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About Arasmo

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  1. Three Moves Ahead 518: PanzerBlitz

    Thank you for this amazing episode ! I discovered Panzerblitz only four years ago and I must admit I'm very impressed : I love the artwork, from the wonderful box cover to the very elegant maps and counters. It's a great "beer-and-pretzels" wargame : simple rules, quick turns, varied units and situations, etc. As you said in the podcast, you don't have very elaborate decisions to make for each unit : move or shoot ! But there still is enough complexity to allow for some deep planning and analysis : the old General articles can attest to that. Of course, it has long been superseded as a simulation and there are quite a few wonky rules, but the simplicity of the game makes it easy to modify the design without being overwhelmed by all the moving pieces. Jim Dunnigan himself seems to encourage modifications by providing "experimental rules". I only tried the experimental rule "Impulse movement & Impulse fire" : it seems to work pretty well as an alternative to the reaction fire rules of Panzer Leader. It does change the feel of the game, as it's now harder to "panzerbush" ! There are quite a few different rulesets around the net. For example, "Panzer Warrior" is intended as a consolidation of the Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader rules, while another variant uses the Arab-Israeli Wars rules as a basis. There is also Tactical Game X, a very modern reinterpretation. It's pretty easy to try the game online : you can find the original rules at Boardgame Geek, Consimword or Imaginative Strategist (a site shock-full of Panzerblitz and Panzerleader material, but its founder sadly passed away in 2019) and download the Vassal or Tabletop Simulator module.
  2. Excellent show ! Thanks to you guys, I watched both movies for the first time. I must admit I much prefered All The President’s Men : the Insider was way too melodramatic for my taste. Anyway, thank you very much for this episode and your insights on a fascinating subject !
  3. If I understand well, that means that you have AAA publishers that are more risk-adverse than ever, and a increasing amount of indy developpers hoping to "make it big" in a very competitive environment. Are the middle-size developper studios (staff of 25-50 people) making "AA" games generally facing harder times ? That's a very good point : a lot of games made in 2010 do not feel antiquated compared to more recent games, which wasn't true in previous decades. For example, if you look at the Civ series, there is a big gulf between Civ1 (1991), Civ 3 (2001) and Civ 5(2010) in UI and especially graphics, while Civ5's UI and graphics are still pretty decent compared to Civ 6. It does make it harder for newer games to "break in".
  4. It's a pity, because the game manages to be fairly simple to play (little micromanagement if you want to avoid it) while modelling command & control very well. I feel Decisive Campaigns : Barbarossa also deserved a mention for going beyond mere "counter-pushing" and allowing you to roleplay a chief-of-staff on the Eastern Front. I would rank these two among the most interesting computer wargame designs of the decade.
  5. Thanks for the recommendation, I tried it on a friend's computer and it looks like a good game, but my current desktop won't be able to run it : its processor, an Intel j3455, is actually slower than the Core 2 Duo I use to have and only has an integrated chipset ! I traded power for silence and energy efficiency. And nowadays, I only use my older PC only for some desktop publishing tasks with Indesign (I use Linux on my other computer). For ancient-era gaming, I'm more into boardgames, like Great Battles of History, Ancient Worlds Series by Berg, Republic of Rome or Imperium Romanum II.
