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  1. I do agree that quality control wasn't great in the nineties, but even for the time, the original released version of Emperor of the Fading Suns(EoFS) was incredibly buggy and unfinished : I never played a game released in a worst state apart from Descent to Undermountain and Pool of Radiance : Ruins of Myth Drannor. Not every game in the nineties suffered from savegame corruption ! Fortunately, it's definitely in much better shape now, thanks to the hard work by fans of the game, and those who had a bad experience the first time around should definitely revisit it. I had a bit of a retro space 4X craving recently and replayed EoFS along with MoO1 and MoO2 : of the three, I must admit I enjoyed MoO1 the most, because it is so tightly designed and a good singleplayer challenge, and I enjoyed MoO2 the least, because I thought it was a bloated sequel with too much pointless micromanagement. EoFS has some extremely strong points that you summarized very well, but the amount of micromanagement and the dumbness of the AI makes it an inferior singleplayer experience to MoO1 in my opinion. It's still an impressive game, and I'm sure it would be a brilliant multiplayer experience with very commited players.
  2. Episode 417: 2017 in Review

    It would be great if posters gave their own personal strategy gaming highlights of 2017 : there are so many games around that it's easy to miss a good one ! Favorite strategy game released in 2017 The Operational Art of War IV. I only dabbled a bit in the first one when I was a kid. The fourth one isn't a huge leap forward, but it does have an amazing amount of scenarios, more refined rules and an improved interface. I didn't dare dip in the big scenarios yet, but I enjoyed all the small ones I've tried. I found the game fairly easy to pick up and play : you don't need to know every nook and cranny of the ruleset to have fun. The game is quite detailed in some areas, like the combat mechanics, and surprisingly simplistic in others : there is no real chain of command for example. Still, it's a great traditional wargame with a very flexible engine. It doesn't require too much computing power either, which is a huge plus in my book. Favorite strategy game discovered in 2017 John Tiller's Campaign Series. It's a compilation of WW2 platoon-based wargames that came out in the late nineties : East Front, West Front and Rising Sun. The rules are inspired by tabletop wargames of the seventies and are quite simplistic, with no modelling of suppression fire for example. The amount of content is mind-boggling : randomized and linked campaigns, hundreds of scenarios of all level of complexity, huge database of units and OOBs... Depending on the scenario or the campaign, you can control a battalion, a regiment or even a corp. I don't really enjoy the higher levels of command, because I think the amount of units gets out of control, especially with all those HQ and transport units, but I'm having a blast with the battalion level scenarios and campaigns. Favorite strategy game rediscovered in 2017 VGA Civil War is a old shareware game of the nineties : I enjoyed it a lot as a kid and I revisited it this year. It's a beer-and-pretzel WEGO grand strategy game that manages to be simple while taking into account a lot of factors : rail movement, blockades, supply, leadership, fortifications, recruitment, etc. The whole war can be finished in 30 minutes, and they are a lot of options to add replayability. The graphics are simple but very clear and the keyboard interface is pretty convenient. Last but not least, the game is legally available for free at
  3. Episode 417: 2017 in Review

    Thanks for the show ! I found the section on Paradox very interesting. Paradox continuous DLC policy seems like a good way to improve the game and keep it fresh for hardcore gamers while paying the bills, but it does have a few potential problems : - The "content" DLCs increase the risks of feature bloat and of messy game design (with new mechanics that don't mix very well with the old ones), since they have to add features significant enough to attract buyers without making them mandatory so that base game can still be playable. - It makes the game harder to document : it's a bit like having to document a bleeding edge linux distribution, with features changing all the time. Fortunately for Paradox, the community is dedicated enough to do that job ! - Patches created with specific DLCs in mind can mess up the balance of the game for people who don't have these DLCs and lead to player fragmentation, with players staying on older patches. Paradox did a excellent job if the "DLC fatigue" for CK2 is only getting serious now and if EUIV is still going strong. I wouldn't know myself, since I haven't played them since 2015 : I actually prefer Paradox older games, especially For the Glory and Darkest Hour, the enhanced versions of EU2 and HoI2.
  4. Thaquoth, thank you very much for bringing up PCem. My PC isn't powerful enough to achieve Pentium level speed with it, but it seems brilliant for those Win 95 games that don't work properly with Wine or VMware/Virtualbox/VirtualPC : great recommendation !
  5. I would have a hard time picking my favorite between Warlords 2 Deluxe (W2D) and Warlords 3 : Darklord Rising (W3DR). W3DR is definitely deeper : the combat system is more intricate thanks to the new unit abilities and your heroes are more detailed. It also provides a lot of multiplayer options and it's the one I play the most with friends. But I do play more W2D overall : it works perfectly on my android tablet (thanks to magic dosbox) and it's simplicity means you can fire it up every now and then without having forgotten most of the rules.
