A Different 27 Club
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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The "27 Club" is actually a list of famous musicians, artists, and entertainers who died at age 27 (often from drug abuse, plane crashes, or other disasters). But my 27 club is very different.

I own over a couple hundred PC games now, and Epic keeps offering me free ones (sometimes I accept, sometimes not). But I know darned well I won't have time to play them all, much less delve deeply into more than a handful. So right now, I have 27 installed--the number I can fit neatly on the display screen I've set up. Still too many, probably, but that's what this geeklist is about.

Since most of them are kinda board-game-like, maybe BGGeeks as well as VGGeeks will find something of interest.

Below are the 27 games that my GOG Galaxy screen displays every time I'm ready to play something.

See my comment at the bottom for my top 9.

Your comments are most welcome.
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1. Video Game: Age of Wonders [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:848]
Video Game: Age of Wonders
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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Since the list is alphabetical, you'll see four AoW games right off. Why all four?

Well, I started with this first game, back in 1999 or the year after. My wife and I both used to like Master of Magic a lot, but it had become unplayable (without an emulator) on our computer system--and clunky even with DOSBox. AoW promised to be MoM's spiritual successor.

At first it was a little disappointing, what with the tiny character images; it seemed like a poor substitute for MoM. But it was what we had, so we made the best of it. And it grew on me over time (though my wife soon moved on to other games). I played the campaign once through, and I played most, if not all, the scenarios at least once (some several times).

I have it installed now because it's still a great game. I tend to prefer 2D graphics, so I actually like the look of this game better than any of its sequels. The interface is a little awkward now, just because certain conventions have become standard since 1999; but it's not that hard to get used to doing things the old-fashioned way.

I always meant to replay the campaign, but I never have. Nor have I exhausted the possibilities of the scenarios. So, AoW is still a fine, challenging, interesting, fun game. And now there's a bit of nostalgia attached to it too. So, no reason not to have this game installed. I still like to play it.
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2. Video Game: Age of Wonders 2: The Wizard's Throne [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:957]
Video Game: Age of Wonders 2: The Wizard's Throne
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I was put off by the early 3D graphics in this game, but I played it anyway. As much as I played, though, I don't believe I ever finished the campaign or played half the scenarios. The sequel came along before I was able to get far.

So, I've still got it in the back of my mind to finish this game--i.e., at least play the campaign once--and I keep in installed just in case I find myself up for that.
 
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3. Video Game: Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:533]
Video Game: Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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Some say this is the best in the AoW series. In some ways it is quite an improvement over AoW2, with new races and enhanced features.

Again, I only started into this. I put many hours into it, but I never finished the campaign and probably only played half the scenarios. I've always meant to get back into it again and delve into it more, so I keep it installed for someday when I have time.
 
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4. Video Game: Age of Wonders III [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:2546]
Video Game: Age of Wonders III
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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The latest version of AoW, and maybe the best. Fans usually go for this or its predecessor.

I started into AoW3 late, when it came packaged with its two expansions. But since then I've put some 1700 hours into it, I think. It's one of the best PC strategy games I've ever played.

As I write this, I have yet another game in progress, and it's providing me with plenty of challenge and interest. I'm playing at Lord level, and there are a couple higher difficulty levels beyond that.

But besides being kind of a blend of chess and go when it comes to tactics and strategy, AoW is an immersive fantasy adventure. At least it is to me. There are quests, heroes, spells, magic items, monsters and fantasy creatures--everything that's part of the genre. The game doesn't put you right down into a first-person view of any of those things; you keep a detached overview the whole time. Still, if you exercise your imagination, it's all there.

And the game also looks and sounds very good. It took me a while to get used to the 3D graphics, and sometimes the need for a camera control still bugs me, but there's plenty of good artwork and animation. And a great soundtrack too.

Unfortunately, the campaign seems to be a real bear. I've started into it a few times, and I keep getting stuck, even on Easy. I hear it was designed for the original version of the game and became much harder as the game was expanded and improved. I'll go back and try again, but it has been discouraging.

My favorite thing to do is create a custom game, usually on a small map with an underground level. I doubt if I'll ever play on anything bigger than a medium map; to me, the game is just an unbearable slog on a large map (and some of the campaign scenarios have large maps).

