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Subject: Candlepoint Boring, Chicago Better rss

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PlatypusNinja
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[edited three weeks after posting]

About me: I've played all four Pathfinder Adventure Card Game campaigns. I've played the first eight missions of Chicago; I've played eight missions from Candlepoint, but that includes some duplicates when teaching the game to people.

Here's what I would tell myself if I had it to do over: when you play Apocrypha, skip to Chicago. (Or to any of the other locations, I suppose, when they come out.) Spend maybe 1-2 missions in Candlepoint to learn the game, but no more.

Something about the Candlepoint mission descriptions just doesn't work (for me). Here's the text for "No Way Out":

Quote:
Candlepoint is not so modern that it forgoes its traditional harvest moon rituals. From the 1850s on, farmers erected the Hay Man on the edge of the cornfields to keep the crows at bay. Now the Hay Man stands at the entrance to the 'A-Maize-ing Maze', with adorable bunny rabbits nibbling on the corn kernels. It's totally safe entertainment. Let's go out and feel the night.


That's it. That's the whole mission!

Why are we fighting a "Hay Man" and "Dust Bunnies"? If we really squint, I suppose we could make up some sort of a story about how the corn maze was a front for some sort of sinister plot, but it's buried pretty deep. There's no flavor text on any of the true threats to help us out. When we did this mission, we kind of looked at each other, shrugged, assembled the cards, and played out the mechanics of the mission without really having a plot.

Other missions are better but still unsatisfying. The puns are bad, but not in a good way.

When we moved to Chicago, things got much better: we had a real plot! We also started getting real Enduring Fragments as mission rewards, which was satisfying in terms of feeling real character progression.

The rest of this review is nitpicks.

------

Apocrypha replaces PACG very specific card types (Weapon, Spell, Armor) with the more general categories of Mind, Body, Soul, and Rage gifts. In some sense this is flavorful and creative, but it leads to a bit of a disconnect between what the cards do and what they represent. As Sarimrune notes in the other thread: the flavor text on the 'Wolfram Cube' says it is "Heavy, like the weight of reality. Good for meditation and munitions." What is this for? When I use it to defeat a threat, what specifically is happening? Other bizarre cards include the "Mondrian Cell", the "Fingerpost", and the "Gladhander".

We do get some interesting themes with the four virtues: most threats (at least in Chicago) seem to be fought with Body and Rage, so characters that have those virtues tend to thrive naturally. Characters with Soul and Mind have some special cards available that let them apply those stats to Body or Rage rolls, so they can be good at any check assuming they're holding the right card. This isn't as fully developed as it might be, unfortunately: even after playing as much as I have, I'm fuzzy on the mechanical difference between specializing in Body and in Rage, or in Soul versus in Mind.

-----

Another problem comes from the rules text. The first few missions in Chicago had severe rules issues; I had to issue houserules on the spot, guessing at the right interpretation to keep the game moving. One of my houserules turned out to be the intended way to play the scenario (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1842993/jackhammered); the other didn't (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1843018/loop-garoux). It's a really unpleasant feeling when I invite my friends over to play a game with me and then I can't explain the rules properly.

Let me say a bit more about this, actually. The game does this deeply aggravating thing where it spreads the rules piecemeal across several cards. One card will say "if you do X thing, display it at your nexus" and a different card will check if anything is displayed at a nexus. The mission description, which should tell me how to play the mission, just names a bunch of cards and issues some piecemeal rules changes. I understand in some sense it's more elegant to have each rule written in exactly one place, but I shouldn't have to solve a puzzle to figure out how the mission works. There's a great big mission book! Add a few pages to it and use the extra space to fully describe the mission!

-----

Perhaps the worst problem with the game is that I'm making fewer decisions.

In Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, I tried to play my entire hand every turn. I would throw blessings at other players, use allies to explore, play spells in combat, and at the end of my turn I'd cast Cures to heal all the lost cards back into my deck. Apocrypha has nerfed this mechanic by replacing my blessings and allies with Omens, which are single-use-only. My hand is getting clogged up with combat buffs for combats I'm not doing, and heal cards for damage nobody's taking. It's just not as exciting.

