The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

Board Game Review – Minotaurus

When I picked the game Minotaurus off the shelf at Walmart as a Christmas present for my son, it didn’t really cross my mind that this could be a great game for my gaming group the next time we have down time, but I sure am thinking that now.

Fantasy game with a latin title - how can you go wrong?

The Basics

The game board is a labyrinth made of LEGO. Each player has three men who you are trying to get from your corner of the labyrinth to the center (the labyrinth is symetrical, for fairness). Complicating matters is that there is a minotaur running around the board, sending you back to your starting position, and that other players will at times rearrange the walls to your disadvantage.

On your turn you roll a six sided die that has the numbers 3 through 6, plus a plain black side and a plain grey side. Rolling a number means you can move one of your men that many spaces. Rolling grey means that you can move one of the grey walls in the labrynth. Rolling black allows you to move the minotaur 8 spaces – sending home every man he touches along the way.

The board set up as per instructions.

Even just played out of the box as is this game is way more fun than I would ever have guessed, but, you don’t have to play it out of the box as is. The entire game is made of lego, making it infinitely customizable. Just off the top of my head you could change:

  • The number of men
  • The number of players
  • Add more minotaurs
  • The position of the walls
  • The size of the board
  • The shape of the board
  • The size of the movable wall pieces
  • The faces of the die

I mean, if this game were any more customizable you would have to call it an rpg.

This Game Rocks

I have already played the game a bunch of time, and despite the simple game play, am nowhere near being board of it. So if you want something for your group to on an off night, especially if you have lego sitting around, I highly recommend this game. Naturally the recommendation goes double if you have kids.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Board Games, Review, RPGs | , , | 1 Comment

7 Ways to Take My $5

After my review of Obsidian Portal, and the subsequent response from its staff, I began to wonder just what I would be willing to pay $5/month for (since I’m not willing to pay that much for their service). These items would all be in addition to the things I mentioned in the article as gimmes – basically anything one can get for free (from blogs or elsewhere).

1. Access To A Mapping Program
I’m not talking about the high end digital mapping software that I keep putting off getting (though you would think a site like Obsidian Portal could swing a volume deal on such a thing), but maybe a functional, not ugly, mapper. It could even be online access only for all I would care – just let me show the maps on your site and print them on my printer.

2. Modules
Again, I’m not looking for something with high production qualities (think Living Greyhawk), just something that I could download and run in a pinch. If a service added just one per month to a growing library it would be more than enough for me.

3. Maps
Just like modules, set up a library and release them on a regular schedule.

4. Other Custom Rules
Again, have a nice, easy to access library of goodies that I can snoop through whenever I’m stumped.

5. Mobile Access
Have a mobile version of the site that runs fast, but potentially could access all of the content I’ve posted.

6. Artwork
I am a lousy artist, and so are all of my players, but we have a real need for pictures. Give me a library of pictures for personal use and I am there; especially if it has pictures that I commonly need, but are hard to find. (like female dwarves and half-orcs)

7. Ease of Use
If I could have a visually appealing campaign website that is already organized the way I need it to be, I would be all over that. Right now, all options require a degree of work, because the site hosting, whomever that might be, doesn’t know what I want. So ask me what I want. Have a simple form I can fill out and 5 minutes later all the work is done. That would truly be easy, and that would be worth my money.

October 14, 2010 Posted by | RPGs | , , , | Leave a comment

Review – Obsidian Portal


A decade ago every time I had a new idea for a campaign in my head I would flesh it out by making a website for it. The absolute pinnacle of this process for me was the campaign I ran when I formed my current group. To this day I am very proud of that website; on it I documented every PC, every NPC, every adventure, every location, and every house rule, plus I had immense background information, and a huge library of stories I wrote to set the mood of the game.

In all I spent about 100 hours preparing the site before the game began, and about a dozen every week that the game was running. It was beautiful, but it was exhausting; in fact I ended the game because I was burnt out (between the website and other DMing prep work, I was spending about 4 hours in prep for every 1 hour played).

Since then my online efforts have been minimal. There was one game a couple of years ago I ran a blog for, but mostly I have just ignored the electronic side of gaming.