After all my hours of play, I feel like I'm still just beginning to learn the game. I've never come close to exhausting the possibilities of any AoW game, and this one is no exception. Lots and lots to learn, and lots more to do.
 
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5. Video Game: Baldur's Gate II: The Collection [Average Rating:8.22 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.22 Unranked]
Video Game Compilation: Baldur's Gate II: The Collection
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I haven't been able to bear uninstalling this game, so here it still sits.

I played BG1 some time back (a few years ago?), for the first time. And I liked it pretty well. So I went on to the second game in the series, Shadows of Amn. Lost my saved games in that when I changed computers, so I started over and eventually played it all the way through.

It was also a good game--more of BG, and more varied, and with higher-level heroes. But like BG1, it seemed to take forever. By the end, I didn't care about the story anymore; I just wanted to win and get it over with.

Then came time for Throne of Bhaal. I started and aborted it a few times before I buckled down and really started into it. Now I'm well into it, but I wonder if I'll ever follow through and finish the game.

After getting well along, I ventured into Watcher's Keep, an optional side trip (like Durlag's Tower in the version of BG1 I played). It proved to be very difficult for me. Even with a walkthrough, I got stuck time and again. Finally, I abandoned the keep and returned to the main game.

The game sat for a long time (a year or so?), and just recently I tiptoed back into it. I won a pretty easy fight, then headed for the next stop on my mission. There I ran into a fight with a wizard and a bunch of strong units, and my party fell. To get past that battle, I'd have to study my spellbook and be very careful and attentive, and still I'd probably have to replay the battle several times before winning.

I just wasn't up for all that, so I put the game back on hold. And there it sits, daring me to play again.

Someday.
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6. Video Game: Battle Academy [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:1098]
Video Game: Battle Academy
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I bought this game (and its sequel) on the recommendation of a Geek buddy, and I liked it quite a bit when I was playing. It reminds me of my old Advanced Squad Leader days.

So, when I was looking for games to install--just to fill up the 27-game screen--I picked this one. It's unlike most of my other games, and it's very enjoyable and interesting, so why not?

I've heard there's a multiplayer scene for it, but I'll probably never get into that. I don't play multiplayer anything (except rarely, when somebody makes me an offer I can't refuse).

Still, even as a single-player game, it's good. And if I ever find time or need this kind of change of pace, I'll give this game another go.
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7. Video Game: The Battle for Wesnoth [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:489]
Video Game: The Battle for Wesnoth
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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Why, oh why? I've delved into this game several times over the years, and each time I abandoned it in frustration or disgust or something. Yet here I am back to it again.

Well, sort of. I'm not actively playing, but I started into it again and left it installed.

It's certainly worth trying if you like games like Panzer Corps or Fantasy General. Can't beat the price, since it's free, and a lot of good design work has gone into it. As I understand, it's still an ongoing project, updated every so often.

I guess the main thing that goes against my grain is that it's a puzzle game in the guise of a wargame. The story line is that you're a hero on a great military adventure. And indeed you do fight battle after battle. But each battle, it seems, is really just a somewhat complex puzzle. In that sense, it's like Advance Wars (another game I've liked but haven't played in a very long time).

If you don't figure out the puzzle the first time through, you're stuck replaying that scenario until you catch on and win. And that can be a pretty big time investment.

And if you're playing a campaign, you run into something else I don't care for which is typical for this kind of game: you have to be very careful with your heroes and units, keeping them alive and choosing who goes in for the kill each time, so they can gain experience and level up. If you're lax about this (as I tend to be), you'll reach a point where the rest of the campaign is beyond your army's ability.

It's a tried-and-true system that has worked in many popular video games. I've just never liked it that much, and somehow it's especially hard for me to live with in Wesnoth. Yet I do like playing a wargame at this "operational" level sometimes, where you're commanding an array of units on a sizable battlefield and going after a single objective.

I'm not ready to abandon Wesnoth forever. But I have to be in just the right mood to play it. My track record so far consists of playing the first several scenarios in a campaign and then feeling I've had enough.
 
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8. Video Game: Civilization V [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:69]
Video Game: Civilization V
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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According to Steam, my most-played game. But Steam doesn't know how many hours I put into Master of Orion and other games long before there was a Steam. Anyhow, I've racked up a couple thousand hours in Civ 5.

