Welcome to my collection of games...
The pictures below are small versions of pictures taken from the box tops, click on them for a much larger version - with easier to read text.
Over the past 20 years or so - some of the best times I have spent together with friends have been around a table in someones living room, basement or patio - participating in one of the games I have listed here.
Like most people I have played the traditional games when I
was much younger - such as "The Game of Life", "India"
(which is I think the same as parcheesi) checkers/chess - and one of my favorites "Mouse Trap".
Sometime during my junior high years a friend started talking to me about a game he had played over the weekend - and his description of the events in the game were narrated in a fashion similar to a Tolkein story. It dealt with Orcs, Elves, Knights in shining armor and parties of adventurers exploring the murky depths of a dungeon by torchlight. Yes - my friend had played D&D that past weekend - and I was instantly jealous. Later that week I went to a local bookstore - and lo and behold they had a copy of TSR's Dungeons and Dragons - The Basic Set. This box contained all the rules and spells needed for an introductory party of low level characters to get their feet wet playing w/out being overburdened by rules. The box contained a module "The Keep on the Borderlands" which described the interior of the Keep - plus outlaying hills containing many caves of adventure. One of the caves on the map was vacant and meant to be populated by the dungeon masters imagination - his first dungeon! Like alot of people - I mistakenly would find myself see-sawing between giving the party too much reward and subjecting them to too much danger. I don't think my players will ever forgive me for subjecting them to Pyrran grass - but then I did allow them to find potion bottles full of distillation of fireball - which was an extremely powerful and unstable explosive... One creative player poured it down a crack in the upper floor of my dungeon and completely destroyed the lower level... But I would have my revenge in later dungeons ;-)
Right about the same time I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons - another friend of mine told me about a game HE had played at a local community college where a monthly wargaming society met. The game was called "Star Fleet Battles" and it was to become a game I would have a love / hate affair with for years - before finally playing my last game 8 years later when it had practically collapsed under the weight of it's own contradictory rules.
StarFleet Battles as I played it back in 1979 was a very fun and simple game (compared to when I played my last game in 1987) and dealt only with the races that had been featured in the Original Star Trek series - plus a race introduced in an animated episode written by Larry Niven. They were basically his Kzin feline race - renamed the Kzinti.
StarFleet battles was perfect for planning and enacting major battles between the Federation and the Klingon Empire even tho it always seemed to favor the Federation Ships in the rules and the ship designs. I would always play the Klingons tho out of spite - imagining that I was finally getting the better of Captain Kirk himself...
Unfortunately - the one strike against the game - and it was a big one - was the amount of TIME involved. Not even a game of Avalon Hill's Civilization could consume as much time and have so little to show for it when all was said and done. I don't recall EVER finishing a SFB game completely - we would always run out of time and determine the winning side by basically finding out which side had the most "points" of ships left - and predicting what would have happened if the game had been allowed to continue. Each "turn" in SFB consisted of a planning stage which could take an hour easily - followed by running the turn itself which consisted of 32 discrete steps or "Impulses" as they were called.
During an Impulse a player could move or fire a ship if he had pre-ordered it during the planning stage - and the combat resolution could easily take an hour to resolve itself. I believe our longest turn ever was 4 hours. 4 hours and our ships had hardly moved. Alot of the time was spent arguing over various rule interpretations since it seemed they were almost created vague on purpose - thus enabling the company to sell expansions (service packs?) which contained clarifications for the rules and endless addendums. A rule in the original designers edition may have been altered by Expansion 1 - changed back to the way it was originally in Expansion 2 - and finally tossed out in Expansion 3. Having to juggle 4 rule books and constantly try to see which book contradicted the other one was a major struggle - and quite frankly - while originally alot of fun - the game eventually grew to not being worth the bother.