  6. Well, they only talked about games they have actually played, which can explain why they left out a few worthy games. I'm sure Bruce Geryk would have mentioned TAO if he was in the episode : he seems to be a big fan of the series.
  7. As far as I know, Harvest Moon was released in 1996 for the SNES. I didn't enjoy it myself (I'm more of a SimFarm guy), but it's a very original game that is regarded as a classic by many : definitely worthy of a Three Moves Ahead episode. I'm not that surprised they left Emperor of the Fading Suns out : it is a 1996 game according to Mobygames, which was probably their primary source along with Wikipedia for checking the dates. It's hard to know when it was actually released. The game manual is copyright 1996, but the original webpage is copyrighted 1997 and it wasn't reviewed until 1997, so it was maybe finished at the tail end of 1996, but not actually released until 1997. Emperor of the Fading Suns was actually one of my biggest gaming disappointments. At first, I thought my hard-earned summer money was well spent : the lore was superb (it made me buy the tabletop RPG a few years later), the amount of depth seemed amazing and the political dimension was mouth-watering. But I soon became disillusioned by the huge bugs (random freeze, disappearing cursor, save game corruption, etc.), unfinished features (church) and terrible AI. Even unpatched Birthright gave me much less trouble. Apparently, there are quite a few community-made patchs that improve the game a lot : you definitely made me want to give it another try ! When you revisit an old game thanks to GOG or community websites, you pretty much have the best version of the game, and you don't have to put up with the sometimes poor state of the original release : it can change a lot the way you feel about a game ! In 1997 France, very few people had Internet, so I relied on the CDs bundled with computer magazines to find a patch for a game. This means that you could stay with an unpatched game for quite a while, especially if it wasn't a mainstream game, or even never experience the fully patched game. That doesn't matter too much when the game is pretty polished on day one, like Age of Empires, Gettysburg or Warlords III, but it is a different story with a game like Fallout, which was very buggy at release (the infamous character duplication bug !), or East Front, which improved a lot through patches. I love the Matrix release version of East Front, but if I only had unpatched East Front, I probably would have got bored of the game very quickly !
  8. Definitely a very special game ! The closest modern equivalent would probably be Sovereignty : Crown of Kings. Unfortunately, I doubt a modern gamer would enjoy Birthright, especially if he isn't familiar with AD&D : the interface isn't the easiest to use, the micromanagement can be quite heavy and, even with the latest patches, the game is pretty buggy !
  9. Playing these games Some of the games are available on or steam : they should work on the latest versions of Windows, sometimes with a little tweaking, especially if you use Windows 10. Other games have modern remakes and updates, like Seven Kingdoms, Close Combat or East Front. Some of those games (demo or complete game) and their manuals can be downloaded from the internet archive, and patches can be found at the patches scrolls website. Most of these games are made for Windows 95, but some of them still use DOS or windows 3.1 : Steel Panthers III runs fine in Dosbox and you can also play History of the World by installing WIndows 3.1 in Dosbox. If you are a linux user, wine can run some games : in my experience, Imperialism and Warlords III run fine without any tweaking. I managed to get Birthright and Gettysburg running too. A dedicated "retrostation" can be a fun way to use an old computer : you can go full retro with a Windows 95/98 computer, but a Windows XP machine can run most games listed here without any problem. Windows 7 can be a bit more fiddly. Short of building a dedicated "retrostation" , the most reliable solution is to set up a Windows 98 or Windows XP virtual machine with Virtual PC, Vmware Player or Virtual Box. You'll need to find a CD or an ISO of these operating systems though and check if you need to install extra drivers. In my experience, Windows 98 is much easier to set up with Wmware than with Virtual Box. You might be able to find fullly setup virtual machines made by fans if you look hard enough !