Compounding this problem is that Apocrypha is moving away from "Corner The Villain" missions. Cornering the villain wasn't deep strategy, maybe, but it had some important decisions: should we stay together to support each other, go for the location most favorable to each character, or spread out to stop the villain from escaping? My least favorite mission is the new "Along The Trail" mission, where everyone stays together, and the group does each nexus one at a time -- essentially you draw a card, do what it says on the card, and repeat until done. When I play this mission type, I can feel my attention fading, and it gets tempting to pull out my phone and websurf until my turn comes up.

I've seen people say that Apocrypha makes up for this by adding more character interaction, but I haven't seen much of it. Occasionally someone will say: "hey, I can assist you on this roll!" but the character making the roll usually turns down the help, because the mutation effects tend to be more negative than the rerolls are helpful. I took help on a roll tonight, and I drew a "Swarming" effect that made two other players have to fight my monster. And then I succeeded on the roll without needing the reroll.

-----

I've used much of this review to gripe, and that's a bit unfair. My friends seem to enjoy the game; they show up reliably and are excited about playing it, and they're already asking me what we can do when we finish Chicago. As for myself -- I didn't like Candlepoint, but once we got to Chicago I started enjoying it too.

I'm glad I backed the Kickstarter, but I don't think I can fully endorse this game until/unless it makes major improvements to the rules text.
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Gado Del Ellion
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
That's strange, I actually find the Along the Trail and At the Stronghold missions to be some of the most fun I've had so far. In pathfinder, during every corner the villain mission we would all split up and go to the location best suited for us every single time. So, that's not a meaningful decision lost for me, and being forced to stay together actually opens up a lot more character interaction and decision making for my group, since there are a lot of cards that apply to saints at your nexus (even more so when your halo starts to fill up and you have fleeting fragments in the top row). I will agree that I have tended to ignore assisting almost entirely, but I think there is still a healthy amount of interaction thanks to the variety of cards. Since every card can boost, no card is ever dead in your hand (like they were in PACG), so you can take more niche or utility cards without having to worry about that. Cards like Runic Knife in particular are brutally powerful if you're at the same nexus with someone who's up against a difficult check.

I haven't had too much trouble with the theming, but some of it might be because I've familiarized myself with the 9 different factions. For instance, the hayman mission is about the dreamers, so my group immediately got the idea that it's some kind of Scarecrow esque illusion/dream that we're trying to dispel. I've done all 18 missions out so far and I don't think I had a theme disconnect with any of them.

The point I do agree with the most is about the rules. I love structures as a concept, and I think they work well with the mission card to let me know all of the rules I need to worry about. However, the rules themselves are often open ended or hard to find a relevant passage when I'm struggling to make a judgement call. This was most frustrating for me when it came to the 2 missions that involves multiple acts. The rules tell you to setup act 2 after you complete act 1, but there's no explanation of what that setup entails. Do you reset the clock and the character decks, or just one, or neither? I ran into several problems like this where I felt like my judgement call was wrong, but I couldn't find out what was right without checking or posting something here. I'm hoping the Errata FAQ eases this concern (which is coming out this week iirc), much like with Pathfinder.

Overall, though, I had an extremely fun time with this game through base and skinwalkers. I don't really like comparing it to pathfinder, because they are both games that I love a lot, and so often it's to call one better than the other, which I don't think is necessary.
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Tony C
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Lol. Adherence to "corner the villain" missions is one of the most common feedback I've seen about PACG. I enjoy chasing (something) Along the Trail.

Hayman - good point! It says that the missions of Candlepoint are 'representative' of things in the various other chapters - so in a way, maybe we're playing one random mission out of the chapter, so it's out of context and thus stands out more as "why are we doing this?" That's an interesting game design choice - it exposes us to different mechanics or gameplay tweaks, but at the cost of story coherence (which, admittedly, can be a little tough to find at the micro level anyway.)

Rules - yeah, there's a lot of room for improvement/clarity there.
 
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patrick mullen
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
PlatypusNinja wrote:

My real problem with the game is that I'm making fewer decisions.

In Pathfinder Adventure Card game, I tried to play my entire hand every turn. I would throw blessings at other players, use allies to explore, play spells in combat, and at the end of my turn I'd cast Cures to heal all the lost cards back into my deck. Apocrypha has nerfed this mechanic by replacing my blessings and allies with Omens, which are single-use-only. My hand is getting clogged up with combat buffs for combats I'm not doing, and heal cards for damage nobody's taking. It's just not as exciting.