I've also played all the Civ games, a lot or a little, except for Civilization: Call to Power. Civ 1 was one of my first PC strategy games, and I played the heck out of it back in the day.

Civ 5 marks a major turning point. Up through Civ 4, the game was expanded and refined while keeping the original concept and most of the basic elements intact. Then, starting with Civ 5, key aspects of the original game were replaced with something new. Some love the change, some hate it. Me, I'm more on the borderline.

One of the most notable changes was to a hex grid and one unit per tile (hex). In Civ 1-4, military units could stack infinitely, and often there'd be these enormous "stacks of doom" moving around the map, steamrolling everything in their path until they met up with another stack of doom. I was never able to get used to that. I played board wargames for many years before Civ 1 came along, and there was always a limit to the number of units that could stack in a given hex--just because there's only so much room and so many supplies. In a board game, you can see how tall each stack is; in Civ, you have to at least hover over an enemy stack and take a minute to examine its strength and composition. I'm usually too lazy for that; I assume there are a few units coming my way, and I hope to defend against them--and then I'm often unpleasantly surprised. How could that many units possibly have been mobilized and moved into position already?

I thought the change to one unit per tile was overkill, though. I'd have been happier if two or three units could have been stacked together. Also, the scale of the game was grossly distorted; archers could now fire at a target hundreds of miles away, for instance. Still, I did find combat pleasant enough and manageable enough in Civ 5, for the first time since I'd been playing the game.

Another key change was "global happiness," or something like that. It's a mechanism for encouraging players to "play tall"--to develop a few cities well instead of spamming cities all over the map. This bothered me at first, as I'd been in the habit of "playing wide," but I grew accustomed to it. I still play wide, but I have to make sure my happiness level is high enough before I proceed.

City-states and the world congress were two other new features. The city-states (like "minor countries" in some old board wargames) were pretty interesting, I thought. The world congress was mostly boring at first, but over time I found some good uses for it--including a nice path to victory.

I spent quite a lot of time exploring Civ 4 after playing the heck out of Civ 5 (because I'd mostly missed Civ 4 the first time around). For a while, Civ 4 looked to me like a much better game--and in some ways it is. If I were a good Civ player, I'd probably focus mostly or entirely on Civ 4. It's a top-notch game design--the pinnacle of the original Civ concept.

However, I've come to realize that I'm not a good player and never will be. Not only that, but I don't especially want to be. All these years, I've turned to Civ mainly for relaxation, never for a challenge. I'd find a challenge anyway, but as long as I kept the difficulty level down far enough, it could be a fun and easy challenge. That meant I could just immerse myself in the make-believe of building and developing a world empire. To me, that's a great way to while away a long evening or part of a weekend.

For me, Civilization involves too much in the way of economics and politics--especially economics. I just don't have the patience to micromanage resources and keep watch for tiny advantages that can add up and compound into a decisive lead. When I play Civ, I mostly ignore all that and just go about sloppily building my empire any way I want to. I aim to win, and I'm pleased when I do, but I don't pay much attention to all the causal chains that lead to victory.

Since I play Civ almost entirely as a casual escape, Civ 5 suits me very nicely and has for a long time.
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9. Video Game: Civilization VI [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:287] [Average Rating:7.76 Unranked]
Video Game: Civilization VI
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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The newest version of Civ, which I got into only because Epic Games offered it for free. I didn't feel I needed a new Civ; I was happy with Civ 5. And I'd heard things about Civ 6 that didn't sound so good to me. But since it was free, I had to try it. And soon enough, I bought all the DLC for it too.

After several hundred hours and quite a few games (all on Prince level), I'd describe Civ 6 as a more complicated and colorful version of Civ 5.

There are lots of new features--new governments, a new policy system, a "eureka" system that gives bonuses toward tech breakthroughs, an expanded religion system, expanded city districts, a detailed espionage system, nuanced diplomacy, and much more. Yet to me, it still feels about like Civ always has. It's a game about world history, and it's a game that a casual player like me can get immersed in and enjoy to while away the hours.

From what I can tell, it's also a game that hardcore gamers could get into and appreciate. I've yet to figure out just how some of the systems and subsystems work. I've so far stumbled upon a couple methods of play that work well enough for me at this level, but that's it. There's a great deal to uncover, and I'm sure some of it makes a world of difference.