  6. Excellent episode! And thanks for your great post, Ilitarist. It’s interesting to read about your gaming evolution. Compared to you, I took the reverse path: from EU to Civ. To be more precise, I stopped playing the Civ series when Europa Universalis I came out and slowly came back to Civ after EU4. Civ 1 and 2 are by far my favorite of the series, followed by Civ 4. I enjoyed CK2 a lot in my first play, but it lost a lot of its lustre in subsequent sessions. I never found it really revolutionary either: the base ingredients were in CK1, the KOEI games already handled character relationship since the eighties, albeit in a very crude fashion, and games like Rise of the West or Medieval Lords in the nineties (both based on or inspired by the Empires of Middle Ages boardgame) managed to be cool medieval story generators and fun strategy games without needing complex mechanics or interface. You and video games during the decade At the start of the decade, I was a big fan of Paradox games, RPGs and soccer management games. Now I play a lot less and my tastes lean towards retrogaming (ms-dos and Win3.X games mainly) and tabletop gaming, although I enjoy some fairly recent grognardy computer wargames with low performance requirements, like the Campaign Series and The Operational Art of War. Favourite solo strategy gaming moment of the decade An epic solo game of Medieval Lords: Soldier Kings of Europe (1991) with the kingdom of Georgia, from 1028 to around 1440. The small kingdom survived the Seldjoukids and Mongol invasions, then conquered most of the Byzantine empire and of Russia before slowly falling apart due to constant wars on multiple fronts, assassination of rulers, spread of plagues and heresies, noble revolts... Despite a good recovery at the beginning of the 15th century, it was too weakened to stand the might of the timuride armies. Favourite multiplayer strategy gaming moment of the decade Some great all-nighters with a old friend on Warlords 3 random maps. Favourite strategy game made in this decade Probably The Operational Art of War IV. It’s not a big improvement on the previous episode and it does have its share of quirks and flaws (command and control is poorly modelled for example), but it's still one of the most flexible computer wargames around. I'm not fond of the WW2 monster scenarios, but I enjoy most of the others I played, especially the Balkan wars scenarios. Biggest disappointment of the decade Europa Universalis 4 (EU4). It had a lot of great improvements over EU2 (rebellion, diplomacy, colonisation or religious conversion for example), but I wasn’t convinced by other mechanics like the ‘mana’ system and got tired of the state of flux of the game and the constant addition of mechanisms that didn’t always gel well with the rest. My PC was barely able to run it, which didn’t help. Finally, as I was starting to game a lot less, I also realised that EU2 gave me as much fun, if not more, while requiring much less computing power and time commitment. I still go back to EU2 (or more precisely For the Glory) once in a while, but I gave up on other Paradox titles. Your thoughts on the evolution of the strategy games during the decade. Nothing to say there, because I’m out of the loop.
  7. The year wasn’t that bad for wargames. True, SSI and Interactive Magic didn’t have great wargame releases : Close Combat IV and Panzer General 3D were pretty average, and ‘North vs South’ was a poor adaptation of the ‘Great Battles of History’ engine to the civil war. But since they published respectively the excellent 4X Imperialism II and the brilliant RTS Seven Kingdoms II, they are forgiven ! Meanwhile, Talonsoft had a strong lineup with East Front II, Battlegrounds : Chickamauga, The Operational Art of War II, Battle of Britain and Bombing the Reich. The last two games are very niche, but they are great if you can get used to the interface and if you enjoy micromanaging a air bombing campaign. I’m especially fond of East Front II : it corrected many flaws of the original East Front (1997) and had stronger AI, better random campaigns, two excellent linked campaigns, faster movement of units (the original game was horribly slow) and a lot of minor improvements. It’s still a great tactical WW2 wargame despite the clunky interface. The Panzer Campaign series from HPS also made its debut with Smolensk 41.
  8. Thanks for the show! The 1994 wargames line-up is very interesting, especially if you like tactical games. Panzer General and Perfect General II are good gateway wargames with great production values and easy-to-use interface. Operation Crusader is part of the V for Victory series. It’s a great operational WW2 wargame with an innovative WEGO system. TacOps is a very realistic modern squad-level wargame. It was released on Mac in 1994 and two years later for Windows. It also uses a WEGO system but doesn’t have any grids or hexes. Tigers on the Prowl is by far the most realistic WW2 tactical wargame of its era, with detailed modelling of line of sight, armour penetration, supplies, chain of command and order delays. Definitely not for the faint of heart, though! It spawned a few sequels: Tigers on the Prowl 2, Panthers in the Shadow and Tiger Unleashed. Wargame Construction Set II: Tanks! by Norm Kroger is also a tactical game: it covers platoon-level combat from 1918 to 1991, with a focus on mechanised warfare. It is much less detailed and realistic than Tigers on the Prowl or TacOps, but the interface is much friendlier and the IA is decent. Also, the scenario editor is very good. I discovered the game quite recently and it’s now one of my go-to games on my Android tablet (thank to the wonderful Magic Dosbox emulator).
