Phil Dreizen

The anti-climatic death of an incompetent tragic prince
July 25, 2014, 2:34 pm

The following is the story of Cal Arath, a Barbarian Prince who lost his kingdom. Forced to flee his homeland, with little money and no friends, he began a journey to regain what was rightfully his.

Cal Arath began his tragic journey north of the Tragoth river. Not well versed in the ways of the sea, or rivers, he failed to find his way south over it. Fortune smiled on him the following day, however, when he ran into a raftsman willing to ferry him south west to the city of Cumry...for a fee.

What better way to regain a Kingdom than to banter in the taverns of Cumry, seeking information and making friends? Though Cal found no useful information or any followers who sympathized with his quest in the days he spent seeking whatever he might find, he did grow rather fond of Cumry and its people. That is why what came to pass is so tragic. His time in the taverns proving fruitless, Cal sought council with the town leaders, hoping for some ally or any information at all. Insecure and threatened by Cal's powerful visage, the leaders of Cumry instead threw Cal into the dungeons, under the pretense that he insulted the mayor's wife.

For nearly a week Cal spent his days languishing in the dank pits of Cumry's dungeon, but not before being stripped of what few possessions he had. On the sixth day of imprisonment, he escaped to the hills northwest of the city. After a few uneventful days of foraging and hunting for food, Cal decided it was time to pay Cumry a visit.

Getting to Cumry would be no easy task. To get there he needed to avoid a rather large group of Cumry lawmen that were seeking him. Arriving in the city after some evasion, Cal was intercepted by two well armed, and wealthy looking, city guards. Robbed of all his money before being thrown into the dungeon, Cal knew he needed some gold, and these guards were surely no match for a Barbarian Prince wielding the mighty Bonebiter.

A vicious battle ensued, and though Cal Arath emerged the victor, he was only a little richer, and seriously wounded. He had no choice but to return to the refuge in the hills, northwest of the city, where he spent the next week recovering and looking for food.

On one of his days of rest, he came upon ancient ruins that he, and his mapmaker, had not known existed so close to a major densely populated town. Tempted by the treasures he might find, Cal Arath explored the ruins. On an altar, protected by a magic spell of unknown power, sat a ring. Unfazed by the magically induced fear that came upon him as his approached the ring, he discovered the spell was nothing but a harmless ruse. And he was awarded for his bravery: a Resistance Ring!

Exploring the ruins became an obsession. If the ruins had magical rings laying around on altars, protected by practically nothing at all, it might have more riches to offer him. Twice Cal Arath faced fearsome spectral figures that threatened to whisk him away to astral dimensions. But with his ring, nothing could harm him.

When Cal found a room filled with ancient treasures, guarded by four ghostly warriors, he brazenly charged into battle. Fortune would not smile upon him for his foolhardiness this day. After felling his first Wraith Warrior, his ring failed him, melting into nothingness as the three remaining ghostly warriors attempted to avenge their recently vanquished friend. They beat the now vulnerable trespasser mercilessly.

Shocked and beaten, Cal fled from the ruins to south. He had no chance to rest. The next day, as he tried to recover from his recent failure, an opportunistic great cat leaped out of seemingly nowhere. With what energy he could muster, he killed the cat. And ate it.

A day of peace finally came to pass the next day. Though his body was still covered in wounds, Cal Arath felt confident in his hunting skills, and he he sought to find a meal. An extremely foolish thing to do, given the ample rations he was carrying with him at the time.

There, in the open countryside, the once mighty Cal Arath, Prince and rightful heir of the Northern Kingdoms, tripped, fell, and broke his head while looking for some food.


The story above was a session report of a solitaire game called "Barbarian Prince" that I posted to BGG.

board games played in 2013 5+ times
January 7, 2014, 1:24 am

I posted this list to bgg: five and dime 2013

My games played 5+ more times in the year 2013.

I haven't been keeping exact records, so this is from memory. My plan for 2014 is to keep track of my plays.

