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Category: Solitaire Games

LET’S KEEP THIS SIMPLE, SHALL WE?

LET’S KEEP THIS SIMPLE, SHALL WE?

Too many layers, or 100% necessary? Let’s examine this together, Friend!

100: Well, howdy there, Friend! Let me ask you a question. Do you or a spouse struggle with Character Development Mania, known more commonly as CDM? Oh, I hear you, Friend. It’s not easy to admit it when you have a problem and need help. But you can trust me, I’m in sales!
This sounds serious. Tell me more about CDM! Continue from 230.
This doesn’t sound like a real thing. Continue from 350.
I’m mostly here for the fiction and game stuff, not the writing advice. Continue from 410.

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If I May Take A Moment of Your Time

If I May Take A Moment of Your Time

100

A failed literary outline.

Hello, Friend! Are you a writer who struggles with Scene Development Instability, sometimes called SDI? I know, it can be hard to talk about in public, but let me reassure you, Friend, that SDI can be treated!

Great, tell me more! Read on from 400.
I’m not actually a Writer! Read on from 300.
I only write short stories, so I’m immune to SDI. Read on from 200.

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Take Advantage of the Thanksgiving Sale at Dark City Games

Take Advantage of the Thanksgiving Sale at Dark City Games

Dark CIty Games

If you’ve been paying attention, you know we’re big fans of solo role playing games here at Black Gate. Whenever someone asks me for a superior modern example, I point them without hesitation to Dark City Games.

George Dew and his talented team of writers and artists at Dark City Games have been producing high quality solitaire fantasy and science fiction games for nearly two decades. They started with programmed adventures in the mold of The Fantasy Trip classics like Death Test, and soon graduated to much more sophisticated fare. Their games include ambitious fantasy epics likes The Island of Lost Spells (which I reviewed as Todd McAulty in Black Gate 10), and The Sewers of Redpoint, exciting SF fare like Void Station 57 and At Empire’s End, a line of Untamed West western adventures, and even tactical wargames set in WWII. Howard Andrew Jones took a fond look at their early catalog back in 2008, and we even published a free Dark City sample adventure titled S.O.S. in 2010.

That’s why I was so excited to see they have a Thanksgiving Sale. Every game in stock is discounted to $10. I ordered four — the SF horror title Into Chaos, dark fantasy Punisher’s Keep, Battle of the Bulge, first in their Combat Boots series of tactical wargames, and the SF mystery tale The Dark Star Incident.

Whether you’re a new gamer curious about role playing who wants to dip your toe in at your own pace, an experienced player looking for a real challenge, or just someone looking for a great bargain, Dark City has a game for you. Have a look at their catalog here, and try a game or two for just ten bucks each. And tell them Black Gate sent you!

Rebuild Civilization on a Savage and Alien Earth in Midnight Legion from Studio 9

Rebuild Civilization on a Savage and Alien Earth in Midnight Legion from Studio 9

Midnight Legion Box Set-small Midnight Legion Box Set back-small

Midnight Legion box set from Studio 9 (2016). Art by C. Aaron Kreader.

It’s been a busy year, between changing jobs in April, managing a fledging writing career as Todd McAulty, running Black Gate, and coping with a pandemic. I don’t get to read as much as I used to, and I definitely don’t get to game as much. I especially regret not having the chance to dig into some of the new generation of solo RPGs, like Four Against Darkness and Into the Dungeon.

But I did spend a few shekels to try Midnight Legion, a very promising post apocalyptic solo gamebook series with a strong Metamorphosis Alpha vibe. Created by writer Aaron J. Emmel and artist C. Aaron Kreader and published by Evanston, Illinois-based Studio 9, Midnight Legion is a three-book series featuring an amnesiac android who awakens on a vastly changed Earth peopled with strange creatures and deadly mutant plants, and must piece together the clues to his original mission. You get everything you need to start in the intro Midnight Legion box set, published in 2016 with this description on the back:

You are an elite, android agent of an ancient, clandestine group who is forced awake after hundreds of years of stasis.Your memory is gone, and you can’t recall your purpose.You will need to solve puzzles and choose whether to use combat, stealth, or sixth sense and diplomacy to unlock your mission and the secrets of the world you knew.

The Midnight Legion is an interactive story where player(s) choose how to respond to what happens next. Created for solo play, with a 2-player option, this three book game series promises hours of gaming. Starting with Book 1: Operation Deep Sleep, everything you need to begin is contained in this boxed set.

The second gamebook, The World Reborn followed in 2017, and the final volume Portal of Life in 2019. Together they form an ambitious and compelling science fiction adventure that I’m anxious to dig into.

