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Game review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Skull & Shackles is a complete adventure path

POSTED: February 17, 2018 6:49 a.m.
Ryan Morgenegg/

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles Base Set includes nearly 500 cards, featuring a richly customizable assortment of equipment and magic, and dozens of allies, monsters, and villains from the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path. Seven character classes to choose from, including four brand-new ones: Gunslinger, Magus, Oracle, and Swashbuckler; three returning characters: Bard, Fighter, and Rogue. Returning characters from Rise of the Runelords are new versions for this game. ...

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Ahoy there, Matie! Paizo Publishing has a treasure of a game with its second release in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game series. Skull & Shackles has the same exciting core rules and adventure gameplay, but has some great pirate-themed additions and a brand new adventure path.

It's time for pirate goblins, horrible creatures of the sea and of course pirates ships.

For those who have never played the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, imagine the fun and excitement of a fantasy adventure roleplaying game distilled down into an easy to play card game. Players first choose one of several pre-generated characters such as the swashbuckler, oracle, gunslinger, bard, rogue, magus and the fighter. This will be their avatar in the game.

All that a player needs to know is listed on the selected character card. It explains how smart and strong he or she is along with skills and stats needed to accomplish tasks throughout the game. For example, if a character is faced with a feat of strength, the card will explain what dice need to be rolled and any applicable bonuses. Give those monsters the black spot.

Each character begins with a unique set of cards. These cards are used in the game to help give advantages to attacks, skill tests and treasure grabbing. There are cards for spells, weapons and items. During an adventure, a character will need to overcome different obstacles. It comes down to the roll of the dice and the cards that are played by both the player and his or her companion players.

Succeeding at a specific challenge usually requires a player to roll above a specified number. There is no hornswaggling here, what you roll is what you roll. Examples of challenges might be an attempt to acquire a new item or ally or the defeat of angry creature or monster.

Usually the main objective of an adventure scenario is to defeat a certain villain. Players will go to different locations trying to track down and defeat the villain. Along the way there are henchmen too. If the main villain of the scenario is defeated, there are rewards that increase the strength and depth of the character as well as adding new cards to their respective character decks.

Additional adventures are available so a group of players can take their characters through an entire campaign. Monsters will become harder, challenges ever more deadly and treasures even more powerful. There is a sense of pride and accomplishment in successfully taking a character through an entire campaign adventure. (See below for more details on further adventures.)

New to this edition of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is the addition of ships. Any pirate themed game worth its salt needs to have ships that can carry him or her around the map to different locations. The ships also allow for fighting other ships and the storage of plundered treasure. Shiver me timbers!

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Skull & Shackles is a wonderful new addition to a creative and innovative card game system. It is worth your time, and if you like pirate adventure games, this does not disappoint. Be aware that there are also two more campaigns in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game series, Mummy's Mask and Wrath of the Righteous.

Additional items that can be purchased but are not included in the base Skull & Shackles set are the following:

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game character deck is a 110-card expansion that gives players all the cards they need to add four new and different playable characters. The set includes the alchemist, war priest, druid and witch. What's even better is that this set allows players the ability to expand their games to five or six players.

The campaign adventure continues with deck two, Raiders of the Fever Sea. In this adventure, players will have tons of ship battles as they head into waters infested with pirates. This deck adds 110 new cards, including five scenarios, more locations, loot, monsters and items.

Adventure deck three is called Tempest Rising because characters are getting powerful by now to become a pirate lord themselves. Tons of treasure, gold and new items await in this 110-card expansion. There is even the tempting allure of owning your own island. In this adventure, you'll meet the pirate council and sail against other captains in the infamous Free Captains’ Regatta. But who is the Hurricane King?

In deck four, the Island of Empty Eyes, players will be led to claim their coveted prize for winning the Free Captains' Regatta. There is an uninhabited island called the Island of Empty Eyes. But the island is inhabited with all kinds of danger. The goal is to bring order to the island and increase in power so much that players earn a seat on the pirate council. The set adds 110 more cards to the game.

The Price of Infamy is the fifth deck in the Skull & Shackles campaign. There is no rest for the pirate council because the whole chain of pirate islands is set for invasion by a deadly enemy. Players will need to gather all their strength to cobble together a defense against the invaders. But who is behind this sinister plan?

The final deck in the series, From Hell's Heart, brings all of the action to an exciting conclusion. By now, each player's character should be a force to reckon with. But the dangerous invading armada is set to take over and conquer the Shackles island chain. Will the invading army have more on their hands than they bargained for? It depends on how well your character has been developed. In five scenarios, players will bring all of their power to bear leading up to a final battle at the Eye of Abendego. If players are successful, the rewards are tremendous: a spot at the head of the pirate council and the title of Hurricane King.
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