I recently played games of Civ 5 and Civ 6 back to back so as to compare them. But in the end, I just ended up shrugging. Either game gives me just the Civ experience I want, and I think I'm playing more Civ 6 just because it's newer. I want to get my money's worth, and there are still some expansions coming.

In the future, I could get fed up with Civ 6 and go back to Civ 5 just because it's the one I've put the most time into and know best. Or I could get lured into Civ 7 someday. Who knows?

But in any case, I'll just repeat what I've often said: Civilization has never been among my favorite games, but it's certainly one of the most compelling games I've ever played. The theme and the compelling nature of it keep me coming back, and the game is always good for a relaxing evening or weekend.
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10. Video Game: Civil War II [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:4125]
Video Game: Civil War II
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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Oh, what can I say? I've wanted so much to finish learning this game and commit myself to playing it regularly--and yet it mostly just sits there. I can't bear to turn my back on it and uninstall it, but often I feel I might just as well.

My attraction to the game comes from my background in board wargaming. I grew up with games that simulated historical conflicts, and I still love the idea of that. Most PC wargames are not really waragmes, in my view, but this one is. The history is just about right, and the game mechanisms operate to simulate the history.

The Civil War is also what I've spent the most time reading about over the years. I'm a military-history buff, and I've read a little about lots of wars, but I focus on the American Civil War. So again, this game should be right up my alley.

But it's a game that takes work. The games I play a lot are typically easy to get into and learn, though perhaps hard to play well or master. CW2 is pretty hard to learn in the first place. And after you've learned how to play, you still have to pay close attention to understand what all is going on turn after turn. Even after I'd read the manual a couple times and played a number of practice games, I still caught myself saying things like, "Huh? How did that army get there?" "Why didn't my army attack?" "Why did that commander split off and head in another direction?"

The individual scenarios get repetitious, and I've never gotten far enough to try the full campaign game.

On top of that, the interface is rather annoying. The game looks and sounds pretty good, but there are pop-up info boxes everywhere and various map layers to help with planning. And movement is often choppy and uncertain; you have to be precise with the mouse and then very patient.

I suppose the latter is my biggest problem with the game. Before I bought it, several years ago, I read a comment that went something like this: "If you're patient, this is the best Civil War game around and well worth playing. But if you're impatient, steer clear of it." It truly is a test of patience, and I'm sure it can be highly rewarding for the player who'll patiently study all that goes on each turn. I regret to admit that I'm not that kind of player.

It's one of the best games I own, but I may never play it again.
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11. Video Game: Conquest of Elysium 4 [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
Video Game: Conquest of Elysium 4
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I bought this game because it's from Illwinter Game Design, a Swedish company that consists of two guys, as I understand it. Their other game, Dominions, is listed below, and it's such a great game that I wanted to see this one too.

CoE is the more fast-paced of the two games, and it's a peculiar hybrid. Kind of a mix between a roguelike and a conquer-the-map strategy game. It's hard to describe, but it's interesting--and a lot deeper than it might appear on the surface.

Basically, you assign troops to a leader and set out to conquer sites on the map. Later you run into enemy armies and fight them for control and eventually the win. Along the way, you'll recruit more units and leaders and form more armies. But your unit mix and even your game objective will vary depending on which of numerous factions you choose in the beginning.

The map is multilevel, with an underground and various planes--six in all, I think.

I've yet to get far in the game or even truly get the hang of it, though I've completed a few games. Yet it's always fun to explore the map and see what I run into, and to try new factions now and then.

I'd benefit from slowing down and paying closer attention to what goes on, and over time I may do more of that. But even playing lazily, it's a pretty good game. A keeper.
 
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12. Video Game: Darkest Dungeon [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:464] [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked]
Video Game: Darkest Dungeon
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I didn't expect to like this game, but I do. I like it a lot. For some reason (namely the distraction of so many other games), I haven't played it a lot lately, but I'll definitely come back around to it.

First off, the art and voice acting are very impressive to me. Dark and foreboding, but at the same time cartoonish. The game conveys the appropriate sense of dread, yet you (or at least I) don't ever get personally caught up in it; it's just something happening at arm's length, and you guide your party along as best you can.

