Phantasy Realm is a dungeon crawl for 2-4 players (although there is a free solitaire adventure in the works). The game is comprised of four map boards printed with high quality ink on very thick card stock, two "pages" of chits on almost equally thick stock which need to be cut out and around a dozen character sheets which also need to be cut out and have slits cut into them to accomodate little sliding plastic paper clips which mark the relative values of various statistics, a fairly thin rulebook and two more booklets describing events and places on the map. The game comes in a standard white cardboard packing box that one usually mails packages with on which is pasted a cover sheet.
Much has been made about how much cutting needs to be done in order for the game to be played. In reality, one only really needs to cut out the two pages of chits and the little character markers since "traditional" character sheets on which vital statistics are kept track of by writing their values in with pen or pencil can be downloaded off the game designer's web-site which may, for some, moot the need to cut out the character sheets for some people.
Much has also been made of the price of the game compared to what one receives. The game is more than the "few sheets of card stock" that some people have described it as being. All of the components are printed with high quality, wax-based ink and most of them are printed on very thick card stock. The art work is minimal (the chits are not illustrated) but it is of professional quality and functional.
The play of the game is fairly "standard"; one arranges the four map boards in any way one wishes (the boards are modular and connect to each other no matter how they're oriented), chooses an adventure which determines the victory conditions which the players must satisfy and one chooses one of four characters (more are downloadable off the designer's web-site) and one goes on one's way, moving about the board, encountering monsters, people, etc. and attempts to win the game. One difference that it has with other dungeon crawls is that a player may select one of two traveling modes, one of which makes it impossible for him or her to have any encounters; in this way, a player is can choose to forego encounters if he or she so wishes in order to expedite whatever task he or she has at hand. This, in some ways, reduces some of the "randomness" that is typical of many dungeon crawl games.
There is a back story to the game about an ancient foe from the North which warred with the land and how this ancient foe is gearing up for war again (sound familiar?) but it's not really integral to any of the four adventures. Although it's not really necessary, the back story is nice as it presents you with the background for the action that is taking place.
There is much to recommend in this game. The components are of a high quality and attractive (albeit rather minimalist in the graphics department...and the game box is a little bit disappointing when compared to the quality of the rest of the game), the rules are short and simple (always a PLUS in my book - in my youth I used to love long rules but now I just stare at them with horror and wonder who actually has the time to read such tomes) and straightforward. In many ways, the game reminds me of Dungeon, which I used to play a lot when I was a child...except it's not random like Dungeon and there's an end in sight (I'm not sure if we ever actually ENDED a game of Dungeon...EVER)...in other words, it harkens back to the nostalgia of a childhood favorite game without all the negatives that we could happily ignore in our childhood but which would probably infuriate us now that we are older and have more discerning "palates".