2013 was a year heavy with cooperative games. But what's interesting is the wide variety of styles: Hanabi, Buffy, Pandemic, Sherlock... They're all quite different than each other.

  • Hanabi
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game
  • The Resistance: Avalon
  • Race for the Galaxy
  • San Juan
  • Lost Cities
  • Summoner Wars: Master Set
  • Pandemic
  • Alien Frontiers
  • Carcassonne
  • Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
  • For Sale
  • Roll Through the Ages: Bronze Age
  • Puerto Rico
tags: board game
blokus links
December 24, 2013, 9:18 pm

Blokus is an abstract game with extremely simple rules that I suspect is rather deep that I recently played and enjoyed.

Blokus Links:

blokus strategy blog - blokus strategy and tactics articles.

duo to the death - blokus duo strategy

blokus discoveries - blokus puzzles, investigations...includes the blokus puzzler, a java applet with a solitaire mode for solving puzzles or planning strategies. Also allows for online play. www.gottfriedville.net seems to be interesting in general.

pentobi - open source Blokus clone for PCs (linux/mac/win). Has an AI at multiple levels of difficulty

pentolla - play a blokus-clone online. This seems to have replaced the official blokus online game.

Blokus on BGG

Blokus on Wikipedia

official blokus.com - decommissioned by Mattel. used to have online play. Forums are overrun by spam.

blockfuse - android blokus clone.

There used to be an iOS blokus game but I can no longer find one.

Other blokus clones: blokish, block'em, freebloks 3D

November 2013 - Board Game mini-Reviews
December 5, 2013, 2:08 am

This past month I played quite an overwhelming number of games, many of them new to me. The month started with a Halloween board game party, and included quite a bit of civilization games. Here I list some of the notable ones that I remember and some "brief" thoughts on them. I'll expand some of these into longer reviews in the future, but I wanted to get something down now while still fresh.

  • Room 25 - a game themed on the movie Cube. You're working with the other players to find the hidden exit room, but some players are secret traitors. The traitors can continue to work against you after they're revealed. I like it - it's fun to throw people into acid filled rooms, and it's short enough for the kind of game it is.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game - I love this game the more I play it. One player is the Big Bad and minions, and the rest of the players are the Scooby Gang. There are different win conditions based on each of the first 4 seasons of the show. It's one of the more thematic games I've played, as it really feels like a season of Buffy.

  • Werewolf - first time for me in years. I still enjoy the game and prefer it over a game like Avalon. Werewolf is just silly fun with a lot of stupid false accusations. Avalon seems more serious than it should be, given what it is.

  • Advanced Civilization - I've already written a lengthy review on the blog.

  • Tempus - I played this just a week after Adv Civ. It's an underrated game - essentially a eurogame with a Civ theme, which may be the reason for the low ratings on BGG. But many of the elements are there: expanding on a map, building cities, managing a population. There is no tech tree, but each turn you race to get to the new technologies first, which is a neat mechanic.

  • I downloaded Roll through the Ages for iOS, only playing it solo. Impressive theming given it's a dice game. The game has multiple paths to victory - you can score points with techs and or building monuments. You can buy "workers," increasing your dice pool, but you'll need to keep them fed with food. It uses the Yahtzee mechanic well.

  • Darkest Night - I soloed the game to learn it and enjoyed myself, but it fell flat when I broke it out with a friend of mine. The game is heavy on dice. Dice are used to resolve the event cards, which could really use some flavor text, to move the necromancer, to search for items like keys. Since you only get 1 action per turn, and an action might be simply a failed roll to find a key...I do want to try the game again, but will do it with the expansion. It introduces quests, and gives new ways to get items.

  • Race for the Galaxy was popular 2-3 years ago. But its popularity has died down, partly due to how hard it is to teach. I love it, and am on a mission to bring it back. I managed to get in 3 plays of the game in three different venues, so I'm on track. Also, it turns out that a new expansion, Alien Artifacts, is coming out this month and will, I hope, bring some interest back to the game.

