In order to win this mission, you have to satisfy several victory conditions. Among them is the following:
“At least one active US soldier is in any hex of the heights in the southeast corner of the map (defined by the elevation change running from Q-19 to Y-13) from which he can see all the road hexes on the map.”
I may or may not have been alive in 1983, and if I was, I was certainly far too young to play wargames. But it seems to me that Ambush! is an absolute masterpiece of game design for that era. Computer wargames were ugly and obtuse; board wargames needed to be played with an in-person friend equally as nerdy as you… and were also obtuse. Ambush! is played solo, and it’s incredibly streamlined. Every feature designers Eric Lee Smith and John Butterfield chose to include serves a purpose.
For a while, I went through an “acquire solitaire board games” phase. This phase was motivated by the fear that, someday, an apocalypse might take out the electrical grid, and all my friends would die. Somehow, I alone would manage to survive in this nightmare world, along with my board game collection. That apocalypse may or may not come, but in the meantime, I’ve hoarded stacks of solitaire games, and I want to play them.
One of these is Ambush!, which I tried once, years ago, quickly realized I was Doing It Wrong, and flipped the table. By the way, did you know that you’re probably Doing It Wrong? Not just romantically and career-wise, but also when it comes to board games. Many years of my own personal research have determined that people simply can’t remember board game rules.
“But Tony!” you splutter. “I’m a hardcore nerd! My life’s passion is board games! I have a poster of Vlaada Chvatil taped to my bedroom ceiling!”
When do you give yourself permission to look up a hint while playing an adventure game? You can’t do it each time a difficult puzzle gets in your way, because you’ll deprive yourself of the endorphin rush when you come back the next morning and solve that doozy on your own. Puzzles are weird that way. Even when you put them down, something in your brain keeps doing the work.
But you also can’t never look up a hint, unless the game just “clicks” with you, like Myst did for me in college, when I finished it over the course of a single day, hint-free. That’s the only time I’ve ever done that, and yes, I am bragging about it.
I always knew I had these tendencies. It’s why I declared Invisible, Inc. the best game of 2015. Times are tough for people like me. If you ask Bruce Geryk, wargaming expert, for a computer wargame recommendation, he’ll ask to get back to you later. There aren’t any good computer wargames, because computer wargames are in the business of concealing information. (The discussion of why they do this is for another time, but it’s either because of “immersion,” “giving the computer a fighting chance by making the rules not-human-readable,” or both.)
In Brogue, gold means nothing. There are no shops. Gold has no weight and no value. And yet gold is in there. It’s in there because, for the 99.99999% of Brogue players who will never win the game, and that includes me, the amount of gold you have when you die is the sole determinant of what your final score will be, and where your nameless, classless, raceless character will end up on the high score list.
When the game starts, create a ranger character — it’s the most versatile class. Then proceed to the general store to stock up on supplies. Get plenty of healing potions and as many +1 arrows as you can carry.
It’s okay that you’re doing this.
In stage one of the pirate dungeon, the skeletons have a standard attack pattern. If you memorize it, you can time your attacks so that you hit them when they’re most vulnerable. You’ve already applied to a job today, so this is totally, totally, fine. Really. Once you reach level 2, it’s important to add points to agility because that’s going to make your attacks hit more often.
Only buy equipment from Nylar the Elf — he has the lowest prices. Look, you have to allow yourself to relax and have fun once in a while.
The Alien film series never got a good video game, unless you count Alien Vs. Santa Claus Vs. Bartman Vs. Punky Brewster, which I don’t. Sega (and, I guess, a developer (?)) aim to change that with Alien: Isolation, which follows Ripley’s daughter (?) whom we never knew existed before (?) as she attempts to find out what happened to Ripley (?). Honestly I’m about 90 minutes in and I’m not sure what happened or is happening, and I’m a huge fan of the first two movies. There’s no manual, and the opening cutscenes don’t make it clear, so maybe I was supposed to get the backstory from reading reviews? I haven’t dug deep into any Alien: Isolation reviews because, like Tom, I try to avoid reviews for things I know I want to experience. (Tom plugs his ears, closes his eyes, and chants “I can’t hear you I can’t hear you” during movie trailers! Did you know that? Fun Tom fact! But did you also know that if YOU don’t do that, you’re cheating yourself out of experiencing art the way it was meant to be experienced? It’s true! Never watch movie trailers, and you should probably avoid game trailers too!)
Anyway, the point is, obviously WE know what the alien is, but I don’t know whether the protagonist knows what it is. She should, right? Because it’s been 15 years (?) since her mom tangled with the beast, and don’t they have e-mail in the future? Or are they still on microfiche? This is a very ’70s future, after all. It seems like the alien is a big mystery to her. Maybe I’m supposed to have watched Alien right before playing this game. I’m not asking for MORE exposition per se — there’s plenty — just BETTER exposition. I’m a writer, hire me for the sequel.
The game is stylish and creepy and so far I’m digging it. I just give the exposition zero stars. I’m not sure what that works out to on Metacritic, but I know it’s under 50%.
This week, I return to the Playboy Mansion in an attempt to play board games with attractive women and defeat the nefarious Dick Rosenzweig. I am successful at neither pursuit. Plus: ta-tas! Seriously! They’re unsheathed, and they’re spectacular.
It’s been a hot week here in Los Angeles. Of course, I’m talking about the time I’ve spent at the Playboy Mansion. This shameless cash-in was developed by Cyberlore (!!), who also made Majesty. Unlike Majesty, Playboy: The Mansion combines America’s two favorite things: The Sims and titties. I guess that’s three favorite things? Anyway, let’s see if this game holds up. One thing’s for sure — it takes place on a 2D map, so it can’t be worse than Planetary Annihilation!
For the first time, I’m returning to a game for another Let’s Play. And it’s the one that started it all: Kingdom: The Far Reaches. This capricious fantasy murder simulator has just enough knuckleheaded charm to keep me coming back. It’s like a turn-based Dragon’s Lair, which is no surprise, since Rick Dyer worked on both games. And, like Dragon’s Lair, it made short work of me yet again. I said a lot of bad words in the process.
In the late ’90s, I saw Spycraft littering more bargain bins than there are humans in the United States. And yet, today it’s regarded as a pretty solid adventure game that tried to do a lot of things, and was good at most of them. Plus it’s got tons of FMV, which no ’90s game was good at. Add those ingredients together and you’ve got a recipe for what I hoped would be a fun Quarter to Three Let’s Play. Was I right? Click that big fat “Play” button and find out.