I’ve been working on little side projects lately, keeping myself busy and also getting back into Warhammer Fantasy Battles (spoiler: probably best game ever) so I kinda neglected writing a super long post for this week. I have noticed that my posts are getting longer as of late, and because of this the post frequency keeps on dropping. I might need to train myself to break up long articles into parts, or at the very least exercise some brevity.
I was trying to put together something mildly interesting on short notice, but I figured I could probably get away with another reader participation thread.
What is the best game you have ever played and why? This does not have to be about video games. We already had that discussion back in 2009, though it would be interesting to see if and how everyone’s favorite games have changed.
This time however, lets include games from the analog realm as well: things like board games, card games (both collectible and not), tabletop battle/skirmish games, pen and paper RPG’s and anything else you can think of. If it’s considered a game, it belongs in this thread.
For me, not much has changed since 2009. Morrowind remains one of my all time favorite games more or less precisely because of how broken but at the same un-breakable it is. There is something to be said about systems that can cope with excessive min-maxing and emergent player behavior. Morrowind does it very gracefully. You can easily beat it in under five minutes by abusing the Alchemy and magic systems and I love it for that. I adore the fact that the developers realized players may decide to kill the most important end-game quest giver in the game and just rolled with it. If you murder the living-god Vivec, he drops crucial McGuffin needed to defeat the end boss, allowing you to skip almost entire main quest chain. Not that you should, because it is actually really good (at least compared to the later Elder Scroll games) but you can.
In Morrowind you never feel constrained by the game mechanics. If you see a door, you can pick it’s lock and see what is behind it. If you see a wall, you can jump or levitate over it. If you see an impossibly tall structure, you can climb it. Bethesda’s later games like Oblivion and Skyrim are full of plot driven doors, “essential” NPC’s and invisible walls that exist to railroad the player and prevent him from breaking major quest lines. Morrowind on the other never says “no” to you. It will happily break it’s own main quest chain if it means it does not have to break your immersion.
I don’t usually replay my single-player games. Once I beat them, I uninstall them to make space for new games and almost never revisit them again. Single player titles scarcely ever provide enough fresh content on subsequent playthroughs to warrant sitting through the rest. Even titles with “moral choice” systems and multiple endings typically provide only a singular plot thread and some optional quests, all of which can be completed on your first playthrough. Your behavior, conduct and choices typically have have very little meaning and the ending you get depends on a button press or dialog menu choice at the very end of playable content. Morrowind on the other hand has factions whose quest lines directly interfere with each other. For example, you can’t complete Warriors Guild quest line without killing important quest givers from the Thieves Guild and vice versa. It is designed so that it is impossible to see all of the content on a single play through. As a result it is extremely repayable. I still have not seen the content for all the different factions. Despite having beaten the game many times, it keeps drawing me back. Every now and again I install it from scratch and start a brand new character… And almost invariably I stumble upon new content I have never seen before within an hour or so. It’s quite amazing really… This sort of repliability in a single player game something quickly fading from mainstream gaming. With production budgets being blown out of proportion, and real actors being hired to do voice acting and mocap work, developers are growing increasingly more terrified at the thought a player could skip even the tiniest bit of the content.
When it comes to board games, I think Talisman would be way up there. I think I mentioned it before, but it might have been my gateway drug into pen and paper role playing. At the very surface it is a fairly simple board game that is only a tad bit more complex than say Monopoly. It’s rules can be explained to a new player with no RPG experience in just a few minutes. But while it is systemically trivial to grasp it does have very strong role-playing components. Each player picks a character who gains experience, items, gold and companions throughout the game. All the standard RPG and Fatnasy tropes are there, just scaled down to make them accessible to complete nebies. For seasoned role players it offers a fun diversion – a mechanical, simple and fun system that requires almost no thinking. For non-role players it offers a little preview of all that pen and paper RPG’s can offer. It makes people care about their characters and it is not uncommon to see emergent role-playing from non-role-players. For example, I’ve seen a player refuse to double-cross an ally because he was playing a good aligned priest and it did not seem like something his character would do.
You probably read my Hearthstone review where I mentioned Middle Earth: The Wizards CCG. That was honestly my all time favorite card game. It was wonderfully complex and unconventional. It offered the players about three different win conditions and various possible ways to build a good deck. But first and foremost it felt more like an RPG than a card duel. The object of the game was to lead a group of adventures on a quest to recruit new heroes, gather magical artifacts and persuade different Middle Earth factions to join their cause. It was smart, engaging and very rewarding. And it was using Tolkien lore long before Peter Jackson made them popular via his movies. It’s a pity it got discontinued years ago and cards for it are now rather hard to come by.
I of course mentioned Warhammer at the beginning of this post. For me Warhammer Fantasy Battles is still one of the most fun tabletop games you can play. I dabbled in Warhammer 40k, Battletech and even the Games Workshop LOTR game, but nothing beats the massed rank and file combat of WFB. As far as I’m concerned the 8th edition of the game is damn near perfect. The new hard cover Army Books are absolutely lovely and I really like their new all-plastic miniature range. I miss the the metal minis, but I’m glad they got rid of the “failcast” range because the quality was absolutely terrible.
There are rumors that the 9th edition of the game is due to be released later this year, and that it will introduce a lot of major changes. Supposedly the game is not selling as well as 40k and that makes me a bit concerned. Warhammer Fantasy has been a constant in my life for many years now. I’ve been in and out of the hobby many times, but it was always there in the background, and I always kept up with the news, and releases. The fact they might be looking to turn the game inside out in a last ditch effort to make it profitable is kinda scary. My gaming group is bracing for the impact, and we vowed that if the 9th edition sucks, we’ll just keep playing the 8th forever. Then again, the 9th edition changes are supposed to re-vitalize the game and make it more accessible and affordable for the newbies. So perhaps it won’t be so bad.
What about you? What are some of your favorite games and distractions? Let me know in the comments?