I'm playing through the Rise of the Runelords adventure of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and this is my game log. Last night, I played the third scenario: Trouble in Sandpoint.
The first scenario was an all-out attack on Sandpoint, so my strategy was to stay alive (and it would have worked, too, if it hadn't been for those pesky goblin raiders). The second demonstrated how atmosphere could be conveyed through stacks of cards, and hinted at how one might strategize, choosing to saunter into a general store for a better chance at drawing loot than a foe. This scenario made it strategy requisite.
I've been playing two characters, mostly because I wanted to be able to strategize and to experience gameplay for both a fighter (Valeros) gameplay and a spellcaster (Seoni). I nearly lost Seoni in the first scenario, so I knew going in to this one that I had to think about the strengths of each class. The locations in this scenario are basically hideouts and lairs, one of which featured no less than 6 monsters. It's full of metagame to acknowledge that one location has mostly monsters, but then again if you've played through the Rise of the Runelords modules for the Pathfinder RPG, then you know that your characters have plenty of clues that the locations they're investigating are dangerous. So I consciously sent Seoni to "safe" locations and Valeros to the dangerous ones. And I saved the really nasty one for last.
It worked out pretty well, and it gave the whole scenario an extra edge. I couldn't decide whether I was being a clever strategist or whether the game was bullying me into taking a specific route. Either way, it didn't much matter because the villain could have been in any location, and as adventurers, Valeros and Seoni would feel they were being forced into situations because they are. It's still a pleasure to see how well this card game tells a story while also providing really fun gameplay.
As far as I understand, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game uses your draw deck as HP. If you run out of cards to draw, then you're dead. In a way, this seems like a beautifully efficient design, but in practise I feel that Seoni basically will never die because she gets automatic success to any recharge check, meaning that she can place many cards at the bottom of her draw deck after using them. I stacked her deck with lots of rechargeable cards, and so she very rarely discards. Valeros, on the other hand, mostly only discards. No wait, that is beautifully efficient: the magic user fighting at range takes less overall damage than the frontline fighter.
The problem, at least until I decipher the rules differently, is with healing. There are cards that reduce damage, but there's no mention of how that works. I assume, because the draw deck also represents HP, that healing is achieved by rescuing cards from the discard pile. However, the text of such cards combined with the proscribed turn mechanic suggests that they're meant to be used as a response to damage taken during your turn (if not, then I'm not sure they are allowed to be played). During this particular session, I decided when Valeros's draw deck ran out, that he fell unconscious (5e style) and therefore Seoni finished the game alone. It worked out and felt right, but I do intend to re-read the rules for clarification.
As a sidenote, it also feels a little strange to have essentially two countdown timers: the draw deck and the round /a deck filled with blessing cards/ deck. I understand that games can have multiple lose conditions, I just think it's a little strange for a character to be able to fall out of play. In a multiplayer game, that means somebody who dies no longer gets to play while their friends continue without them. That's not fun. And in a single player game, the player is either going to just continue the game with a second PC or else start the game over, so PC death serves no function (or at least, not a fun one).
This scenario was about strategy. It was a gracefully executed tutorial-in-disguise, and has undoubtedly changed the way I'll play the game from this point on. As usual, it also manages to tell a rich story far beyond anything a mere card game ought to be able to do. It was stressful and brutal and a lot of fun.
Next up, approaching Thistletop!