The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (PACG) is the best ‘no-Dungeon Master’ fantasy board or card game you are going to get. It could even be a new type of card game altogether.
It isn’t a plain card game like Munchkin where you play the cards you draw from a central deck.
It isn’t a trading card game like Magic where you build your deck from whatever cards you can collect.
It isn’t a Living Card Game like Call of Cthulhu or Lord of the Rings where you build your deck from a universal pool.
The closest is probably a deck-building game like Thunderstone or Dominion where you improve your deck of cards during the game by adding new cards to a basic deck. However this has a new twist where you keep your character’s deck between games, and the deck gradually evolves and improves over a series of adventures, getting more powerful as your character grows.
The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (PACG) has all the usual fantasy tropes, being based in the world of the full Pathfinder RPG, but the difference between this and other ‘no-DM’ fantasy boardgames such as Castle Ravenloft or Runebound, is that your character can grow and develop across a huge campaign of linked adventures. There are six adventure packs in the Rise of the Runelords adventure path and each of these packs will have five scenarios. So that is 30 different linked scenarios to complete, with the story of the Runelords campaign gradually unfolding as you go.
Way back in the mists of time, I used to play D&D and a bunch of other pen-and-paper role-playing games. There is nothing like having a character play through a whole series of adventures, collecting magical items and gaining new powers, and most of all building a history of narrow escapes and stupid mistakes and hard-won victories.
This game has the same thing. Your character grows and develops as you work your way through the scenarios. You get to choose their new abilities and powers as they gain experience. You get to tweak their equipment and spells with the new loot you find during adventures. You will get really attached to them, just like a regular RPG.
And here’s the kicker: Your character can die.
Yep, they can die. Done, gone, start again. It isn’t easy to get killed, and if you are worried and low on health you can just stop doing things for the rest of the game and this pretty much guarantees survival (although trying to win the scenario minus one party member will be hard). But it is possible to die.
Just imagine, after a few weeks you have completed two or three adventure packs and your Paladin is now kitted out with cool magic weapons and armour. Every time you start a new game you will always have in the back of your mind that She Could Die. It won’t be likely, but it could happen, and this is a fabulous bit of tension.
Honestly, for a role-player this game is superb.
Also there is no Dungeon Master, it is purely co-operative. The elegant mechanics of the game handle everything. Great for playing solo.