Not long after I started the aforementioned blog I became aware of Obsidian Portal. I wasn’t up to checking it out at the time, but I bookmarked it both in my browser, and mentally. In the intervening time I have read nothing but good things about it, so when my players and I started discussing a new game including a website, I immediately signed up.

I must say, that I have been very underwhelmed by what is there. When you create a campaign on Obsidian Portal you get sections for Home, Adventure Log, Wiki, Characters, Forums, Maps, and Comments. In each of these sections you can create html files.

This all seems well and good, but the problem is that you only get 2MB of space to work with. (also, for no apparent reason you can only have one picture file listed under maps) This is brutal. Basically with 2MB of space you probably aren’t going to have more than half a dozen images for your whole campaign. I’m can’t imagine having a campaign website without lots of maps, character portraits and other pictures.

Ah, but for a very low price of $5/month they will sell you 2GB of space. That’s not very much money, but as soon as you start charging any money I have to start wondering what can I get elsewhere for free.

Within minutes I could setup a WordPress blog that is organized in the exact same way as Obsidian Portal with none of the limitations. With that in mind, basically the $5/month is for

  • A built in forum
  • The ability to hide parts of documents from players

Neither of these are very important to me, and if the forum was it would be very easy to create a message board and just link to it from the blog. The only person I could imagine making extensive use of the hiding feature would be a DM who keeps all his notes on the website. (and that seems very alien to me)

I’m not sure who the customer base for this site is or why so many people rave about it, but it isn’t for me; I think I will go the blog route for my next game,

September 28, 2010 Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, Review, RPGs | , , | 3 Comments

All You Need To Know About B1


The module B1 has a special place in my heart; I received it along with the Basic Set for my 11th birthday. Because I have so many wonderful memories of it, I feel great pain in telling you that B1 isn’t worth the paper its printed on.

B1 was originally promoted as a special introductory module; early editions of the Basic Set shipped with B1 before B2 (The Keep on the Borderlands) became the standard. But not only is B1 not a good module, it is an atrocious introduction.

B1 had the stock-your-own “feature”, which is another way of saying it isn’t really a module at all. B1 is basically a map and some rough notes – no monsters, no boxed text and definitely no useful hints for a beginning DM (there are a couple of pages with advice for DMs, but the topics covered aren’t even on the radar for most novice DMs).

Worst of all, it doesn’t even succeed at being an annotated map. The map is absolutely chaotic and seems completely impractical and unbelievable as a “home and stronghold” for a pair of adventurers.

The entire main floor is basically one huge attempt to screw over the party’s mapper. Every trick you can imagine to mess up a mapper are in here: one way doors, curvy hallways, identical rooms, teleportation traps, magical disorientation, spiral hallways, door mazes . . . did I mention this complex was built to be someone’s home?

I am sure someone will argue that all the absurdity on the main floor was Rogahn and Zelligar’s (the characters from the background information who originally built the complex) way of keeping unwanted guests out. But how can you seriously believe these two wanted to keep people out of their house when they didn’t put a door on the place? Why have all these traps and tricks buried deep in the complex while the entrance hallway has nothing other than alcoves that laugh at people?

So if your players are insane, the most determined group in the world or (as was the case for my group many years ago) if you don’t have any other adventures to play, then maybe, at some point, they’ll see the lower level. The notes state that the lower level was unfinished; I am not sure if this was an in game statement or the author’s own dilemma. The lower level consists of rough caverns which are so simple, they might have been drawn in a matter of minutes.

So to sum up, the upper level map is a meta game mind f–k, the lower level is simple beyond belief, the module has no monsters, no boxed text, a misplaced backstory, and the DM’s introduction sections are of limited usefulness.

If you are a collector or have a sentimental attachment to this module, then it can be worthwhile to own, but if you are looking for some old school action get any other B series module module before this one. Conversely if you want to learn to DM using the Basic game, get the red box set and run the intro adventure in the Dungeons Masters Guide.

See my other B-Series reviews.

September 17, 2010 Posted by | B-Series, Dungeons and Dragons, Review, RPGs | , , | 1 Comment