It's a dungeon crawl, but it doesn't permanently end when your party gets wiped out. You keep what you've gained, recruit a new party, and venture back into the dungeon. Even when a dungeon run is successful, your party members may need a period of R&R before getting back to work; so you'll send some to the brothel, tavern, or sanitarium and recruit replacements. Death is usually permanent for individual characters, though.

There are short, medium, and long dungeon runs. So the game fits the player's available time. Long runs are more tense and require more preparation; character skills come into play more too.

The more of the dungeon you clear, the tougher the game gets. Your characters, those that survive, level up too and can handle more. But it's painful losing high-level characters.

I don't understand everything about this game; there are potions and such that I still don't know how to use. But I've had a great experience every time I've played, and I intend to leave this game installed for the foreseeable future. I've already bought the sequel, though I'm far from being ready for it.
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13. Video Game: Distant Worlds [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:2811]
Video Game: Distant Worlds
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I've done nothing but read most of the manual, play through the tutorials, and get a little way into my first game, so I can't say much about this.

In fact, after doing that much, I put the game on hold awhile because I was into other games. But it feels like the time to try again, so I'm just now approaching the game for the second time.

It looks very promising, but I've been disappointed before. Sword of the Stars looked promising, and I think it probably is good, but I couldn't get past the 3D map (and tech tree) and the complicated real-time combat. AI War: Fleet Command looked promising, but I never made it through the learning curve. Endless Space: Disharmony looked promising, but it somehow fell flat for me. Stellaris looked promising, but I couldn't stick with it for long.

I still love Master of Orion after all these years, though. And it'd be great to find a more substantial space-opera game that I can enjoy. We'll see if DW does the trick for me.
 
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14. Video Game: Dominions 5: Warriors of the Faith [Average Rating:9.33 Unranked]
Video Game: Dominions 5: Warriors of the Faith
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I tried an earlier version of this game years ago but couldn't stay interested in it. Last year I tried Dominions 4: Thrones of Ascension and immediately got hooked. I liked it so much that I grabbed Dom 5 as soon as it went on sale. And I have no regrets.

Fans say the game is designed for multiplayer and only shines in that mode. I suppose so. In single-player there's no diplomacy, for example. And some say the AI is relatively weak, though I've found it plenty challenging. Anyhow, I'm unlikely to ever play this game with others, and yet I'll probably keep playing it for a long time to come.

I guess it's basically just an elaborate Risk variant. But it's a top-notch variant, with many unique nations to choose from as well as pretender gods (leaders) to customize, a complex magic system, and more.

There's a fair bit of hands-on micromanagement to it, but in this game I don't mind. I feel I'm in charge of vast armies, planning and executing strategy, and that's a fun thing to do.

Also, the thematic elements are intriguing. This game may fall into the fantasy genre, but it's not at all your typical Tolkienesque fantasy. Don't expect elves, dwarves, orcs, and the rest of the standard fare. Here we find creative mashups of world mythology. Whichever of the eighty or so nations you choose, you'll find something strangely familiar as well as things that are just plain strange. Each nation plays differently too, with a different set of units and unique magical abilities or bonuses. It ends up being a fascinating game world to explore.
 
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15. Video Game: DROD: Gunthro and the Epic Blunder [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:4990]
Video Game: DROD: Gunthro and the Epic Blunder
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I often say I don't like puzzles, and yet I still delve into them sometimes. I guess what I don't like is frustration, and puzzles can be frustrating if you're not a naturally calm, curious person. I keep my cool most of the time, but I'm not naturally calm or curious.

Still, something about the simple design of this game appeals to me. You move through a maze and swing your sword, and that's about it. But every room you enter is a unique puzzle to solve.

This particular game is kind of an intro to the series (even though it's number four in the series). The first puzzles are easy enough. I'll be surprised if I make it all the way through, though. Many times already I've said, "This is impossible!" It usually takes me quite a few tries to get it right and clear the room so I can move on.

I have to admit, though, that it's satisfying to finally achieve what at first looked impossible.

And it's refreshing to play a game where I don't have to spend forever building an empire, which is what I do in most of the games I play. Puzzles get right to the heart of the mental-exercise aspect of gaming.

Someday I may even reinstall SpaceChem and give it another try. It's reputedly a superb game, but I succumbed to impatience and frustration the first time around.
 
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16. Video Game: Fantasy General [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:853]
Video Game: Fantasy General
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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An old favorite. Bought it when it was brand-new and played the heck out of it for a long time. Now I keep it around in case I get in the mood for something old-school and familiar.