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Survive in a Post Apocalyptic World: Posthuman Saga by Mighty Boards

Survive in a Post Apocalyptic World: Posthuman Saga by Mighty Boards

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Posthuman Saga by Mighty Boards

I miss walking the crowded aisles at Gen Con. In fact, these days I wonder if we’ll ever see something like the vast Exhibit Hall of Gen Con ever again. Hundreds and hundreds of vendors proudly displaying wares, and tens of thousands of eager gamers, all crammed into a vast indoor space bigger than a football stadium. And I do mean crammed — sometimes those narrow aisles were so packed you could barely move.

Just the thought of that makes my skin crawl these days. Talk about a potential pandemic superspreader event. You could take out an entire generation of gamers in 72 hours. Yiiiii.

Like all major social gatherings this year, Gen Con 2020 was canceled. But that’s okay. Truth be told, I’m still processing the hundreds of photos I took as I wandered the Hall in awe the year before. The impossibly large Gen Con Exhibit Hall is something every gamer should experience at least once, if only to get a sense of the vast scale and enormous creative energy in our hobby. It’s been fourteen months, and I’m still a little overwhelmed by the experience.

I’ve slowly been processing it all by writing about the games that most impressed me, like Alien: The Roleplaying Game, The City of Kings, Escape the Dark Castle, and Heroes of Land, Air & Sea. And now we come at last to one of the most visually impressive titles on my list, Posthuman Saga by Mighty Boards, which throws players into a beautifully designed and adventure-filled post apocalyptic world.

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Vintage Bits: Robert Clardy, Synergistic Software, and the Birth of the Personal Home Computer Role Playing Game

Vintage Bits: Robert Clardy, Synergistic Software, and the Birth of the Personal Home Computer Role Playing Game

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In 1978 Robert Clardy released his first computer game, Dungeon Campaign, for the Apple II. Dungeon Campaign, and Don Worth’s beneath Apple Manor, are widely regarded as the very first personal computer role playing games. While greatly inspired by pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons, there were no proven concepts or templates to work from, and it was very much a trial and error effort to figure out what features and elements would work, and not least what was achievable with the limited technology at the time. Today these pioneering games might seem extremely primitive and somewhat quirky, especially from what we now perceive as the standard template in computerized versions of role playing games, but at the time they were truly innovative.

In the mid-’70s computers, how they were used, and who had access to them, started to significantly change. The landscape was starting to move away from mainframes, which took up entire rooms or even floors, to hobby kits that with the right skillset could be turned into a more or less useful (or useless) device, to an environment where non-technical users could buy an off the shelf personal computer powerful enough to run somewhat sophisticated software.

This change in computing can very much be credited to the 1977 Personal Computer trifecta, the year we tend to refer to as the birth year of the personal computer as we know it. It was the year Commodore, Apple and Tandy Radio Shack all released their own take on accessible personal computers. These machines were not only powerful enough to be useful, they were also mass-produced and marketed to the average consumer, who frequently lacked the technical skillset earlier machines required.

The advent of computer role playing games, especially on mainframes and later personal computers, has its roots in the remarkable human nature to innovate – making machines do something they were never intended for. People with access to these mysterious computer colossuses quickly saw the potential for more than just boring analytics and data-crunching.

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From Buffalo Castle to Choose Your Own Adventure: The Evolution of Solitaire Board Games

From Buffalo Castle to Choose Your Own Adventure: The Evolution of Solitaire Board Games

Buffalo Castle Rick Loomis-small Death Test The Fantasy Trip-small Wizards and Warriors Jeffrey Dillow-small

I’m old enough to remember when Choose Your Own Adventure books first appeared in bookstores and supermarkets in the late 70s and early 80s, and what a sensation they created.

I remember thinking how simplistic they were, especially compared to the more sophisticated solitaire fare already available in gaming stores at the time. Like Rick Loomis’ groundbreaking Buffalo Castle (Flying Buffalo, 1976), the first solo adventure for Tunnels & Trolls (and considered by some to be the first published adventure gamebook, period); Steve Jackson’s bestselling Death Test for The Fantasy Trip (Metagaming, 1978); and especially Jeffrey C. Dillow’s brilliant collection of early solo adventures, Wizards and Warriors (Prentice Hall, 1982), which I played to death and passed around repeatedly to my gaming group.

