Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Regardless, games like 1981's Barbarian Prince, while not commonplace, were common enough that I often saw them on store shelves. Designed by Arnold Hendrick and published by the miniatures company Heritage USA, Barbarian Prince was a solitaire game in which the player assumes the role of the dispossessed Cal Arath, rightful heir to the throne of the Northlands. The game centers on Cal's attempts to acquire 500 gold pieces in 10 weeks in order to raise an army to defeat those who usurped your place in the Northlands. The game comes with a keyed hex map that is used in conjunction with an events booklet to represent Cal's travels on his quest. In addition to acquiring treasure, the barbarian prince can also engage in combat, explore ruins, meet people, and many other things. There's a remarkable amount of depth to the game and, because of random factors, it's quite possible to play the game many times with each time being different.
On each of the 70 game days available to the player, he can choose to undertake several actions, from traveling to exploring to seeking audience with NPCs and more. Each of these actions takes a certain amount of time and effort and, owing to the aforementioned random factors, none are guaranteed to pay off. It's a bit like playing a mixture of a sandbox hexcrawl and a choose-your-own-adventure book, though it's not as heavily scripted as the latter. It's also a lot more difficult than in most choose-your-own-adventure books I remember reading, since, like many sandbox campaigns, there's no way to be sure that the ruin over the next hill isn't inhabited by foul demons beyond your ability to defeat. At the same time, you really can go anywhere (on the provided map) and do almost anything and Barbarian Prince is noteworthy for the wide variety of actions it covers in a fairly simple ruleset.
If you're the least bit curious about Barbarian Prince, you can download a legal copy for free here. Reaper Miniatures apparently holds the rights to Heritage USA's catalog of games, including this one, and has released them as freeware PDFs. I can't applaud them enough for this, both because they've decided to do this at no cost but also because they've made a classic game of the Golden Age of the hobby available to new generations of gamers. Too many great designs from days of yore languish in limbo because the person or, worse yet, corporation that owns them foolishly believes that they're inherently valuable and thus should only be released if they can find a way to profit from doing so. That's a shame on many levels, which is why Reaper deserves kudos for their actions with regard to Heritage USA's games.