It's kind of a stripped-down version of Panzer General with a fantasy theme. And PG is probably a better game. But I took a liking to FG because I got tired of dealing with ships and landing craft and air bases and aircraft fuel limits and other things in PG (had they added up to a more realistic, accurate game, I'd have tolerated them, but PG is not a very accurate model of historical events).

I made it through the campaign once, as Knight Marshal Calis, and I planned to do it with the other three leaders. But I don't think I made it all the way through. Certainly not with Archmage Krell.

I dislike the same things about FG as I dislike about The Battle for Wesnoth (see above in this list): the puzzle-like nature of many or all scenarios, and the need to husband your troops very carefully so they can level up enough to get you all the way through the game. The latter bothers me because it's contrary to military history: yes, surviving soldiers and units get battle-hardened and experienced, but they also get battle-fatigued, and green conscripts are thrown in as often at the end of a war as at the beginning--sometimes more often. Wars are not won by soldiers leveling up; they're won by persistence and good generalship.

Still, it's a joy to play FG every now and then. I'll never be one to painstakingly work on optimizing my moves--delaying kills and choosing which unit to make the kill and gain experience, for instance. I'm happy enough just to reach the objective of each scenario or campaign mission before running out of time. And I've never played on anything higher than normal level.

There's probably no need for me to have both FG and Wesnoth among my twenty-seven installed games. But FG is an old friend, and Wesnoth is almost all new to me. I could substitute another game I own, Panzer Corps, for one of them. But I'm not that keen on World War II.
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17. Video Game: FTL: Advanced Edition [Average Rating:8.40 Overall Rank:1164]
Video Game: FTL: Advanced Edition
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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A roguelike space game, I guess, and evidently a very good one. I've barely scratched the surface; I'm practically brand-new to the game.

I don't usually like real-time games that much. This is one that involves hitting Pause all the time, so at least there's usually time to stop and figure things out.

It's quick, and it's an interesting challenge. Also a welcome change of pace from the kind of game I normally play.
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18. Video Game: Geneforge 2 [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:3116]
Video Game: Geneforge 2
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I completed the first game in this series, and I liked it pretty well, so now I'm into the second. Actually, I was much further into it when I last changed computers, but I lost all my saves, so I've started over.

The interface in this one has an annoying problem: there's a delay when you click Save. So it takes maybe twenty seconds just to quicksave. And it pays to do that a lot.

This RPG is too bare-bones for some, but I like the very simple 2D look.

It's a little odd for me to solo through a game. In other RPGs I've usually had a party to command. In this one, it's just me and a creature or two that I create.

Entertaining and challenging. Often, though, in any RPG, there's too much walking around and backtracking for my taste. Also too much dying in battle and having to reload a saved game. I like to have an RPG going, but I need to get into the mood for it.

One thing I like about this game is that, unlike Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale and such, there aren't a ton of spells to learn and figure out when to use. In combat, mostly you're just shooting or hacking or healing. Between battles, there's still all that exploring and equipping to do.
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19. Video Game: Heroes of Might and Magic III Complete [Average Rating:8.61 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.61 Unranked]
Video Game Compilation: Heroes of Might and Magic III Complete
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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I just recently reinstalled this game. I had played HoMM2 back when it was new, and I own the whole series of games (maybe not the latest). This one is reputed to be the best of the lot, and there sure is a lot to it.

I haven't actually started playing again, though. It's just there in case I do someday.

While it's a very fine strategy game, full of interesting scenarios and campaigns and custom options, I don't care for the art style. There's also too much running around: capture something, but you can't hold it, so you back off and then have to come back for it later, and meanwhile your rivals are showing up where you don't expect them. Or, to get reinforcements to the front, you hire a bunch of heroes and send troops forward in relay, handing them off from one hero to another.

Also, the game is just hard for me. At times I've switched to Easy just to get through a game, and even that hasn't always worked.

But I'm willing to try yet again. I've very much enjoyed playing the game in the past, especially when things were going well for me. I suppose I just need to practice and pay attention and try different things until I catch on better.
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20. Video Game: Into the Breach [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:789]
Video Game: Into the Breach
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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Another game, like FTL (and by the same company), that I've installed just because I mean to get into it. So far, I've done nothing but play a few easy intro missions to learn the game.