I haven't played a 4-player game yet, but I feel opposite on this point. The decisions are different - "how do I play my entire hand" I found got tiring pretty quickly. There are more special use cards, and less healing, in apocrypha. So it is more about "when will I get the most usage out of this card". Should I use it now or save it? Do I use my weapon for this fight is never a decision in PACG. You are going to use it. Cards have generally higher costs in Apocrypha, so I find there to be more decisions. Especially when I have a good card that I would prefer to use on myself, but something comes up where someone has the wrong virtue for a check and I should probably use it on them, but don't want to lose my card. That's often a tough choice for me in this game.

I agree on mutations - it's usually not worth it. But beyond that most of the cards also can be used on other player's rolls - those decisions are much more interesting than PACG where most of the interaction comes from blessings and allies. (at least the first box of it that I played, I definitely didn't do as many boxes as you have)

It might be that the game is actually better with lower player counts, since there are more opportunities to help each other out. I'll keep that in mind to look for when I actually get a chance to play with a higher player count. Additionally, it's definitely looking like most people who really like PACG will lean toward not liking Apocrypha, which is a bit of a shame considering you guys were the ones who boosted the project. For me it essentially fixes most of the things that bugged me about PACG. Which is not what you guys wanted, lol.
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Justin Boehm
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
It seems like you are having an easy time with combat, and from the posts so far I've seen, some people forget, you only get to keep 3 dice, so that 15 mind you might need to get can be really tough without using assists, although the here are cards to mitigate that some as well.

As for the scenarios, I find the change from "corner the villain" refreshing, although there are scenarios that have that as the goal as well.

 
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Bill H
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We shied away from using Assists at first, until the Temporal Mutation last week that let us reroll a 1,2 or 3 on a Mutation. That made them safer so we used them often and got more comfortable with the benefits and costs. We use Assists more often now. We don't always end up needing the rerolls, but it's insurance when the cost of failure is high (or time is short), and the costs of Mutations are sometimes pretty minor or avoided completely (and occasionally even beneficial!).

I only played halfway through the first PACG campaign (although I did that several times with various characters). I personally find more decisions in Apocrypha, more interaction between players, and there's more theme here than I ever found in PACG. The flavor text ranges from "meh" to downright unsettling.

The rules are... adequate. I would have liked another sentence or two of direction per scenario, but it's kind of fun trying to work out what we're doing on the fly
Spoiler (click to reveal)
"oh, that Watchdog is helping us!"
much like in Legendary where some missions aren't clear how to win but become obvious during play when key cards appear.

The "Enter Here" deck was a brilliant concept but ultimately fumbled.
1. They should have included a sheet of paper in the box saying "READ ME FIRST! Look for the 'Enter Here' deck before proceeding!" It would have saved a lot of hassle and could have featured a photo of the setup and card list, obviating the need for the first video video and the 'Rebuild' PDF
2. The second video video should have gone through the demo game completely and explained not just what you could do but why. Instead, we got several people quickly playing the first part of the demo (and sloppily at that; new players have pointed out half a dozen errors in the YouTube comments).
3. Although Apocrypha shipped a year late, the intro videos weren't available on the official launch date, which was after most backers had received their games. The Setup video appeared that night, I believe; the first half of play shortly after, the second half of play doesn't look like it will be filmed or posted, and the aftermath video appeared days after launch -- which was finally when we had most of the instruction we needed to play "Enter Here".
Hopefully, they will repost a corrected and more instructional video.

The alternative is to ignore "Enter Here" and learn from the rulebook, which is possible but not easy. I'm not sure if PACG experience helps or hinders, actually. Perhaps if they provided a "this is what is different" guide?

So the learning curve was unnecessarily awkward, but I'm enjoying the game more than PACG to where I don't see myself going back to it now that I have Apocrypha. We're currently binge-watching Supernatural, and as they search for omens and investigate all kinds of bizarre and occult events, so do we.

--- Proud to be a HunterSaint
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Who Am I?
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
Wow. You had a problem building a compelling story from the No Way Out mission description?

Old traditions that slowly allowed us to forget a fearsome creature who once existed, traditions that have changed into cheerful games for children. Until the creature returns with a vicious reminder.

That's really not a difficult stretch to make, is it? Especially when the premise of the entire game is that we Saints are able to sense/see monsters who were once lost or forgotten. Personally, in a game like this I'd rather not have every story detail spelled out for me.