  10. Wargames It really was an extraordinary year for wargames, with a lot of diversity ! 20th century Close Combat 2 is definitely a classic, although I actually didn't play it that much : I should revisit it someday. As a tactical simulation, it has been surpassed by Combat Mission or Graviteam ; as a game, I'm not so sure. Matrix updated the game, but made some changes to the campaign structure. East Front from Talonsoft is a platoon scale WW2 tactical wargame, that owes more to the old boardgame Panzeblitz than to Steel Panthers. I discovered it this year : the turn sequence is much less rigid than in the Batteground series and, after getting used to the interface quirks and the absence of suppression fire, I'm having a blast. The interface makes the game look complicated that it really is ; the system is actually pretty easy to grasp. The random campaigns aren’t great, because of poor AI and haphazard placement of units, but most of the scenarios are very well designed and pretty nail-bitting. Now, to be honest, the original version of East Front is obsolete nowadays : I only tried out of « historical interest ». You’ll be better off getting the updated version that’s available with the John Tiller Campaign Series compilation from Matrix : the interface has been slightly updated, game has been patched, AI has been improved, new features have been added, there are a lot more scenarios along with great linked campaigns, and you also get the games West Front and Rising Sun. If you are not adverse to old-school wargame design, it’s a brilliant bargain that will keep you entertained for a very long time ! SSI published not only Pacific General and Panzer General II (both on GOG), but also Steel Panthers III (SPIIII). SPIII puts you in the role of a brigade commander, while you were a mere company commander in the previous games, and adds a very interesting command system that gives a more realistic feel to the battle. I prefer the low unit counts and the simplicity of the first Steel Panther ; however I haven't tried SPIII long enough to form a solid opinion on it. Atchung Spitfire ! from Avalon Hill is the sequel of Over the Reich. Basically the ancestor of the Ace Patrol series, it's a turn-based WW2 air combat and crew management game. I played it in the early 2000 and found it really addictive, if quite repetitive. Last but not least, the first episode of the Decisive Battles of WW2 series from SSG came out in 1997. I haven’t played it, but the series has a great reputation among « grognards ». 19th century I fully agree with all the praise given to Sid Meier’s Gettysburg. I’ve replayed it this year and the battles are as tense as ever ! Let's not forget Civil War Generals 2 (CWG2) though. CW2 is a very streamlined wargame that is sometimes described as a panzer general knock-off. Personally, I find it a deeper and much more satisfying experience than Panzer General ; you have to take care of the moral, cohesion and fatigue of your troups and the battles aren’t designed as time-limited puzzles. And the campaign are pretty great : like Panzer General, your performance influence the next battles and you have to manage your army carefully, but I find it much easier to recover from a defeat than in Panzer General, where you very quickly fall into a« death spiral» if you don’t have decisive victories. I only tried the Battleground games this year. They certainly aren’t very innovative : their design seem to be based on old SPI/Avalon Hill wargames from the seventies. I’m not overly fond of their turn sequence and the interface is definitely not up to the SSI games of the era, but I do enjoy them : they feel like playing a miniatures tabletop game on the computer, thanks to their wonderful isometric view. The AI seems very limited, but there is a interesting option, "Commander Control", that changes the feel of the game and makes it much more realistic (and also much more frustrating) : you give general orders to your commanders instead of moving all your units one by one. Matrix sells slightly updated versions of these games that are compatible with modern systems. Ancients The crew mentioned the Great Battles of History by Interactive Magic, available on nowadays. Other strategy games Capitalism Plus is a great update of the 1995 business sim : I even prefer it to the sequel ! Definitely a classic of the genre in my book, even if it can be a little bit dry and heavy on micromanagement at times.Available on Honorable mention to Entrepreneur from Stardock. I’m also very fond of the Microprose adaptation of Magic the Gathering. It has a pretty elaborate single-player campaign, where your character wanders around the land of Shannara : he fights monsters, trades spells or explores dungeons, slowly building his deck along the way. The amount of random encounters can be a bit grating and the AI is not the best, but the RPG element gives a unique flavor to the game. Still by far my favorite « card-based » computer strategy game, even if I'm not that fond of Magic (I much prefer the old Middle-Earth Collectible Card Game from I.C.E). Final Liberation: Warhammer Epic 40 000 from SSI is based on Games Workshop's universe and tabletop miniature ruleset : it's an entry-level tactical game where pure luck matter as much as skill. While the game itself isn't brilliant, the over the top FMV and great music make for a pleasant experience. Available from Avalon Hill released a nice adaptation of the board game History of the World. I still play this one the odd time ! There were quite a few soccer management games this year. The final version of Championship Manager 2 : Championship Manager 97/98 (CM 97/98). Contrary to most soccer management games of the era, CM 97/98 focused more on the tactics than on the business aspects and had a very detailed database of players for the time. Even if the match engine is very simplistic compared to the new Football Managers, I find the game more enjoyable, because I can experience the ebb and flow of a soccer coach career in a few hours ! I do slightly prefer CM 01/02, which has a similar but more refined engine and a even more extensive database. Premier Manager 97. The game had great production values and its 3D match engine was impressive for the time. The game wasn't very realistic and very easy due to overpowered training, but it was a nice introduction to soccer management games. I'd rate it higher than Fia soccer manager that came out the same year. On the Ball/Anstoss 2. I discovered that one fairly recently. I think it's a classic ! It covers the whole range of club management, from sponsoring to stadium construction to training. The psychological aspect is much more refined than CM : you actually have to take care of your players morale and manage their occasional tantrums. The tactical system is simple but much more transparent than CM.