It appears to be quite a game, though, and I like having a faster-moving game with short feedback loops to give me a break from the big 4X strategy games I normally gravitate to.

Thing is, once I get warmed up in a game like this, I don't want to stop; I want to forge ahead until I've finished it. Also, I often play games in the late evening when I'm too tired from the long day to think sharply and clearly. This is not the kind of game to play then. My mind needs to be reasonably fresh.
 
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21. Video Game: Invisible, Inc [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:1317]
Video Game: Invisible, Inc
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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Same comment here as for FTL and Into the Breach, above: I've played just enough to know it's a great game that I want to play more.

Making time for any of these three games is going to take some doing, though, especially since I'm playing DROD (also above) as well.

Too many great games, and too little time.

But I've heard from one or two people that Invisible, Inc., is a nearly perfect game. I'd like to find out what that's like.
 
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22. Video Game: Master of Magic [Average Rating:8.63 Overall Rank:42]
Video Game: Master of Magic
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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Ah, MoM! My old favorite.

I got this in the mid-1990s and fell in love with it even though it still needed to be patched (in those days it was also challenging to get new software to run, as there were driver incompatibilities and memory was in such short supply). A fantasy spin-off of Civilization, MoM was, to me, better than Civ in many ways.

I won't go into that comparison, but MoM also offered a rich, wonderful fantasy world that I liked a whole lot better than the mixed-up caricature of a real world that Civ offered. In MoM, I could choose from among many races and customize a wizard to lead the one I chose. And when it came time for fighting, the game shifted to a tactical battle board where I could cast my spells and direct my troops.

Anyway, one of the very best games around at the time--and for a long time to come.

But technology leapt ahead, and sometime in the late 1990s I found our home computer didn't run the game anymore. I didn't know anything about emulators, if there were any, so I lived without MoM for a number of years. In 1999 or so, I got into Age of Wonders (see above).

A few years later, my wife got DOSBox and started running MoM again, but she found it too clunky to play now. After more years, I bought the GOG version and started playing MoM again. I found I still liked it, and the interface didn't deter me. However, the early-game buildup seemed very slow; it took forever to construct a builder's hall and then a granary and then a marketplace or whatever. By the time I managed to squeeze in a few military units, monsters were coming after me. Meanwhile I had to send magic spirits all over to scout and hinder enemy expansion.

Also missing were territorial boundaries; I'd gotten used to those in other strategy games, and it seemed odd not to have them. But at least the AI players would object if you ventured too close to their cities.

Anyhow, as good as the game was, and as much as I held fond memories of it, it got to where I stopped playing. Aside from nostalgia, I saw no reason to play MoM instead of Age of Wonders III or maybe Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes (just uninstalled that one from my computer a short while ago--only for lack of time to play).

But along came a MoM fan who decided to further patch and mod the game, and now we have Master of Magic: Caster of Magic. So far, I've only dabbled a little at CoM, but what I've experienced has been encouraging. It looks and mostly feels like the same old game, but there's much more to it; and although there are even more buildings to construct, the early game goes much faster than it used to.

So, now I keep the game installed just in case I decide to play more CoM and find out if it revives this old favorite for me.
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23. Video Game: Master of Orion [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:8.23 Unranked]
Video Game: Master of Orion
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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"‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked. ‘That I can’t remember,’ said the Hatter."
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Microbadge: CaliforniaMicrobadge: I love solo gaming!Microbadge: Master of Orion fanMicrobadge: VGG: Turn Based Games fanMicrobadge: Minnesota
Now, here's a game that dates back even further than Master of Magic (above). I first got it when it was new, in the mid-1990s. I loved it and played it for hours on end, at least until MoM came along and started gobbling up my time.

But, as was the case with MoM, it got to where our newer computer system couldn't run MoO anymore. So I did without it for some fifteen years. Then along came emulators and GOG, and I bought the game and started playing it again. At first, I barely recognized it.

It came packaged with Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares, and that's the game I expected to be playing. I'd never bought or played it when it was new, but I'd always heard it was very good. I expected it to be better than the original game. But I was in for a surprise.

Once I warmed up to MoO 1 again, I found I liked it a lot; I couldn't get enough of it. But I tried MoO 2 anyway, eager to experience an even better game. And . . . I didn't take to it right away.