  9. Another great show. I played quite a bit of CIV6 Gathering Storm on a friend's laptop and it seems like a very well designed game, but I didn't enjoy the experience at all, in part due to the poor AI. The olders CIV (1-4) mecanisms are more suited to the limitations of an AI. The climate change is an excellent idea on paper, but I don't think it brings that much to the table compared to good old CIV1's pollution system (which could bring global warming). And CIV1 already had natural disaster events if your city was near certain terrain types. I must admit that CIV1 is currently my favorite CIV, despite its many flaws : it manages to give the core CIV experience with fairly simple rules and short playing time compared to its sequels (never tried Civ : Revolution though). CIV4 used to be my favorite, but I have a hard time getting back to it : I'm more of a casual CIV gamer now !
  10. Episode 435: Omnia vincit Roma

    One of the best episodes I've listened to : thanks to all involved ! Annals of Rome is by far the best Rome-themed strategy computer game I played. I discovered it after EU:Rome and R: TW, which I didn't enjoy much, and I was impressed how the game manages to gives such a tense experience, with that "creeping doom" feeling you get when you are starting to lack the ressources to manage all threats at the same time, while only providing the player with very few options. I actually like the crude graphics (although I would have preferred EGA graphics) and the interface is pretty straightforward. It will probably seem too dated and simplistic for those who enjoy Paradox games, but you might be pleasantly surprised once you pass the (pretty small) learning curve.
  11. Another great show ! Some of my favorite of that year. RTS Seven Kingdoms is a 1997 game, but it's great to have it mentionned on the show ! Brilliant and innovative RTS, with strong economy and people management components. Never thought much of Starcraft. RPG I'll have to give the edge to Baldur's Gate, even if it does have its share of flaws. I also enjoyed Return to Krondor : even if it isn't as good as Betrayal, it's a nice linear RPG with decent story and characterization. Suikoden 2 is probably the best JRPG I played along with Chrono Trigger : I midly enjoyed it, which is no mean feat for someone who doesn't like most JRPGs. The random battles aren't too grating and the story is pretty epic. Grand strategy/4X Warlords III : Darklord's Rising is the definitive version of Warlords III : new campaigns, more options for the random maps, new units and heroes, etc. Still as fun now as in 1998 ! Simulation Unfortunately, I never managed to get European Air Wars to work and Falcon 4 is out of my league, but I love Red Baron 3D, which is basically a patched Red Baron II. The dynamic campaign mode is extremely immersive and "casual flyers" can enjoy themselves without too much training. Wargame Operational Art of War is pretty much a wargamer's wet dream. I didn't play the first one much, but I enjoy the last one a lot. West Front was also released in 1998 : it's a great turn-based WW2 platoon-level wargame with a pretty simple system and a huge amount of content : dynamic and linked campaigns, random battles, plenty of scenarios of varying complexity... Semper Fi is another turn-based platoon game, but it's set in the modern era and uses a impulse system you don't see much in computer wargames.
  12. Quite a few SimCity-likes didn't radically change the core gameplay. For example, the two first Caesar games (1992 and 1995) used the same building radius mechanics as SimCity and played a lot like it. The walker mechanics was introduced later, with Caesar III (1998). This doesn't mean that the first Caesar games were mere clones : they were mission-based and added warfare and a (very thin) province management layer. Another example : Afterlife (1996) from Lucasarts played a lot like Simcity 200, although it had a unusual theme and some added complexity.
  13. As far as I know, Half-life (1998) is the game usually credited for the giving birth to the tactical/narrative shooter, but you had these kind of games as early as 1994 : Bungie's own Marathon or Origin's System Schock introduced elaborate plots, more tactical and more open ended gameplay compared to Doom, while the little-known Cyclones already had stealth elements. What makes you think Halo is one of the most defining video game ever released ? I must admit I wasn't impressed by it at the time, but I would be happy to give it a second try someday and to revise my jugement. I don't know if MOOII really sucked all the air out of the genre. Space 4X is an old genre that already had most of its basic elements defined in 1983 with Reach for the Stars (ROS). A lot of the space 4X games that came out in the nineties, MOO included, were variations of the the ROS formula. And after MOOII came out, you still had games with a different approach to the genre , like Stars Wars : Rebellion (1998), Emperor of the Fading Suns (1997), Fragile Allegiance (1997), or more recently Distant Worlds or Sins of a Solar Empire.
