The Good, The Bad and The Heretic
A Fistful of Meeples Review of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous Adventure 3 – Demon’s Heresy
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Obviously, to an extent, all reviews contain spoilers, but given that this adventure has a particularly notable one, it seems only fair to flag it up at the start.
Having posted the spoiler warning, I now need to fill some space before I go into the big reveal, so I’ll start out on a more general level.
Once again there are some fairly powerful boons here that players are going to enjoying putting to use. Inevitably, there are also a comparable number of hideous banes to fight against – although I think the henchmen feel a lot more measured this time out, if not less powerful, at least relative to where your characters are: For example, the servitor demon is +3 difficulty compared to adventure 2, but doesn’t bury your melee weapons.
Structurally this adventure is also quite unusual: in a move only seen previously in organised play, players are given the opportunity to decide on the order in which they play the first four scenarios, making things a lot less linear than has previously been the case.
That said, there’s only really one order in which you’re ever going to play the scenarios (at least on the first time round), and that’s because of the spoiler…
If you play the scenario The Demon’s Redoubt, when you successfully close the second location, you can summon and build another location – close that, and you can make an addition to the scenario reward: an unlockable character!!!
Up until now, there has basically been only one type of character – they come with a card and a token, attached to a set, but playable (at least technically) across any. We’ve had a couple of promos which were Goblin characters, but again, you could basically play them anywhere, even if they were themed to a particular AP. We also had a role-card in Skull and Shackles which essentially saw a character get possessed by a dead wizard for a scenario, but they went back to normal at the end of it.
What you have now though, is a character who can jump straight in, mid-way through adventure 3, with all the skill, card and power feats of those who have already played this far – there’s also nothing to stop you from doing a regular play-through with her (although one of her role-cards is tied pretty specifically to Wrath and the Corrupted mechanic).
It’s also worth noting that this character is a Demon Succubus Spy, both a race and class that have yet to come anywhere near playable characters in the rest of the game. I have to admit, I was pretty excited to discover that we’re soon going to be able to play as a Tengu Monk – but I think this is even better!
New playable character, unlockable mid-AP, in a previously unavailable race and class. After one whole scenario, I’d say a spy feels closest to a Rogue in play-style, but definitely distinctive. She also comes with her own cohort which is a great support card, and is the owner of some loot items and weapon you pick up at the same time.
More redemption – getting all the way to the end of adventure 2, having had only the theoretical chance to redeem 1 card (and then not being able to do it, thanks to the practicalities of the scenario) was a bit of a let-down. Add to that the fact that most of the corrupted boons you see are blessings, and cannot be redeemed (presumably to do so you’d need to redeem the deity bestowing the blessing, which might be more than you can do with a skilled Blacksmith, a sanctified forge and a jug of holy water) and the whole mechanic just felt a bit underwhelming. In this adventure, there are multiple opportunities to redeem boons, which makes some cards like the Unholy Aspergilum +3 a realistic choice of weapon whereas before it never really felt playable. Non-Linear scenario progression – this was a very simple idea, but it was nice that they introduced it. The rewards for the scenarios in this adventure are quite significant (skill feat, card feat, power feat), so the variable order can make quite a difference. Even if the overall experience is not that different, it just gives things a fresher feel overall.
When I first sat down to right this section, having just flicked through the cards and played the first scenario with 4, I was ready to launch into another rant about how over-done the difficulty was in this set.
A few days later, having cleared the adventure, without needing more than a single run at most of the scenarios, we started to wonder whether we’d done something wrong- it all felt a bit easy.
Once again then, I think the issue with this adventure is difficulty. Whereas adventure 2 didn’t feel like it scaled properly with the different sizes of party, this one just feels really swingy.
To an extent, I think adventure 3 is always a bit susceptible to this – it’s the last point at which you’ll still have all the basic banes in, at the same time as getting some fairly advanced monsters. The difference this time, though is that it just feels like the gulf is bigger. Some monsters like the Ghoul from the base set are not only still around, but they aren’t even basic, so you can encounter them again and again, with the possibility for the combats to be comically simple.
On the other hand, monsters like the Dominion Scientist and the Drake Rider are brutal – checks in the high twenties, massive amounts of direct damage from the scientist (including to off-turn players) and multiple checks for the dragon and his pilot. It’s not so much that these are difficult, but the fact that you just don’t know which of the two you’re going to run into.
Add onto this randomness the fact that some of the henchmen in this adventure are recycled from the base set – for example Wights, who are not veteran – and you can end up with a rather upside-down experience. You can find yourself getting obliterated by a generic monster one moment, then crushing the henchman without even having to roll the check (I think the rules as written say that technically you always need to roll, but if you’re aim for a score of ten or better on 3 D8 +8, you can guess the outcome fairly easily…) It’s been commented on before that the Villains in this game can feel slightly anticlimactic, due both to the lack of development of their, and to the ease people sometimes having in beating them as they hurl everything including the kitchen sink, and the henchmen seem to be a stronger example of this. They’re supposed to be one of the defining features of the scenario, flavour-wise, but often they just get swept aside.
Overall, I still like this adventure- I’m not someone who easily gets bothered by a game being “too easy” and I think the innovations in this pack more than outweigh the drawbacks – if you find combat too much of a breeze, it would be fairly straightforward to rule that some of the base-set banes like the ghoul were “basic” and remove them to smooth off the combat curve, but for us it felt more like a relief after the battering we took doing adventure 2 in 6-player.