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Solitary Soundings

Musings of a solitary gamer. "The advantage of conversation is such that, for want of company, a man had better talk to a post than let his thoughts lie smoking and smothering." (Jeremy Collier) Comments welcome.
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Shout-Outs for Some Great Games I Own

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Games are not movies or stories; they're vehicles for creative decision making.
"Desire makes everything blossom; possession makes everything wither and fade." (Marcel Proust)
Browsing BGG is a lot of fun, but it has its drawbacks. For one thing, I'm always discovering more games I'd love to own and play. That would be good, except that I already own a big stack of unplayed games.

Just now, I realized I've been exacerbating this problem by soliciting new-game recommendations--as in this GeekList. What I should be doing is psyching myself up to play some of the games I already have.

So, without further ado, I'll proceed with that right now. Here are some wonderful games I have and will soon be playing:

This one dates back to 1979. I owned a copy in the early 1980s but didn't get into it much; and I sold that copy somewhere along the line. But I've bought a replacement copy, and it's set up on my table right now, ready for me to venture into the Magic Realm for the second time.

Magic Realm has become a cult classic; some loyal fans have been playing for over thirty years. And those in the know claim there's no better fantasy-adventure board game around. The rule book is pretty hefty, so the game takes a little work to learn. Setup also takes a good forty-five minutes each time. But if you can get past those hurdles, MR promises to be a rich, satisfying gaming experience.

The player can choose from among sixteen characters, and the modular map ensures that each game will be unique. Arrival and behavior of non-player characters (NPCs) is also randomized, making the story line unpredictable. And the game has everything from monsters to hidden treasures to secret spells and a complex magic system.

Rumor has it that the designer, Richard Hamblen, is currently working with a publisher on a revised version of the game. Meanwhile, the original is still available on the secondhand market or as a do-it-yourself kit, and fans have created enough new characters and quests and other expansions to make MR a lifetime's exploration.

My latest acquisition. This is another game I owned in the early 1980s but didn't spend a whole lot of time with. In those days, I was always searching for the perfect game (as is still my wont today, though I'm trying to reform myself), and I'd never play one more than a few times before I'd get drawn into something newer. Anyhow, I just got a replacement copy in the mail yesterday, and I spent last night poring over the basic-game rules. Now I want to play.

This is a man-to-man combat game. You can't zoom in any closer to combat than this. It's set in the modern (post-1965) era, however, so firepower is emphasized, as the title suggests. Melee (hand-to-hand) combat is possible, but with all the guns around, it's a rare event.

Firepower reminds me of two other games I've owned and played: Ambush! and Gunslinger. The former was quite an experience while it lasted; I just got tired of flipping pages in the "paragraph" booklet all the time to read what was supposedly happening. As to Gunslinger, it inspired me to try designing a man-to-man combat game of my own once upon a time. I intended to expand Gunslinger so that it could simulate fighting in any historical period or genre of fiction. The project got too big for me, and I abandoned it; but it has remained a dream in the back of my mind.

Firepower somehow got forgotten along the way, though. And as I looked it over last night, I realized it has all the main features I was going to include in my game design: e.g., a chit-pull activation system and an alternative to Gunslinger's action cards. It could very well be that this is pretty much just the game I wanted to design myself (albeit more limited in historical scope).

Can't wait to play it again and find out!

I came along late to the Lock 'n Load series. But a demo game from this Vietnam War title is what mainly drew me back into wargaming after a ten-year hiatus. While I was waiting for the reprint, I bought numerous other LnL games and played several scenarios from them. Now I own the second edition of this original title as well.

Strangely, I keep buying LnL games but putting them off. Every time I've played one, I've enjoyed it immensely and wanted to play again right away. But then I'd decide I ought to play one of my other as-yet-unplayed games instead--and it ends up being a while before LnL gets back onto the table.

Last time I finished playing, I sat back and gazed at the mapboard for a few minutes, mentally comparing that gaming experience with others, trying to decide how I'd rate LnL or whether it really had a place in my active game collection. I ended up saying to myself, "This could be the only game I'd ever want or need." It pretty well hit the sweet spot for me, and I couldn't think of any other game I'd rather have played.

Now that I own practically all the LnL games and expansions (some of them still in shrinkwrap), I really should get busy playing them. There's tremendous potential for fun there, and nothing is holding me back (aside from all the other great games I own).

I first heard about this game when it was new. But at that time, it sounded too simple for my taste. I figured it was a game designed for playability and wouldn't seem realistic enough to me. I was surprised to see it continually praised over the years. It was in its third edition before I finally investigated further and bought a copy.

What a great game! I was so impressed that I departed from my solitary habits and played a couple PBEM games. Then I bought copies of the first and second edition just so I'd have them all. Now it looks like a fourth edition is in the works--so I'm probably not done buying yet.

One thing that makes this game sweet, I think, is the activation-roll mechanic. It limits what you can do each turn--and that has the dual effect of (1) presenting you with a prioritization challenge and (2) simplifying what would otherwise be a very complex set of decisions.

The buckets-o-dice combat system adds some spice to the game as well. Part of me wishes for a combat results table (CRT) to keep me from worrying over my chances, but another part of me delights in just rolling dice and looking for good results.

I've read a fair bit about the Civil War, so I was afraid this game would fall short on historical accuracy in my eye. In a way, it does; it's certainly not an exacting simulation of the war. But the map shows all the major place names, and the game is structured to capture the overall historical outline and objectives. Best of all, it accomplishes this without any cards. Cards have become a pet peeve of mine, especially in a strategy-level wargame: I don't want to be told a story (i.e., have a story pictured and written up on a deck of cards); I want the story to happen as I play.

I also own copies of The Civil War and The American Civil War. The former is a bit too complex for me to have tackled so far. The latter I bought mainly for old times' sake, as I enjoyed it when it first came out. As long as I have A House Divided, I'm in no big hurry to play those other games.

This game came as a big surprise to me--and, I think, to many others as well. I bought it to fill up an order and get a postage discount. I chose it because it's a solitaire game and because it was less expensive than other VPG solitaire games. I expected to maybe get a couple hours' fun out of it.

Well, so far that's all I've done. But I sure was reluctant to put the game away! Not only is it very challenging, but it's much more thematically interesting than would have guessed.

Before the game arrived, I read the novel it's based on. I figured that might help me picture events as I played the game--and with my imagination thus engaged, it might be a better gaming experience. As it turned out, though, I was half bored with the novel--but not with the game. The game design portrays events from the viewpoint I wish the novel had taken.

The only downside of Nemo's War that I encountered was the components. They're adequate but less than impressive. A map of the world, to me, is usually a wonderful game board--but the one in this game is rather plain.

Maybe the game seems better than it is due to my initially low expectations. But I'm not the only one praising it. It has some great qualities, including multiple victory paths (with a chance to switch paths once in mid-game). In addition, it appears to be quite a challenge. In my two or three games, I didn't come anywhere near a victory.

This is one designed-for-solitaire game that I intend to get back onto the table.

Well, that's enough for this time. I've got many other games in my collection that I could sing praises over. For now, I just wanted to remind myself that if I want a great game to play, I need not look any further than my own closet.
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