Started a new contract at Pipeworks this week, which hopefully will translate into more game time in the evenings, and less frantic scrambling for work.
Games of note this week:
1 - Battle Nations
2 - Legend of Grimrock
3 - Dungeons of Dredmor
4 - Mount & Blade
5 - Hero Mages
This one was a nice surprise - a quick-action tactical game featuring asymmetrical teams of fantasy characters. It's been around on the web for a while at HeroMages, but I hadn't encountered it before. It feels very much like an online version of Descent, which is a pretty decent pedigree. Most characters have 6 HP, everyone moves 5 spaces per turn. You can attack once, or move a second time. In addition all characters have special abilities, which are fueled by cards.
Each team has exactly 1 mage - a character who casts magic spells. The cards are your available spells, and you can cast up to 3 mana worth of spells each turn. The different mage types are interesting - summoners can have unlimited creatures on the board, sorcerers do extra damage with attack spells, combat mages have excellent regular attack & defense, as well as a teleport ability. You can also discard cards to fuel the abilities of your other characters - this is something you'll want to do sparingly at the beginning of the game, since spells are so powerful. But when your mage dies (mages are the most powerful characters, so they tend to be targeted first) you can still use your cards to kick some ass. My favorite team thus far uses a bard and a knight - the knight has only 2 attack dice, but can attack twice a turn. The Bard gives all characters +1 attack dice - which means my knight attacks 6 times a turn!
The game is not easy by any means - the default 1 minute turn limit is incredibly harsh when you are trying to learn the spells, and a few unlucky rolls can kill you in seconds. But it has an elegance to it which makes it easy to recommend. PC version preferred.
Mount & Blade: Warband
Every so often I get an itch to play more Mount & Blade (note - the title is still impossible to express clearly to anyone through speech - it is usually heard as "Mountain Blade" or worse.) and this past week I had a good bender. Learning to fight on a horse is just as invigorating the 10th time as it is the first time - simply feeling the rhythm of the gait as your ride is a really immersive experience. I play so many games in windows - because I need to switch back and forth between my game & skype, e-mail, and so forth - it's great to play a game that I really lose myself in.
Dungeons of Dredmor
After writing my 5th guide for this game, I had a few new character builds to explore. The upcoming DLC (less than a month away!) makes me want to get another victory or two under my belt before things change again. This game is, thus far, the deal of the decade for $5.
Legend of Grimrock
I had two parties of adventurers running the mountain, but both started having significant difficult at the lower levels. Rather, certain characters were having significant difficulty, so I decided to make a new party using only the character builds which were working. That means a bit more Staff Mastery + Earth Skill on my mage, and a bare-knuckle Minotaur in the front row. I finally got this new party down to the level where I've abandoned my past parties, so I'm suddenly running new areas again - and the magic is totally back.
My #1 game this week has been a Farmville-decendent? Indeed it has. Battle Nations is the new gold standard for this type of game - it has well-integrated player interaction, good writing, and rock-solid mechanics which let people really expand their playstyles.
Here's the economy in a nutshell - you have 5 population for each character level. You house that population in any of several buildings which produce gold at regular intervals. There are some interesting strategic choices about gold/min/pop depending on your housing choices, but you can expect to make about 200 gold/pop each day.
You put some of that population into resources. New resource types are added every few levels, so you start with just quarries, then expand to lumber, metal, oil, coal, and more. It takes ~3 population to extract each resource, plus 1 or 2 population to run the trucks which bring it back to your depot. You can "turn off" each quarry, which stops collection on that resource and gives you back all but 1 of your population - which lets you put more people where you need them.
You put the rest of your population into experience-production, which mostly means farming. There are lots of "farm" type objects, including farms, fields, bakeries, fast food, ranches, distilleries, orchards, and lots more. These each take a certain amount of gold, and transform it into more gold + XP over a set period of time. Like quarries, these require 3 or 4 population each, and you can "turn off" each one to shift your focus to where you need it.
So far so good. But the army interactions are where Battle Nations really shines. Build an army using gold (and later metal, oil...) and send it into battle against foes. Each victory earns XP for your units, which make them stronger. You also earn gold for yourself - usually a lot more gold than you are earning via your houses! Defeated units can be re-purchased (healed) for half cost, so you really want to keep your guys alive. You can also tie-up units, which means you need to field a reasonably sized army to keep up with all your goals.