This commentary originally aired on April 10, 2014.
Many people are at least sort of familiar with what Dungeons & Dragons is - a role playing game that a group of friends play together using dice and books, rather than a TV and a controller. I love playing D&D, but the games are long, and finding people that aren’t so busy that they can’t play these long campaigns for hours at a time, weeks in a row... well, that’s difficult.
Recently, though, I was introduced to a game that takes some of the gameplay elements of D&D and condenses them down into a card game. The game is called Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords.
First, you choose a character. As in D&D, you can choose between a Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Cleric, Bard, Ranger or Sorcerer. Each character has his or her own powers and strengths, and comes with a deck of cards that you can customize. These cards may be items or allies to help you defeat the enemies in the game.
Once everyone has their characters ready, you place them at a location. There are several to explore, like a dungeon, or a prison, or a shop. Each of these have a deck, which you can explore by turning one card over each turn. The goal is to find the villain in one of these decks and defeat him before time runs out. You can help out other players by giving them items or even helping them with battle if they are in the same location as you.
The game comes with many scenarios to play through, and expansion scenarios are inexpensive. With each module you play, the enemies get tougher, but so do your characters, gaining new abilities and cards. There are dozens of hours of unique play available here.
This game doesn’t have everything I like about tabletop games like D&D. Notably, the story is anemic, and doesn’t really make a lot of sense. But the dynamic of the players around the table is sound, as you band together to defeat a common enemy. It isn’t the perfect translation of D&D to a card game, but it’s a pretty great game in its own right.