Fantasy and science fiction highlight two new games that promise action and strategy, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game from Paizo Publishing, and Star Trek: Catan Federation Space expansion from Mayfair Games.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
In Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, one to four players take on the roles of fantasy heroes as they cooperatively undertake a series of quests and fight hosts of skeletons, the undead and other villains. At the beginning of the first game players pick one of several characters, including the elf, the fighter and the wizard.
Each player carries a certain amount of cards from different decks, which include weapons, armor, allies and spells, and each has certain stats placed on an information card in front of him. A token card can then move from location deck to location deck, laid out before the players.
Critically, each character has a set hand size of cards he can play during his turn. However, at the end of his turn he must draw up to that hand size. If there are no cards left to draw, he dies. This means a greater hand size will give a player more options during play, but it also means he is weaker than a character required to draw fewer cards at the end of his turn.
Stats also contain traditional role-playing game skills like charisma, wisdom and strength and identify which of five polyhedral dice, included with the game, are used for each particular skill.
Next, the scenario card tells which locations will be used depending on numbers of players, and location cards tell which cards go into each deck. Location decks also contain similar cards to what characters put in their initial decks, and players can attempt to pass skill checks to acquire them. The location decks also contain monsters that must be defeated.
In most scenarios a villain must be destroyed to win the game, but a villain defeated earlier can flee to another location. This requires players to work together to defeat “boss” monsters in each location, so that location may be closed to the villain. In the center of the play area a deck of special blessing cards is flipped over with each player's turn. The cards act as a timer, and if the quest has not been finished by the time all the blessings have been flipped, the heroes lose.
Based upon Paizo's series of role-playing games, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game feels very much like an RPG, though the game itself functions as a game master. The game is also meant to be played along an “adventure path,” essentially a linked campaign in which players can evolve their character decks and improve stats. This is really an interesting and innovative new design, borrowing heavily from not only RPGs, but also from deck-builders.
This game has a level of customization that is truly amazing. Boasting nearly 500 cards in the base set and first adventure deck, which is included with the base game, Paizo plans on releasing further adventure decks in the months to come, allowing hard-core gamers to play an extended adventure for the foreseeable future.
Though the sheer number of cards can initially be quite intimidating, the game itself is surprisingly simple and easy to learn. Still, this is not a game for everyone. At the end of the day it is simply a matter of moving cards around the table and rolling dice, so you need to allow your imagination to fill in the rest. If you're a gamer who loves a great fantasy theme and enjoys role-playing games or heavier card games, you will certainly have a lot of fun with Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is recommended for ages 13 and up and generally plays in about an hour to 90 minutes.
Star Trek: Catan Federation Space expansion
The Settlers of Catan has seen no shortage of versions, editions and expansions, and last year's Star Trek: Catan, a retheming of the classic game in Gene Roddenberry's rich Star Trek universe, proved to be a smashing success. Essentially, the game replaced villages and towns with starbases, roads with starships, and the various traded resources with Star Trek props such as dilithium and tritanium. The only major mechanical change allowed players to temporarily take on roles of Star Trek crew members like Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, who offered certain advantages.
Another similarity with the original Settlers of Catan was that the Star Trek version game board was set up in a similar random fashion. Now, Mayfair Games has released a Federation Space expansion set that includes two new maps based on lore from the Star Trek universe.
The new maps include a few new rules, such as victory point markers on the board. The first player to build a starship supply line to one of the markers gains a permanent victory point. Also, outposts can only be built in specially marked sectors, meaning there is a new competition for real estate that was absent in the original setup. Players will scramble to be the first to reach a victory marker or outpost construction zone. These innovations alone make playing with these maps worthwhile.
The expansion also includes victory point trackers modeled on Star Trek's different alien cultures and a fun new almanac detailing the map's planets and their appearance in the Star Trek TV series.
Federation Space is not necessarily a must-have expansion if you enjoy Star Trek: Catan, but it is a lot of fun. In addition to further immersing players into the Star Trek universe, these maps offer some real game play intensity. The only thing missing is an expansion to the number of players, which remains three to four.
Star Trek: Catan plays in about 75 minutes and is recommended for ages 10 and up.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at SLCC. Cody has also appeared on many local stages including Hale Center Theater and Off Broadway Theater. Email: [email protected]