I do wish some of the rule issues were clearer, but that's really the only complaint from the review that resonates with me. The inevitable FAQ should help in that regard - at least, I hope it will.
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C Sandifer
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
Shijuro wrote:
Hopefully, they will repost a corrected and more instructional video.


They're already done this, I think:

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Adam Alderman
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
That new video helped me leaps and bounds. I'm now on my third read through of the instruction book and it's slowly starting to come together for me. I'm excited as hell to dive in, but I just made copies of the glossary at back since keeping all those different terms in mind is a bit tough for me.

 
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David Arlington
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
wkover wrote:
Shijuro wrote:
Hopefully, they will repost a corrected and more instructional video.


They're already done this, I think:



I actually didn't find that video all that helpful, especially when I saw something in the first five minutes that I questioned from my understanding of the rules (I left a comment but no one has answered it yet) and someone else saw something that was different from their understanding as well (but coincided with mine).

So, when I see things like that, I'm thinking either

a) It's not a helpful video when the designers are making mistakes with their own game

OR

b) The rules are so poorly written that what seems like it is easily understandable by at least a couple people turns out to be way wrong.

(It would be nice if someone addressed the comments on the YouTube video to know which one.)

Dave
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Justin Boehm
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
DocSavage2001 wrote:
wkover wrote:
Shijuro wrote:
Hopefully, they will repost a corrected and more instructional video.


They're already done this, I think:



I actually didn't find that video all that helpful, especially when I saw something in the first five minutes that I questioned from my understanding of the rules (I left a comment but no one has answered it yet) and someone else saw something that was different from their understanding as well (but coincided with mine).

So, when I see things like that, I'm thinking either

a) It's not a helpful video when the designers are making mistakes with their own game

OR

b) The rules are so poorly written that what seems like it is easily understandable by at least a couple people turns out to be way wrong.

(It would be nice if someone addressed the comments on the YouTube video to know which one.)

Dave


I think I answered your question, but am unsure as you mention it being in the first 5 minutes, but what your question refers to is almost 40 minutes in lol. But I'll post the answer here too:

If you mean at 39:45 ish, they stated it properly. The murder board adds a die by recycling it into the active saints deck when assembling with rage, so the statement "because it is a rage check" was accurate. Or is there another instance where Liz used a murder board? Although I do see a mistake (or maybe just an omissions) which is that they could have used franks Strike skill to add 2 more dice, as it matches the murder board, for a total of 4 rage and 4 bonus dice, not sure why they didn't do so, which is my guess as to what you mentioned.
 
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David Arlington
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
As I mentioned on YouTube, this is in the first five-six minutes when Gabriella falls one short on a check and she activates Gabriella's top power to add one to a check. She used the Murder Board to activate the CHARACTER power ( NOT the power on the Murder Board itself). Her power says it need matching skill (which Murder Board has - Strike) but in the video she says she is using the character power because the Virtues match, not the Skills).

So either she misspoke or I don't understand how to read the character power.

Dave
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Justin Boehm
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
DocSavage2001 wrote:
As I mentioned on YouTube, this is in the first five-six minutes when Gabriella falls one short on a check and she activates Gabriella's top power to add one to a check. She used the Murder Board to activate the CHARACTER power ( NOT the power on the Murder Board itself). Her power says it need matching skill (which Murder Board has - Strike) but in the video she says she is using the character power because the Virtues match, not the Skills).

So either she misspoke or I don't understand how to read the character power.

Dave


Ah ok, sorry about that, must have missed it. That does seem to be a misspoken statement, as "skills" are the words on the cards, so the murder board's strike matches her character's Strike skill, this is what allows the +1 not the rage check and rage gift matching.
 
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Bill H
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
wkover wrote:
Shijuro wrote:
Hopefully, they will repost a corrected and more instructional video.


They're already done this, I think:


That's good that a better video exists. It covers the entire demo game, they explain more and they make fewer mistakes.

However, I was suggesting they need to replace the video that the "Enter Here" deck points to, the video that the players are directed to in order to learn the game. That's the one that remains inaccurate and arguably inadequate.
 
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Sebastian
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Re: I like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game better
Shijuro wrote:
[...] which was after most backers had received their games.


*brglkasdf* sorry, spit my EU-Coke at the screen.
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