I have loved the time I've spent in the past with Rise of the Runelords and Skull and Shackles, the two previous entries in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game series, and I was thrilled when I heard rumors of an "epic level" version of the game. I had daydreams about continuing the adventures of my lovable Gnome druid Lini, imaging what kind of awesome and powerful new abilities she would gain in an "epic level" campaign of Wrath of the Righteous.
Unfortunately, Wrath of the Righteous isn't what I had first daydreamed it would be. Instead of allowing players to continue the story of one of their characters that they had finished a prior campaign with, Wrath of the Righteous requires the creation of a brand new character for each player and attempts to add the "epic level" feel to the game by adding the ability to roll a d20, increasing the difficulty, and adding a smattering of new mechanics to the game.
Players that have played through either of the prior two entries in the series should know what to expect with Wrath of the Righteous, and this game is aimed squarely at them. The increase in difficulty is a welcome change for players who are already experienced with the game, but this also means that Wrath of the Righteous is the worst of the three current games for players brand new to the system.
Much of the added difficulty comes from new ways in which cards interact with each other, especially the game's Barrier cards, and from trickier closing requirements on the game's Location cards. Where the other games eased players in to the flow of the system, Wrath of the Righteous comes out swinging for the fences. For my group of experienced players this represented a fun challenge, but it could feel brutal to new players.[caption id="attachment_59092" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Some of the new Banes in Wrath of the Righteous change up the formula quite a bit from previous installments.[/caption]
The new mechanics that Wrath of the Righteous bring to the table revolve around the game's attempt to make the game feel like a higher level Pen and Paper campaign. Players will often be joined by Cohorts, special character cards that players have access to from the start of a mission. These cards are supposed to represent lesser and less powerful characters that have come along with your characters to help you deal with certain situations. Ultimately, most of the Cohort cards have very situational uses, and since players begin play with many of them in their hand, they can actually get in the way of drawing more useful and powerful cards.[caption id="attachment_59093" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Some Heroes have their own Cohort while most Cohorts are only used in certain Adventures.[/caption]
The biggest change that Wrath of the Righteous offers is in the form of Mythic Paths. At a certain point in the campaign, players each choose a Mythic Path to follow. The Mythic Path cards give a boost to certain Skills as long as they have Mythic Charges on them. The charges can also be spent to replace the highest die of a roll with a d20. Additionally, each Mythic Path has a powerful ability listed that can be used if the player manages to accrue and spend 5 Mythic Charges at one time.[caption id="attachment_59094" align="aligncenter" width="587"] There are 6 different Mythic Paths to choose from.[/caption]
In theory, the balance between rolling a d20 and having a permanent stat boost seems like it should offer the same kind of resource management that playing cards from your hand has, as the cards also act as your life pool, but, in practice, it doesn't quite feel that way. Expending Mythic Charges immediately weakens you from that point forward. Also, spending a Mythic Charge to replace your best die in your best stat is often not a great option, as a d20 has a good chance of rolling in the same range as a d10 or a d12 would anyway.
Ultimately, spending Mythic Charges is really only economically smart if you spend it to replace a die in a skill that you are very weak in. Since the game strongly encourages players to ensure that they are tackling challenges that play to their character's strengths and mitigate the number of situations that the player would need to roll using one of their weakest stats, the trade-off is often not great. Add in the fact that spending 5 charges for a one-shot powerful effect effectively costs you -5 to two different stats and the Mythic Path system feels even less awesome.[caption id="attachment_59095" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Many cards have the Corrupted trait, which can be removed by the players as they Redeem various cards.[/caption]
Wrath of the Righteous also features many cards that have the Corrupted trait. Many of these cards, especially Blessings, have various effects that only trigger when interacting with other Corrupted cards. Over the course of the campaign, the players have the option to Redeem some of these Corrupted cards, effectively altering their use by removing the Corrupted trait from the card.[caption id="attachment_59096" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Cards deal with the Corrupted trait and the Mythic Paths in various ways.[/caption]
Even though the new bits of Wrath of the Righteous aren't all amazing, the game is still great. The core gameplay that makes this system great is still present and there is a ton of fun to be had with Wrath of the Righteous. While it's not the best entry into the series for new players, veteran players who are still excited about the system will find a lot to love, especially if they are looking for some added difficulty to spice things up.
A note on “chrome”: The art and component quality of the Wrath of the Righteous are exactly what you would expect from Paizo. The box divider holds everything nicely in a well organized fashion and the rulebook is easy to use and learn from, especially for players already familiar with the game system. The card backs between the base game and some of the add-ons have slightly different coloration, which is unfortunate as this seems to be a persistent problem that Paizo has yet to fully correct with this game system.
The bottom line:
Wrath of the Righteous is a great addition to the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game series. While it sets out to provide an "epic level" experience, instead it ends up feeling like a more complex and difficult version of the game. This isn't inherently a bad thing, although I'm still waiting with bated breath for Paizo to release a version of the game that will allow players to play it with fully leveled characters that have completed one of the prior adventures instead of creating brand new characters each time.
Get this game if:
You can't get enough of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game series
You want an excellent cooperative game
You liked the previous Pathfinder Adventure Card Games but felt that they needed to be more difficult
Avoid this game if:
You disliked the previous Pathfinder Adventure Card Games
You want the full Pen and Paper experience in a card game
Rules for Wrath of the Righteous can be found here.
Wrath of the Righteous can be purchased via Amazon here.
The copy of Wrath of the Righteous used for this review, as well as a copy of the Character Add-on Deck and Adventure Deck 2, were provided by Paizo.