Take on the role of intrepid explorers: braving barren deserts, plundering ancient tombs, and ultimately facing down an undead Pharaoh in Mummys Mask, the latest Adventure Path for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.
Pathfinder: Some History
Rise of the Runelords, the first box for Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (PACG) was one of the surprise hits of 2013 – a cooperative adventure game, it saw players take on the roles of various iconic heroes from the Pathfinder RPG, and romp through a 30+ scenario Adventure Path, where they battled goblins, ghosts, giants, and finally beings of ancient power, the long-slumbering Runelords.
It was followed in 2014 by Skull & Shackles, a tougher, pirate-themed Adventure Path (AP), and then in 2015 by Wrath of the Righteous: an epic-scale AP confronting demons where everything was turned up to 11 – bigger monsters, mightier heroes, and horrifically punishing difficulty. By the end of Wrath, designers and players were exhausted, and a hiatus began, allowing players and designers alike to catch their breath.
Now Pathfinder returns with Mummys Mask, set in Osirian (A Fantasy Ancient Egypt). The difficulty has calmed down from the brutal levels of Wrath, and with a very rich and evocative theme to dig into, this could be the best Pathfinder box yet.
Mummys Mask: What’s in the box?
If you sleeve your cards, eventually the insert will need to go…
Opening up Mummys Mask will be a familiar experience for any veteran Pathfinder player: there are 7 characters, locations and scenario cards for the “Level B” adventure, and all the basic Banes and Boons needed to play through the original adventure. Sealed separately inside the large box is the first of the 6 Adventure decks that make up the AP.
Mummys Mask is the first AP to include a tutorial scenario. Although Pathfinder is a fairly intuitive game, there are a lot of things to get used to the first time you play, so this is a nice, accessible walk through, making Mummys Mask an ideal starting point for those who are new to Pathfinder.
The component quality is good: you get durable cards, which are well-printed. 4 Adventure Paths in, the designers have sharpened a lot of their terminology and stylistic conventions, to give a straightforward gaming experience, where it’s generally clear what you do, and how, and when. The art for the cards is good too. Wrath of the Righteous saw a slightly more detailed level of card art than APs 1 and 2, and Mummys Mask retains that. Those who buy the tie-in class decks will find some of the boons in this box familiar, but the banes are 90% new, ensuring that this doesn’t just feel like a re-hash of the previous sets.
Ok, so what do we do?
Mummys Mask, like any other Pathfinder set, follows a fairly standard structure. Each scenario has a set of locations, and each location has instructions telling you how many of each different type of card that location needs to contain (shuffled together, face-down). On your turn you can move location, then you explore by turning the top card of your location face-up. If it’s a boon, you can attempt to acquire it, and if it’s a bane, you must attempt to defeat it.
Strength to acquire the weapon, Intelligence for the spell.
A game of Pathfinder consists of a series of skill checks: All characters in Pathfinder have six basic skills – Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence and Charisma. They will probably also have 2 or 3 from a great number of secondary skills based off of one of those stats.
Each card you encounter in Mummys Mask will tell you the skill(s) you use in your check against it: strength to pick up weapons, dexterity to pick locks, charisma to recruit allies, and soforth.
Your character sheet will tell you the dice you roll for each check – Zadim’s strength is D8, so for a strength check, he rolls an 8-sided dice. This zealot assassin isn’t so good with people though, so for Charisma, he only gets a D4.
If you fail a check against a bane, you are likely to take damage (discarding cards from your hand) – each character has a hand-size that they refill to at the start of each turn, and if you ever need to draw a card and can’t (because your deck is exhausted) you die. This means that Pathfinder players need to carefully martial their cards: spend too few and you might fail your checks, with nasty consequences; spend too many and you might deck yourself out, and die anyway.
Ultimately, each scenario has a Villain, a particularly nasty foe who you have to track down and defeat. When you defeat him though, he will try to escape elsewhere, so you need to coordinate with the other players, to close off the other locations and keep him cornered.
This allows you to tick a box next to one of your skills, and get +1 every time you roll that dice
When you win a scenario in Mummys Mask, you will gain a reward – sometimes this might be new cards, but there are also “feats” – adding to skills, adding card-types to your deck, or even enabling new abilities unique to your character. By the time you complete a whole adventure path, you will have played at least 35 games (more assuming you don’t manage to beat every single scenario at the first attempt), and your character will be far more powerful than when you began, enabling them to face off against the biggest baddies.
So What’s New in Mummys Mask?
Whilst Mummys Mask retains all the core elements of Pathfinder ACG, it still has its own distinctive character, with plenty of new elements.