  11. Grand strategy and 4X Imperium Galactica is an interesting story-driven space 4X with great productions values for the time. Low replay value, but the campaign is quite nice. Imperialism definitely has some great ideas : its avoids the end-game micromanagement nightmare of most games of the genre and the economic model forces the player to make tough decisions. But I must admit that I never became as addicted to it as I still am to Civilization I, Europa Universalis II or Medieval Lords (SSI). Civ's complexity is very progressive, which eases you into the game, and it constantly gives you feedback ("your population reaches 1 000 000 !" ) to show how much you have accomplished : a real "feel-good" game, which I find typical of Sid Meier's designs. Imperialism isn't as beginner friendly and it's not as easy to know if you made a bad start or not, which can make it more frustrating to play. And I feel much more immersed in Europa Universalis II or Medieval Lords because of the historical flavor, although I don't think they are as well designed as Imperialism. Birthright is an extremely ambitious game based on the AD&D 2nd edition Birthright campaign setting : not only does it have diplomacy and a fairly detailed economic system, but it also includes a tactical module and even an rpg subgame (using the Doom 2 engine) where you complete quests in order to get magical items or advantages that could help your kingdom. It’s pretty buggy and flawed, but I love it ! Conquest of Elysium II is a nice little 4X (or maybe more accurately 3X ?) : it isn’t a huge step forward from the first game but adds a bit more of everything, in typical Illwinter fashion. It has been surpassed by its sequels. Lords of Magic was released in a poor state, but it turned out to be a good Master of Magic-like with great atmosphere. Despite the pretty dire RTS tactical module, the very limited AI and often tedious beginnings, I actually preferred it to Heroes of Might and Magic, because it felt more like a proper strategy game and less like a « killer stack puzzle game ». It's available on and steam : I don't know if it holds up well Warlords III. What a game ! It doesn’t stray very far from its predecessors but adds just enough to keep the formula fresh : each faction has now unique units, the units have more varied abilities, the heroes are much more developed, you have more options to play with when creating custom games, a campaign has been added… The interface is top notch, with some very convenient features that aren’t commonly seen even today, like the vectoring of armies that eases the management of huge armies. Of course, the game isn't perfect : does have quite a few balance issues, killer stacks can be a problem (although even powerful heroes can be assassinated), the army vectoring does make the concentration of your forces too easy, the AI doesn’t deal with the fog of war very well, etc. Despite all this, I love this game ! In fact, the first three Warlords are my favorite beer-and-pretzel strategy games and I still play them solitaire and multiplayer. I do recommend the sequel/expansion, Darklords Rising, over Reign of Heroes : it adds a lot of content for single and multi-player. The real-time offsprings are also excellent : my favorite RTS along with Kohan and Seven Kingdoms. Warlords IV isn't bad either and probably has the best AI of all the turn-based games, thanks to some community patching (check the Warlorders site).
  12. Great show : I love these retrospectives ! I can't resist writing about some 1997 strategy games that I enjoyed. Maybe some readers will find a few games that will tickle their fancy. RTS I'm not a big RTS player, so I haven't played most of those that came out that year. Of the ones I tried, my favorite is definitely Seven Kingdoms. Although it looks like a bad Warcraft clone, it’s a pretty original blend of traditional RTS and « empire management » : units can gain experience but also betray you if you aren’t catering to their needs, the economic system is fairly deep and involves trade with other nations… Also, espionage plays a crucial role : your spies can go undercover and rise in rank within another nation, becoming generals or even rulers ! The original game can be bought on A legally free version is also available : the source code has been released a while ago as GPL and some very dedicated fans have kept updating the game since, fixing various issues and doing some rebalancing. Netstorm is another excellent but very different kind of RTS : you play as a priest in a floating island and try to capture enemy priests so you can sacrifice them to your gods and gain new powers. But in order to do this, you need to build bridges that connect you to the other islands. And to capture the enemy priests, you need to immobilize him with your offensive units, that you place on the end of a bridge. Once that is done, you can use one of your transport units, the only one that move, to « collect » the priest and bring him to your temple, where you can sacrifice him. Very intense game and a great multi-player experience ! I didn't enjoy Age of Empires or Total Annihilation : they felt like well done but pretty bog standard variations of the Dune 2 formula to me. Someday, I'd like to try Rising Lands : it doesn't seem wildly original, but there seems to be some consequences to your actions during the campaign : for example, if you made peace with a faction during a mission, you'd still be at peace with it the following mission.