Now, I had a fairly hard time picking just three games to feature here, and there’s entire categories that didn’t get represented. I’ll give a brief list of honorable mentions at the end of my post. But I’ve picked three games that have particular meaning to me, and that you might not be familiar with. Counting up to the top spot:
3) Heroes Unlimited.
I had to include a dice and paper RPG, and Heroes Unlimited may not be the best in any practical terms, but it’s the one that I have the fondest memories of playing, usually with my brother and his friends in one of their apartments. There’s something to be said for a game that allows you to become any of:
- An alien
- A bionic cyborg
- A robot
- A mutant
- Somebody who got super-human powers from a scientific experiment
- A wizard
- The lucky owner of a magic weapon or artifact
- Somebody who owns or operates a robotic exoskeleton
- A weapons collector
- An elite vehicles gearhead
- A mutated animal.
- A martial arts specialist
- A super-detective
And probably a handful of other character classes that I’ve forgotten off the top of my head! The details may be a bit fuzzy now, but I can’t forget those crazy interdimensional adventures we dreamed up, with brave but somewhat morally challenged heroes battling to stop the Master Programmer!
2) Inspector Parker
A fairly simple computer game in scope, but one that I’ve loved for years and keep going back to when I want to while away a few minutes training up my brain. I discovered it while looking through the online yahoo games site, and ended up buying a licence for the desktop version.
Though the storyline of the game is one of detectives stopping murders, the game-play doesn’t really have that much to do with the plot of usual detective stories. You start with a game board of ‘rooms’ in grid formation, and various mystery elements could be present in any of a set of rooms – suspects and murder weapons in the lower rooms of the house, for instance, victims and murders on the upper floors.
You’re also given a list of clues from the various witnesses, each comparing two elements together, in terms of being on the same row and the same column. (Even though one of the witnesses is going to end up as the killer and another as the victim, all of the clues are above suspicion.) Using those clues, you steadily eliminate possibilities until each element has been placed in the correct room. If you make a mistake, either trying to eliminate something from the correct room, or place it in the wrong room, there’s a clap of thunder and you’re penalized with extra time counted against you. If you take more than one or two penalties (depending on the level,) you lose and have to play the board over again with a whole new set of clues and answers.
And once you manage to place everything in its correct room, ‘forensics’ comes in and identifies which rooms have the right suspect, victim, murder weapon, motive, and so on, so that you can see the ‘right answer’ to the mystery.
As I say, it’s simple in concept, and never really takes much in terms of really creative or intuitive thinking – once you get the hang of Parker, you can play even the toughest levels slowly and carefully without making a mistake, looking at each clue in turn and seeing which possibilities you can eliminate from the board. If the knife is to the left of the rope, then you can take away any knifes that aren’t to the left of at least one rope, and any ropes that aren’t to the right of at least one knife, and so on. But it’s fun, and good practice in logical deduction, and challenging to try to beat your best time without making a mistake either in logic or in clicking on the wrong thing with your mouse.
Haggle is a more social game, an interesting trade on the relative value of currency versus information. I’ve never actually played it as an in-person party game, but I’ve worked it into books, and moderated several games (and supervised one game that someone else was moderating,) over at the Straight Dope Message board.
The game works like this: At the start, each player gets some trading counters, which can be nearly anything – maybe red, yellow, and orange suns, picnic tables, and bathing suits. (If it was a summer-themed game of Haggle, perhaps.) They also get a few numbered rules, and each rule tells you something about what the counters are worth, either on their own, or in combinations, or if they’re not combined with other counters.
So, none of the players has full information on how the game is scored, to begin with. And they’re free to make deals to trade information, as well as counters, as the game proceeds. Alvin might propose to Betty, “I’ll give you this red picnic table if you give me a look at what rule 8 says.” If Betty agrees with that, then she hasn’t lost anything obviously, but the information on rule 8 is a bit less scarce because there’s one more person who knows what it says.
At the end of the game, players can decide if they’re going to throw any of their counters away, (unless there’s a house rule against that,) and the moderator scores each player based on the full set of rules. It’s a really interesting way of looking at the way different people come up with strategies, and usually rewards the people who are putting effort into the game and proposing lots of different trades.
So, those are my three picks. Honorable mentions go out to:
- Tyzicha, three-player card game.
- Zork series.
- Star Trek, a final unity.
- Chess, as much as it frustrates me.
- Osmosis solitare.
- Quintet (card game for two)
- Dragons (board game)
- Sleuth (computer game)
- Space Quest 2