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Pathfinder board game Arena trades cooperative roleplay for gladiator bloodsport

Tile-based trouble.

Upcoming board game Pathfinder Arena will adapt the popular fantasy tabletop RPG into a tile-based competition to escape a sentient dungeon obsessed with deadly challenges and stuffed full of monsters. It launched a Kickstarter campaign November 23rd for a big box with a price tag to match that looks to be a long shot from dice bags and character sheets.

The project comes from a partnership between Pathfinder and Starfinder publisher Paizo and Italian company Giochi Uniti. The latter localises Pathfinder products, along with a wide slate of popular and best-selling board games such as Carcassonne, Catan, Arkham Horror and Ticket to Ride. While it made an initial showing earlier in 2021 at conventions, the team at Giochi Uniti claims that they have been developing Arena for several years.

The game will support two to four players who will compete against each other to defeat monsters or unleash them upon their opponents within the Arena’s ever-shifting environments. The four heroes boast unique abilities, alongside their own deck of cards that can be crafted and modified over the course of the game. A crucial element of Arena is rearranging the tiles that compose the game board, altering the makeup of the arena and possibly shifting an attacking monster into the path of an unwitting opponent.

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Based in Pathfinder’s canonical world during the Age of Lost Omens, long time RPG players will see familiar faces on both sides of the conflict - Valeros the fighter, Merisiel the rogue, Ezren the wizard and Kyra the cleric will face off against classic Pathfinder monsters, such as minotaur, goblins and even a massive red dragon. All of these will be represented by plastic miniatures that fit the Arena’s gridded game board.

Four successive rounds throw an increasing number of foes into the fracas whose composition changes with each playthrough and keeps crafty heroes from pre-empting the challenge. As the opposition gets tougher, players will need to level up their heroes by collecting ability tokens found throughout the Arena, which gives them access to increased stats and more cards for their deck of abilities and spells.

Pathfinder Arena won’t use dice or attempt to work in any roleplay elements into its design. The designers say on the crowdfunding page that they wanted to design a competitive board game with the tile-shifting mechanic and believed Pathfinder’s arti style and world would make a good fit, aesthetically. Giochi Uniti claims it reached out to Paizo and had no trouble reaching an agreement.

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Washington-based Paizo was recently the subject of a number of allegations brought forth by current and former staff prompted by the firing of a customer service worker. The resulting attention led to criticism from fans and players and a work stoppage on the part of a group of freelancers who demanded better working conditions for Paizo staff.

Soon after, those workers announced their intentions to unionize. The United Paizo Workers are currently negotiating a contract with the parent company’s executive staff following a surprising voluntary recognition earlier this month. Representatives say the UPW will focus on higher pay, better working conditions and an end to consistent periods of crunch that apparently affect everyone at the company.

Pathfinder Arena’s Kickstarter campaign runs through December 13th, and backers can secure a copy of the standard edition board game for €100 ($116/£84). Shipping is expected to begin in November 2022.

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Pathfinder Arena

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Chase Carter avatar

Chase Carter


Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.