Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Play Report: Barbarian Prince

 Barbarian Prince is a janky old solo adventure game that produces amazing stories. Anne at diyanddragons brought it up recently and that prompted both Dan at throneofsalt and I to give it a try.

Cal's journey. He spent a lot of time lost or stuck.

My version of Cal Arath was much less lucky than Dan's. After escaping the coup, I ended up in hex 1801. My immediate goal was to cross the river.

Day 1

Crossing the river requires the scaling of treacherous cliffs. Cal succeeds with aplomb.

Day 2

Cal decides to head towards Cumry. Adventures start in towns, right? Crossing the normally-peaceful countryside, Cal encounters a fearsome troll and immediately books it.

Day 3

Cal rests to recover from minor wounds taken from the previous battle.

Days 4, 5, 6

Uneventful travel.

Day 7

Ambushed by a mountain lion. Cal eventually overcomes the creature but only after sustaining an injury.

Days 8-11

Repeated failure to cross the river.

Day 12

Cal reaches Cumry. 

Day 13

Cal seeks out rumors to plan his next move. He is immediately pickpocketed of his remaining coin.

Days 14, 15

He decides to head west towards the ruins in the Dead Plains. Uneventful days.

Day 16

Cal meets an old wizard. Deciding to parley he finds that the wizard is available for hire if he had coin.

Days 17, 18, 19

Uneventful travel, including a day spent lost.

Day 20

Ambushed by a roc. Escape without injury.

Days 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26

Cal spends 6 days attempting to travel 2 hexes. Deserts suck.

Day 27

(It wasn't clear to me if you roll for getting lost upon entering a hex with ruins. The table doesn't include an entry for them but it does sit upon a desert. I succeeded anyway so it didn't matter.)
Cal reaches the ruins, which fortunately have an oasis.

Day 28

Cal delves into the ruins amidst the Dead Plains and finds a spectre. The spectre immediately harvests his soul. Game over.

Some Thoughts

Overall I enjoyed the experience. The paging back and forth was a little tiresome but usually meant something unusual was happening. I definitely plan to play it again, hopefully with better luck.

I had only one real question I couldn't immediately find the answer to (about getting lost heading into a ruins hex). Later I realized that I had misunderstood the rules for getting lost and that you are supposed to check the hex you are leaving, not that you are entering, which would have solved my problem. So I kinda screwed up the entire game but it probably didn't matter because I rolled for getting lost every time anyways.

I don't know what it takes to start having good stuff happen to you. I never acquired any gold, companions, or mounts. Food was never an issue but that was mostly because I stay healthy and alone.

The game pushes you to immediately ford a river on your first turn. You don't have to, but a specific event triggers if you end any turn north of that river, and every starting location is. The rules for crossing a river aren't necessarily longer than those for moving to any other hex, but you have to do twice as many things. A game this complex should probably ease you in instead.

It's definitely a game for people who are comfortable setting their own goals. No objective beyond raising 500 gold in 10 weeks is offered to start.

Since every starting place is on the northern border it seems like a game ripe for placing more interesting and dangerous hexes the farther south you go, but so far as I can tell, that isn't true. There is nothing in the game loop that really has to do with location (other than hex type) so either the distribution would have to change or new hex types would have to appear.

Play Aids

Several people on Boardgame Geek have created files to assist in playing the game. If nothing else, the updated books are just more pleasant to look at. Find all that here.

On the Android store is an app called Barbarian Prince Map. It is janky in it's own unique way, for example only being made to fit on cellphone-sized screens and not the tablet on which I had planned to it. It allows you to scroll around the map and click on any hex to check the targets for getting lost and having an event. It is additonally locked to whatever hex you are on, so it basically works as a token to move around the world. I'd still defintely keep a map handy to plan your travels however.


  1. I made the same mistake on getting lost, and I'm with you on fording rivers: not great fun.

  2. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing your journey!

  3. I gave it a shot myself, started in the same location as you did. I didn't have problems with the river, but I went to the temple of Zhor instead. I was promptly assaulted by 8 guards despite negotiation attempts, visited the desert, got surprise-round ambushed by 6 spiders lurking near some 'evil plants' and escaped with 7 poisoned wounds, went back to the temple in the hopes they could cure me of these unhealable wounds, and got attacked by 7 mounted guards and slaughtered when hiding failed. Barbarian prince, more like barbarian mince...

    I feel like a good wits and wiles score (mine was 2) would help in not getting trashed by surprise and initiative, and had I encountered numbers of enemies that weren't nearly maximum every time I expect I could have slaughtered them and earned treasure and then perhaps have been able to develop from there. It does seem somewhat like you need some good luck (or at least, not insanely terrible luck) to get off the ground though.