Game: Phantasy Realm the board game
Series: Phantasy Realm
Review Dated: 12th, March 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 10
Average Score: 5.00
At long last, the day arrived! The mailman was knocking at my door, with my copy of Phantasy Realm – okay, the wait was only two days, but it was much anticipated!
As I eagerly tore the wrapping off the box with one hand, the other was punching numbers into the telephone. Within minutes, I had six people lined up to play on Saturday. Now all I had to do was read the rules, cut out the game pieces, become an expert on the game, and clear away the stacks of papers, rule books and binders of information from the game room. Reading the rules and doing the cutting was the easy part. Unfortunately, I seem to be one of those people who has to actually play a board game to understand the rules.
On Saturday, The Rules Monkey and his partner, The Newbie (names are changed to protect the innocent and the ignorant – just call me Methuselah; it’s appropriate) arrived at 11:00 – two hours early. I handed the books over to Rules Monkey, gave Newbie the dish rag and ran off to dress. By the time I was ready, Rules had the basics down pat, and The Buffoon and The Watcher had shown up. Serious Player had already called to say he would be late, so the remaining four of us sat down to play. Book in hand, Rules showed us how to set up our characters. That first game we chose our characters blindly, and we continue to do so in the interests of fairness. Each of us has our favorite for one reason or another, though. Each character has unique talents (or abilities). There are two basic abilities – physical and mental. Physical is made up of strength and dexterity, and Mental is made up of intelligence and dexterity. You figure out pretty quickly that dexterity is mighty important. We placed the provided clips on our starting statistics, our health points, silver pieces, and any items we were carrying at the start of the game.
Now it was time to choose from among four different adventures. Again we chose blindly. Aha! The Contest. “The character who slays a Foe, and registers the slaying, in each of the four regions first wins the adventure, the game, and the title of Chief Courier.” Luck was with us – I think this is the perfect adventure to start with; simple and straightforward. We put our characters on their starting points and we were off!
Rules Monkey kept the book in his hand the whole time, to keep on the right course, but the gm duties are always handled by the person to your left. Nice touch – everyone gets to play! Rules and I were intent on the game – reading about each new thing we did, discussing the proper way to do, deciding what the rules meant – while Buffoon drank beer and Newbie visited with the Watcher. After about an hour of play, we felt pretty confident, and relaxed a little, and started to play in earnest. Newbie turned her attention to the table, and Buffoon drank some more beer. Each turn he would ask “What do I do now?” and we would patiently (or impatiently in my case, but hey, he’s my son!) explain. On a basic move, you are allowed to move up to four spaces, or up to two spaces if you are “searching”. Searching always involves an encounter of some sort – be it a traveling bazaar where you can buy or sell things, a combat encounter, or meeting a person. Some spaces already have encounters on them; on blank spaces you draw your encounter. Most of us soon learned that we could avoid most combats that we weren’t ready for, but Buffoon traveled blithely along, fighting anything he came across. He didn’t seem at all interested in strategy. The game allows for character to character combat, but we didn’t try it that first game. We were too busy trying to stay alive! On we went, killing a foe in each region, and then traveling to the city to register the kill, intent on our goals. I was far too busy trying to learn the game to pay much attention to what anyone else was doing. It would be an understatement to say that when Buffoon announced he had registered his last kill, we were shocked. Apparently he had decided upon his strategy early on, and smoked the rest of us!
By this time, Serious Player had shown up, and I gave up my seat to him while I watched the game and played hostess. The second game went much more smoothly, though we had a list of questions by the end of it. I found out, much to my delight, that if you email the owner of Curious Games, he will answer any questions right away.
We continue to play weekly – yep, it’s addicting. Last Saturday we started around 8:00pm, and it was 4:00am before we even looked up! It’s hard to get bored, as most of the encounters are chosen randomly, by draw or by roll of the dice. For instance, when you visit Mt. Valenar, you might be attacked by fiery salamanders and lose two health points, or you might find an ancient fountain which restores 3 health points or you might find a golden idol. Youse takes your chances in this game, and that’s what keeps it fresh.
Visiting the website (http://curiousgames.net), I discovered that they are busy with expansion packs – a Phantasy Realm “Lite” version, which will be a shorter game; and two entirely new versions, as new characters for download. Individuals are also encouraged to create characters and submit them to the site for free download. Looks like it will continue to grow, and that bodes well for those of us who are rapidly becoming addicted.
An additional benefit, which I don’t think was necessarily intended, is that it has increased the desire for table top roleplaying among my group. What with the tremendous increase in online playing (PBeMs, Forums, MUSHs, MUDDs, IRC, ICQ . . .look at all those initials!) we hadn’t actually run a serious adventure in over a year, but now one day a week is designated “open house” at my place. There is always a group playing Phantasy Realm as well as another group running an adventure in the next room. And a whole new generation is learning the delights of roleplaying, with our nine and ten year olds joining in playing Phantasy Realm. I think I need to buy another copy . . .