But there was something powerfully appealing in the very simplicity of Choose Your Own Adventure titles, and it didn’t take long for me to become a convert. I wasn’t the only one. Bantam published its first Choose Your Own Adventure book, The Cave of Time by creator Edward Packard, in 1979, and the series quickly surpassed role playing in popularity, selling more than 250 million copies. That’s more — far more — than virtually any RPG or fantasy or series in history. (For comparison, The Lord of the Rings has sold 150 million copies over the past 70 years, and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones novels a scant 90 million. Only J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, at 500 million, offer real competition). Bantam produced 184 titles in the series between 1979 and 1998.

Role Playing has evolved and expanded enormously since the 70s. You can’t say the same of Choose Your Own Adventure… but the franchise isn’t as dead as you might think. Most interesting to serious games is a pair of cooperative adventure board games released by Z-Man Games that capture the spirit of the CToA line, and take it in some intriguing new directions.

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The Priceless Treasures of the Barbarian Prince

The Priceless Treasures of the Barbarian Prince

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A complete set of Dwarfstar games. Probably worth more than my house.

I enjoyed Sean McLachlan’s Black Gate post last month, Wargaming with my Twelve-Year-Old. Sean and his son played Outpost Gamma, a 1981 science fiction board game of man-to-man combat on a distant colony world. You don’t see a lot of coverage of early-80s science fiction microgames these days, so I appreciated being able to share the fun.

Outpost Gamma was published by Heritage Models in 1981, under their celebrated Dwarfstar imprint. Dwarfstar, like Metagaming, Steve Jackson, and Task Force Games, produced a rich catalog of microgames aimed at younger players. Well, budget-conscious players anyway. Metagaming, who pioneered the concept of the microgame with their first release, Steve Jackson’s runaway hit Ogre, charged $2.95 for a two-color game in a small baggie. Dwarfstar did away with the baggie and upgraded to a slim box, added full color, and charged a lordly $3.95.

As a business, the Dwarfstar line wasn’t a success. Unlike Metagaming and Task Force, who released dozens of titles over the years, they produced only eight games between 1981-82. But from a creative perspective, they were a magnificent hit. Their titles included Arnold Hendrick’s classic Demonlord, simulating the desperate struggle against the Demon Empire, Lewis Pulsipher’s Dragon Rage, a game of giant monsters attacking a walled medieval city, Dennis Sustare’s Star Smuggler, a marvelous solitaire programmed adventure following the adventures of a star trader on the frontier, and the peak achievement of Western Civilization, Arnold Hendrick’s Barbarian Prince, a solitaire game of heroic action in a forgotten age of sorcery.

Superbly well-designed as they were, Dwarfstar games had one great weakness: they weren’t built to last. Paper-thin boxes and flimsy components helped keep the cost down, but did nothing for their longevity. More than 35 years later these eight games have a nearly mythical reputation among collectors, but there aren’t a lot of copies to be had. And you know what that means: the scarce copies still in good condition are very, very expensive.

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Video Game Review: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures

Video Game Review: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures

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I’ve been hankering for some old school pen and paper adventuring lately, but not having a gaming group here in Madrid (or indeed any gaming group for a few decades now), I did what old school gamers always used to do when they found themselves all on their lonesome — I played some solo Tunnels & Trolls adventures.

But I did it with a modern twist. I played Tunnels & Trolls Adventures, a free app by MetaArcade. The app takes you through various classic adventures such as Sewers of Oblivion and Buffalo Castle and runs very smoothly. It’s been decades since I’ve played T&T, so I read all the intro material, which explained the game quickly and concisely and had me playing within minutes.

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Lock ‘n Load Tactical: Heroes of Normandy

Lock ‘n Load Tactical: Heroes of Normandy

Heroes of Normandy-smallLock ‘n Load Tactical: Heroes of Normandy was one of my favorite purchases last year. I loved it so much that I made sure it was something I played on my birthday (my son enjoyed it too).

I’ve held off reviewing the game, though, because shortly after it arrived on my doorstep last year it went out of print. With a reprint due at the end of the first quarter of 2017, likely in March, and because those who place pre-orders receive a substantial discount, I thought it high time to alert Black Gate readers to the game, and the entire Lock ‘n Load Tactical series. (If this little intro is enough to convince you the game’s worth a look, feel free to skip all my prose and drop right down to the end where there’s a link to order a demo copy of the game.)

Overview

Lock ‘n Load Tactical is a revision and representation of Mark Walker’s excellent Lock ‘n Load system. The new publisher has clarified, re-organized, and revised the rules, printed them in full color with additional examples, and eliminated the need for purchases of unrelated games to play certain settings. For example, you might once have needed to own several modules before you could play some of the Lock ‘n Load World War II games. That’s no longer necessary — Lock n’ Load Tactical: Heroes of Normandy is complete unto itself.

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