  • I did a print-and-play of the original Dawn of the Dead board game, in preparation for my Halloween board game night. This game is the very first zombie game ever, and it's based on the best zombie movie. I played this solo for a bit. You're in the mall, and have to get to 4 "main doors" on opposite ends of the board, closing them to keep the zombies out. The zombies are slow and easy to kill, but they keep coming, and they move toward you automatically just for moving past them. I had a thematic moment when one group of humans, close to getting to a main door to close, had to run back to save the others. I have to comment: this game, which is from 1978, is sexist. Fran is stat-ed to be quicker to panic than Flyboy for no reason I can tell other than "she's a girl."

  • The real gem of the month is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. This has to be the most thematic game I've played. It's a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style game. You play the Baker Street Irregulars, trying to solve a crime. Ostensibly, you're competing with Sherlock, trying to solve the mystery by following as few leads as possible. When you think you've solved the crime, you flip to the back of the book, answer the questions, and get scored. Sherlock will explain the mystery, and how he solved it in 4 or 5 leads as opposed to your 20+ leads, if you managed to solve it at all, given the paltry clues you have. This game isn't REALLY about beating Sherlock but being immersed in the theme. The writing is excellent, and reads like Doyle could have written it. I ended up playing this game 3 days in a row, and played it a 4th time a week later.

  • Lords of Waterdeep - A simple worker placement game with a very thin D&D theme. (Using euro cubes to represent rogues,wizards,fighters,and cleric is just ridiculous). The game has cards that allow for some direct conflict which makes it more "American style". I played the expansion which uses an interesting corruption mechanic which is somewhat difficult to explain. There's a pool of corruption tokens you can take to do very useful actions, but the more players take from the pool, the more each corruption token will hurt any players who have them. So the more you take, the more points you lose at the end game as other players take corruption. Ultimately, I much prefer Alien Frontiers to this, which is also a worker placement game with direct conflict.

  • Battlestar Galactica - The game does Cylons right. The players are trying to keep Battlestar Galactica alive for some number of FTL jumps, but there's a treacherous Cylon skinjob among the players working against the humans. The game consists of a series of events, players secretly use cards to try to succeed at the events, but the Cylon player will try to sabotage by placing cards that won't help the humans. I have mixed feeling about this one. There's a lot more to the game than just the events, which I like (as opposed to the Resistance, which is JUST this one mechanic). But on the other hand, the events are the only really interesting aspect of the game. Also: I was the Cylon this game, and I sucked at it, as I usually suck in these traitor games. But this one goes on for 3+ hours. And being a Cylon is tough for a new player - you can't exactly look at the actions you can take as a revealed Cylon while you're hidden lest you give yourself away. I would play this one again, but I'm not hooked.

  • I've been playing Puerto Rico on iOS quite a bit and think I've improved, given my performance at the IRL game I played this month.

  • I got Star Trek Fleet Captains for my birthday. (Thank you!) It's got a rep as the most thematic Star Trek game. One side takes the role of Klingons, the other as the Federation. You're trying to dominate an unexplored sector of space - going on scientific missions, gaining political influence over sectors of space, and most directly, fighting each other. You score victory points for completely missions of these different types. In the beginning of the game, you randomly draw your ships, which determine which of the 3 ways to win you'll be focusing on. A very neat aspect is you also build a "Command Deck" from sub-decks like "Strange New Worlds" or "Way of the Warrior" which you'll put together based on the kinds of missions you expect to be going on. Fleet Captains is a spiritual successor of sorts to Star Trek: The Adventure Game from 1985, which is also in the running for most thematic Trek game. Fleet Captains benefits from a lot of progress in board game mechanics, but since it focuses on the Federation more than say, an individual ship and crew, it doesn't quite feel like Trek the way Adventure Game does, which switches perspectives throughout the game. (An expansion that did more with Away Teams might fix that). Okay, I have a lot more to say about this game. For now, I'll just say I like it a lot and am looking foreword to playing it again.