Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set Review


Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords is a game by Mike Selinker, published by Paizo Publishing. It is for 1-4 players. However if you add the Character Add-On Deck, it will play up to 6 players. There are currently 5 Adventure Decks available that will add to the base game, with a 6th one coming out in June. I will discuss those in a later entry, for now I will only discuss the base set that comes with the 1st Adventure Deck, Rise of the Runelords. The Adventure deck that is included is based on the Pathfinder RPG adventure of the same name. In this game, a player or players will take on the fantasy challenges of a traditional RPG but in board game form. Along the way, they will add allies, acquire items, blessings and spells, fight monsters and try to thwart the most vile of villains and the henchmen that support them. The players only have a certain amount of time to find the villain and defeat him before time runs out.

To start, each player will choose a character, either from the base set or the add-on deck. The players will either build a deck for that character based on the requirements on the character card or they can start with pre-generated decks found in the back of the rule book. Next, the players must decide if they’re playing a scenario, adventure or campaign. The appropriate card for each describe what the starting locations will be in the scenario and how to set up the decks for each, usually adding monsters, items and so forth. Villains and henchmen are added randomly, one to a location deck and then shuffled. The Blessings deck is made from 30 blessing cards. This is the timer for the game. When it runs out of cards, the game is over and the players lose, unless they have found and defeated the villain. Token cards that represent the characters are placed at a location of the players choosing. Starting hands are drawn dependent on what the character card says, and play can now begin.

On a players turn several things happen in order. First, the player advances the Blessings deck by flipping over the top card into the discard pile. Next, they may give a card to another player who’s character token is at the same location as theirs. Next they may move their token to another location. They may then explore the location by flipping the top card of that location. This may only be done once unless other played cards allow an extra explore. When exploring, the players will either encounter boons or banes. If it’s a boon, they may attempt to acquire it by rolling a skill check with the dice provided and/or adding cards to help. If they meet or exceed the number the boon is placed in the players hand. If the players reveal a bane when exploring, they must try to defeat it. Again, skills and played cards are added to the dice roll to try to meet or exceed the number on the card. If the player beats it, the bane is removed and play continues. If the player is unable to defeat the bane, damage is applied to the character in the form of discarding cards equal to the damage taken. A player’s hit points is determined by the number of cards in their deck. If the player runs out of cards, their character is dead and effectively out of the rest of that adventure. At this point, characters may attempt to close the location if there are no cards remaining at the location. This is done by performing a skill check as designated by the location card. The player then resets their hand back to the starting number of cards and play passes to the next player.

This continues on until one of the players encounters either a henchman or a villain. If it is a henchmen, they try to defeat it as they would any other bane card. Once defeated, they may attempt to close the location they are at, even if it still has cards there. If they succeed the location is closed and they are one step closer to defeating the villain. If the villain is encountered, all other players may attempt to temporarily close the locations they are at. Closing locations is important because if the villain is defeated, he will move to one of the open locations, if any are available. If there are none open and he is defeated, the players win and the game is over. At least, that scenario or adventure is over.

After the scenario or adventure, players may adjust their decks based on any new cards acquired and raise skills and feats if available. They must still have the correct amount of cards in their deck as stated by the character card. The player is now ready to begin a new adventure or scenario.


There are approximately 500 cards in the base set for this game. That’s a lot of cards. The box for this game is HUGE! It has plenty of room to add expansions and such. The artwork on each card is amazing and very similar to what you will find in the Pathfinder RPG books. There is also a set of different sided dice that are rather plain but are a integral part to the game. Of course, you can do as so many others have and replace them with better looking dice with enough sets for each player. Doing this, players won’t have to share the same dice. Still, I absolutely love the look and feel of this game. It’s a wonder to behold for sure.
10 out of 10

The rulebook is rather large at 24 pages. It takes awhile to read everything, but it’s all important and very helpful. Everything is very clear and once read, there should be no problem playing this game. There are lots of examples of gameplay and card descriptions with pictures. There are even examples of each of the characters with descriptions for each one inside. There are lots of thematic images with a pure RPG rules manual feel to it. For a large rulebook, everything was easy to understand and it wasn’t that bad.
9 out of 10

Ok, so the game looks great and the rulebook is helpful to read. That means nothing if the game is no fun to play. Well let me tell you, that’s not the case. This game IS fun. It’s like having a full RPG campaign in a box. There’s so much goodness flowing out of this game. There’s really a sense of urgency as you’re getting close to the bottom of the Blessing deck and you haven’t beaten the Villain yet. It’s so much fun. This works well solo or as a co-op. I do recommend using more than one character if you play solo though. Still I enjoyed the solo version as much as co-op. It’s nice to know that if I’m by myself I can pull out this game and have something interesting to play. I like how the characters have the ability to level up and improve into even better characters the more you play the same character. The customization of characters is very reminiscent of a regular RPG and that theme is so strong. This game plays great and is lots of fun. Grade A++
10 out of 10

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords Base Set is a mildly medium weight game of deck building, hand management and exploration. This game is SO much fun. As a long time RPG player, I felt right at home playing this one. The design of this is great. The artwork is great. The gameplay is great. It’s just a really GREAT game. RPG players will enjoy this one as much as I did. I highly recommend it. The really great thing about this is that when you get tired of playing through what’s in the box (believe me, it’ll take awhile to do), it can be expanded with extra adventure decks. I call that a Win-Win situation. Stop thinking about it and go ahead and buy this one. You will be glad you did.
10 out of 10

Check out my review of the Character Add-On Deck here.

Also, check out my review of the 2nd Adventure Deck, The Skinsaw Murders here.



For more information about Pathfinder and other great games, please check out Paizo Publishing at their site.


About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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10 Responses to Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set Review

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  9. Matt says:

    Is it worth getting the character add-on deck if I already own all the class decks, as it has added monsters, etc? And are the contents still different to the class packs for its included four classes?

    • jlnelson73 says:

      I really feel like the character add on deck adds a lot to the game. It has it’s own cards, some of which are duplicates but create a different experience for each new class.

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