Curses are something that have been around in Pathfinder for a while – annoying things that happened, and then just sat there, causing your character problems. In Mummy’s Mask, they have been expanded greatly, with Scourge’s – a whole series of curses that get nastier as you move through the AP. This is balanced though, against player cards and other in-game effects which allow you to actually interact with or even remove curses, making for a more engaging experience.
Another well-established Pathfinder strategy is to use scrying techniques to Examine card(s) in your location, so that you can decide ahead of time whether you are able to tackle them –some characters were so good at this that many cards just lost their sting.
Mummys Mask makes you think twice about looking ahead, by adding in Triggers – cards which do things when you examine them: that sneak-peak might mean that you not only have to fight this monster, but the difficulty of doing so is increased. Other cards like traps will simply damage you when you examine them, without even providing the option to encounter and defeat them.
I really like what they’ve done with Triggers – they can be very frustrating in the moment, but it just adds an extra layer of depth to the game, and removes the no-risk scouting that we had before, to force players to make more calculated decisions.
Sometimes in Pathfinder you find yourself sitting on a large pile of equipment that you’ve acquired. However, as you rebuild your character’s deck after each game, according to strict lists of card types and numbers, this often meant most of that swag going to waste.
Mummys Mask tackles this problem, by introducing the concept of Traders – You can visit a Trader after winning a scenario, and buy a specific type of boon for a few of the cards you’ve acquired. You still draw cards at random, so you won’t instantly gain a perfect deck, but it makes just enough difference to avoid the frustration of still having to flail away with a short sword mid-way through adventure 2.
A check in Pathfinder is generally about getting bonuses and dice rolls to reach a target number. 95% of the time, this system works well, but there’s always a danger of reaching a point where you can hit a particular check so hard that the tension goes away- if the modifiers leave you needing only 6 on 11 dice, you can probably guess what the outcome is going to be.
Mummys Mask introduces several cards where you are rewarded for only succeeding by a narrow margin – or punished for winning by too much! I must admit that I was dubious to begin with, as I thought this had the potential to just make things miserable, but the implementation is great, and the end result adds an extra level of depth to the game, without becoming ubiquitous and frustrating.
Who are you? Familiar Faces and New
Every Pathfinder AP comes with 7 characters that you can play as. Mummys Mask offers new versions of 3 characters who appeared in earlier boxes (the Wizard, the Oracle and the Alchemist) along with 4 new: a Kineticist, a Spiritualist, a Slayer and a Rogue – Simoun, the Rogue also represents a significant change for Pathfinder ACG, as this is the first time that a hero in a core box has not been drawn from the Pathfinder RPG’s set of “iconic” characters (the Character Add-On box for Mummys Mask has several more).
Overall I thought the characters were a good mix: easily my favourite was Yoon – an 8-and-a-quarter year-old girl who controls fire and travels the world in the company of her stuffed Owlbear – but all of them are playable, offering different playstyles and strategies for approaching the game.
Whilst the characters who come with Mummys Mask will often have skillsets specifically designed to interact with the challenges of the AP, one of the great things about Pathfinder is that you can take characters from any set, and use them in any other – meaning that I could make up the numbers of our party using Salim, the priest who’s not a priest, from the Inquisitor Class-deck.
Mummys Mask – Still Pathfinder
Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect game, and people who didn’t like Pathfinder in the past may still not like Mummys Mask. If you were put off by Rise of the Runelords being too easy, or by Wrath of the Righteous being too difficult, then I think Mummys Mask does a great job of addressing that. However, if you dislike the limited space for rich, detailed narrative, then Mummys Mask is very much on the same level as its predecessors. Adventures and Scenarios contain their own flavour text, and most of the boons and banes you run into are tied to the theme, but don’t expect a fleshed-out adventure story. Full stories can be found in the corresponding RPG adventure, or check out the brilliant fan-made story guides on BoardGameGeek.
Overall, Mummys Mask definitely feels like the most polished AP we’ve seen yet for the Pathfinder ACG. It does a good job of evoking the pseudo-Egyptian theme, and the gameplay combines neat innovations without losing the simple structure which made Rise of the Runelords such a hit to begin with.
The addition of a tutorial scenario, along with the tighter wording of a lot of cards means that Mummys Mask is a really accessible starting point for people new to Pathfinder ACG, and it certainly isn’t necessary to go back to the older APs before getting this one.
For Veteran Pathfinder players, Mummys Mask has plenty of new tricks: Triggers, non-Iconic Heroes, Overkill, Traders and more. If you like Pathfinder, this is definitely a must-buy. If you haven’t played Pathfinder before but like cooperative, fantasy adventure games then Mummys Mask is a great place to start – 8/10
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, on a gradual mission to indoctrinate all my friends into the hobby too. I particularly enjoy anything Lord of the Rings related, and play a lot of cooperative games, along with Dice Masters and Game of Thrones LCG Competitively. When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.