MoO 2 is OK, but to me it felt cluttered with features I didn't care about. Especially annoying was tactical combat; it was far too detailed and complex for what's basically a grand-strategy game. Luckily, there was an option to switch off tactical combat.

Some time later, I made up my mind to give MoO 2 a fair shot, and I started playing game after game. I played every race and customized races as well, and I played on all difficulty levels. I even left tactical combat on so I could experience the full game every time.

When that trial was over, I concluded that MoO 2 is a very good game but that I personally still preferred MoO 1. The original game has plenty of options for me, yet it remains nicely streamlined and is a joy to play.

Now there are other MoO games: the forgettable MoO 3, a newer MoO that's judged to be so-so (I haven't tried it), and Remnants of the Precursors (a Java-based facelift for the original MoO). I'm still perfectly content with the original MoO, so I just play that. I don't see ever uninstalling this game, as it's one I figure I'll always be playing.
 
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24. Video Game: Silent Hunter III [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:2226]
Video Game: Silent Hunter III
p55carroll
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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"‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked. ‘That I can’t remember,’ said the Hatter."
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Microbadge: CaliforniaMicrobadge: I love solo gaming!Microbadge: Master of Orion fanMicrobadge: VGG: Turn Based Games fanMicrobadge: Minnesota
I got this because I had fallen so hard for Silent Service II (see below) and wanted a subsim with better graphics and sound effects and maybe more realism.

I was not disappointed. Despite some flaws (e.g., the American-sounding German voices), SH3 is a fantastic game.

If I had all the time in the world, I'd commit myself fully to learning all about this game and practicing until I was good. But alas, it's a pretty complicated and demanding game. Luckily, it can also be played in an easier and more forgiving mode.

I haven't played in quite a while, but I keep it installed for those times when I'm in the mood for a good simulation game--a game that makes me feel like I'm really someplace else doing something I'd never do in real life.
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25. Video Game: Silent Service II [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:2481]
Video Game: Silent Service II
p55carroll
United States
Minnesota
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‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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"‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked. ‘That I can’t remember,’ said the Hatter."
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Microbadge: CaliforniaMicrobadge: I love solo gaming!Microbadge: Master of Orion fanMicrobadge: VGG: Turn Based Games fanMicrobadge: Minnesota
I bought this after reading about it on GOG. It seemed to be highly regarded, and I remembered having enjoyed Aces of the Deep years before. I recalled AotD being kind of complicated, though--probably more than I'd be up for. So I decided to try this simpler subsim, just for fun.

Wow--it grabbed me right away. It came bundled with the original Silent Service, but I wasn't too impressed with that (just looks very old and plays like a relic from the past). SS2, however, played very well despite its dated, pixelated graphics and minimal sound effects (the game was released in 1990, so it's the oldest game I still play).

I've yet to play a campaign, and I only sampled the war-patrol option a couple times, but I've played many individual battles. And I fully expect to get back into the game and play more of it. It's not my standard fare, but it's a wonderful change of pace.

Back in the 1990s, I always had Red Baron (1990) ready to play, because sometimes I just wanted to shoot down planes instead of immersing myself in a "thinky" game. I loved RB, and I still own it. But I don't have a game controller or flight stick anymore, and I don't want to buy one just for RB. Besides, my reflexes probably aren't up for that fast-paced experience. And anyhow, I've been there and done that.

Subsims fill the same need but in a different way. I get to sink ships, and that's just as much fun as downing enemy aircraft. But sinking ships with a submarine calls for a lot less quick maneuvering and more stealth and careful calculating. That I can do, and I can do it easily with a mouse (or touchpad) and keyboard.

Both SS2 and Silent Hunter III (above in this list) have an option for manually calculating fire solutions (directing torpedoes to a target). And I'd love to learn how to do that and practice it. It's a lot of work, though, and I've never found time for it--or maybe my interest just isn't strong enough. Still might do it someday, though.

I have one other subsim, not installed: Crash Dive (not in the VGG database, though there's a much older game by that title). It's a game apparently designed for the iPad and such devices, but it works on the PC. It looks great and seems to play very well. I've played only a little of it, though. If ever I decide Silent Hunter is too hard for me, or that Silent Service is too old-looking, I'll have one more subsim to fall back on.
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