separate, discrete experiences, while the 2.0 was a complete rethink of the system, intended to allow the player to mix and match whatever and continue characters across multiple adventure paths. (That were never made and never will be, on account of 2.0 flopped.)

It makes sense to me why Mike Selinker might have yelled “Uh, yeah, they’re backwards compatible, that’s the ticket!!!” over his shoulder as he ran away from the warehouse full of unsold 2.0 boxes. I don’t blame him. But I think you can do better.

If you want a huge, sprawling adventure campaign boardgame, there are many other options that were designed as such and don’t require you to jam two conflicting systems together.

As separate, discrete experiences, though, the Pathfinder games are nice! And while I haven’t played 2.0, the 1.0 ones are sprawling enough even while being self-contained!

Also, I have to say, the 1.0 card design just looks better.

Considering the number of scenarios and time to play in the first four PACG Edition 1 games, each of those is pretty goddamn sprawling as an adventure game campaign all in their own right.

I would also imagine that of the three 1st edition PACG game campaigns, Wrath of the Righteous is a fairly difficult conversion, given some of the mechanics it introduces.

But Rise of the Runelords I don’t remember being particularly difficult after getting used to it for the first scenario. And I haven’t tried Skulls yet, but it should be somewhat straightforward too. And there are elements of Mummy’s Mask that are already edging right up to the Core Set rules when it comes to conditions/scourges, etc…so that might also be pretty do-able.

I remember that knowing both rulesets pretty well was a help. After playing the core box and Crimson Throne, I went back and read the rules for Runelords and then it felt pretty intuitive to convert, but YMMV.

But you could also just… play the 2.0 version, and play the Mummy’s Mask. What do you gain by mushing 'em up with a fork? I have some ideas of what I would lose! (Sanity, primarily.)

Oh absolutely! You don’t need to mush the rulesets together at all, and the first four campaign games play just fine with the old school rules! But if you’re looking to lure your unsuspecting fellow gamers towards Apocrypha, that latter game shares a lot of similar mechanics present in the 2.0 (Core box) rules.

Good advice, everyone! Thanks!

Reading this thread, and I still feel dirty at Fantasy Flight for how badly they ended out Eldritch Horror with the waste of space that was the final big box expansion, and the campaign system that was absolute shit.

I am genuinely surprised that the V2 Pathfinder ACG went so badly. I had been keeping an eye out to see if they released new content, but clearly not. The original Runelords game is one of the first games that got me into this hobby. And it still sits in my display cabinet ready to pull out when the desire strikes to try a new campaign with a new cast of characters. There’s a whole set of characters I never played after all.

Also, with respect to the original post, another game with a campaign system might be Too Many Bones, with the Age of Tyranny expansion? That’s something I’m looking forward to trying out.

The Undertow and I think the upcoming Unbreakable standalone expansions also have short campaign setups. I don’t think most people consider any of the campaigns great ways to play TMB though.

Just to echo what malk said:

I haven’t tried the Undertow content yet, but the campaign mode Chip Theory added to the base set of Too Many Bones is awful. I love Too Many Bones’ standalone games, which are sort of compressed campaigns anyway. But Chip Theory’s attempt to add persistence and progression was a real disappointment.

-Tom

I haven’t messed with the Undertow campaign mode but it does seem like people think it’s better than Age of Tyranny. But part of what’s awesome about Too Many Bones is as you say, it feels like a campaign inside one session. I’m not personally seeing what taking that out to multiple sessions would do for me.

Now, Undertow itself is awesome and my preferred way to play currently. The raft encounters mix things up nicely, you get more training points on average in a shorter span of time, the baddies add variety, and Stanza and Duster are both very fun Gearlocs, although I personally own all of them so I don’t stick to those two for the Undertow encounters/bosses.

Ah ok, thank you Malkav and Tom. I only received TMB the other week, in the midst of a hectic period of time for me. It is breathinig though - no shrink wrap. It will be nice to get some gaming done soon. After tomorrow in fact.

I was one of those who got this and was also massively intrigued by just reading the rules and fiddling with the map pieces of Magic Realm, but never got to the stage where we played it.

It’s a game which still haunts me that way, and feels like it could really use a good computer adaptation to manage so many of the rules.

I do keep an eye out every once in awhile to see if there’s an update, but it’s still mostly me looking around.