  14. Thank you for this show ! 1993 is indeed an amazing year, although it wasn't as impressive as 1997 for strategy games. Warlords II would probably be my favorite strategy entry of the year, even I only play the Deluxe version (1995) nowadays. It's a great Empire-like game, very easy to get into : it works very well on an android tablet with Magic Dosbox. The core mechanics are quite similar to the first game, but it adds a lot of replayability, with five maps instead of one and the option to use random maps. The scenario editor that was sold separately was very easy to use and added a few more maps and unit sets. Empire Deluxe is a great version of the founding father of the 4X genre : the end game can get very tedious though. Master of Orion I is still my favorite 4X space game : it's simple to grasp, not too heavy on micromanagement, while retaining quite a lot of strategic depth. I only discovered Clash of Steel very recently and I find it an excellent streamlined WW2 strategy game. It must have been a big inspiration to the creators of the Strategic Command series. EA published three excellent tactical games. The podcast mentioned Syndicate, but there was also Space Hulk, a tactical game with a "dungeon master-like" first person view where you play a squad of Space Marines fighting against Genestealers, and my personal favorite : Seal Team, basically a proto "Operation Flashpoint" set in Vietnam. I played quite a bit of Ambush at Sorinor five years ago and had a great time with it. I actually prefer it to Siege, because it has more tactical variety, some fun units (the infamous war chicken!) and you have to manage your funds wisely to hire and replace mercenaries.The AI is unfortunately very poor. Stronghold is a pretty unique real-time kingdom simulator with some RPG elements. Like Majesty or Populous, you don't have direct control of your units. It has been released on SimCIty2000 is a classic and my favorite city-builder (sorry City Skylines !), but Maxis also published the excellent SimFarm : I never thought a farming simulator could be so much fun ! Shadow President is a very fun political simulator/grand strategy game where you play as the president of the United States. The first Settlers was also released : still my favorite of the series. Concerning management/trading games, I enjoyed Merchand Prince but I also liked On the Ball and Premier Manager 3, two soccer management games with a heavy focus on the business aspect of the sport (building your stadium, setting the prices of the seats, finding sponsors, etc.). 1993 was a huge year for point-and-click adventure games : Gabriel Knight, Day of the Tentacle, Return to Zork, Sam & Max : Hit the Road, Simon the Sorcerer, Companions of Xanth, Legend of Kyrandie : Hand of Fate... And Legend Entertainment released two great interactive fiction games : Eric the Unready and Gateway 2. It was also the rise of the CD-ROM adventure games, with 7th Guest and Myst. The RPG lineup was very strong : Betrayal at Krondor is a masterpiece, Dark Sun is a diamond in the rough, Lands of Lore is a beautiful and streamlined Dungeon Master like, Ultima VII : Serpent Isle is one of the best entries of the series, Might and Magic V is a fine conclusion to the classic era of the series, Shining Force II and Ogre Battle are fine tactical RPGs... Breath of Fire, Secret of Mana and Phantasy Star IV are also beloved by many (not by me though). The action lineup has of course Doom, a lesson of level design, but also two very good puzzle/platformers, The Lost Vikings and Fury of the Furies, two impressive (if not actually very good) rail shooters, Starfox and Rebel Assault, two excellent old-school amiga shooters, Uridium 2 or Disposable Hero, the manic Gunstar Heroes , and my favorite action game of the year after Doom, The Chaos Engine, a frantic gauntlet-like game by the famous Bitmap Brothers. There were some brilliant flight sims and space sims as well : X-WING and Privateer have been mentioned, but there was also Ace over Europe, Elite II, Strike Commander, Subwar 2050, Tornado or TFX. For me, Strike Commander is probably the strongest of the Commanders along with Wing Commander Prophecy and Privateer, while Tornado is a very detailed flight sim with a amazing mission planner. Understandably, the podcast focused on american sport games, but a few interesting soccer games were released, like FIFA soccer, with great graphics but mediocre gameplay ; European Champions, a neat arcade soccer game with unusual control scheme ; Goal, a game that rewards technical skills and by far Dino Dini's best effort in my opinion.
  15. 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.