Soon after being introduced to StarFleet Battles - a friend brought a game into Study Hall at school one day called "Ram Speed" by Metagaming. It was a small game, with a box roughly the size of a modern day CD case, and had very thin counters of ships and a small map. Unlike SFB - this game was a historical wargame - enacting real battles as they could have been during the Bronze Age. Two players were given a certain amount of points to spend buying and equipping fleets consisting of various sized ships with different types of weapons. The games would usually endup with the players grappling all of the ships together and causing a ship to sink - and it dragging down some others - sometimes all of the ships since the effect would snowball as other ships were pulled under by the grapples and sank also.
A year or so after I started playing StarFleet Battles and Dungeons and Dragons - a gamestore opened by a friends house called "GameKeepers". This is probably completely unrelated to a national chain of a similar name ;-)
This game store was gaming Nirvana. Entering the store you'd have to dodge the massive minatures battle that was always raging between the shop owners and "customers" - "customers" who seemed to be always playing more than they were shopping. Here I found one of my Favorite games - "Ironclads" by Yaquinto. This game was the last copy they had in stock since it was being discontinued - and I bought it and it's expansion. Gameplay was much simpler than SFB since there was only the Original rulebook and the Expansion rules to deal with - together totalling less than just the original SFB designer rule book itself. And - unlike SFB Expansions - the Ironclad expansion only added new rules to the game - it didn't modify/pervert existing rules. Gameplay was also much quicker since turns were not broken up into 32 little pieces like SFB - but then again - almost any game plays faster than SFB ;-)
Ironclads dealt with a timeperiod that had always interested me - the Civil War - at least the naval side of it. It was fascinating reading about the arms races going on in that time period - a period when the ships armour was stronger than their armaments - which was reflected in the game by having the majority of hits on enemy ships doing no damage. There was always the chance of "lucky hits" where a turret on a USS Monitor type of ship would get stuck in a random direction or a confederate ship have their rudder damaged and be forced to cruise in circles being fired apon by USS ships at their leisure. Similar to my SFB games - would always be on the Confederate side since I always enjoyed being the underdog. Victory was always much sweeter when the other side felt that their victory was simply inevitable. And of course if I lost - then I could always blame the disparity in sides ;-)
One summer day - a friend of mine (now deceased) introduced our gaming group to Avalon Hill's Civilization. This game while alot of fun - tended to follow the pattern of most of the games I have played - it consumed mass quantities of times and was thus relegated to being played Saturday afternoons when we could anticipate quitting sometime around 2am Sunday mornings. Civilization was a game with enormous replay value - since not one single method of play was guaranteed to be effective for all of the civilizations in the game. What worked for the Africans certainly would not be practical for the Egyptians. The game was fascinating to me - since it was played on more than one level - unlike games such as Star Fleet Battles and Ironclads - there was more going on in the game than just what was being shown on the gameboard. Not only did players need to expand their civilizations into terrain that was fertile enough to support their growth - but they needed to develop their technologies to advance thru the different ages encompassed by the game. This was probably our first game to ever have house rules - since some of the rules could quickly lead to civilizations never getting off the ground - and instead being subjected to endless disastors contributed by the generosity of the other players.
Some gamers have only heard of the MicroProse (remember them?) version of this
game, called simply "Civilization". The Game magazines have reported that
a boardgame version of "Civilization" is in the works. Seems kinda silly,
a boardgame based on a computer game that itself was based on a boardgame.
My friend Phil Berger who introduced me to this game passed away in 1995 a victim of Hodgkins Disease at age 31, and whenever we get together to play a game - we always dedicate it to his memory.
In the Mid 80s I discovered two more wargames I greatly enjoyed playing - both World War II games - one fought in the air: Battleline's Airforce and one fought on land in the African desert: Avalon Hill's Tobruk. Airforce is a game somewhat reminiscent of SFB - you had so much energy or movement points at the beginning of each turn and were required to spend all of them performing various maneuvers. And as the result of each turns maneuvers - you might have more or less movement points the following turn to use. Airforce was where I learned the fallacy of swooping down on enemy fighters in a screamingly fast power dive - only to discover at the end of the turn that due to the answering shots on you - your current airworthiness doesn't permit you to pull out of your dive in less than four turns - and in three turns you will have ploughed a furrow into the terrain below... Our pilots never (unrealistically) bailed from doomed aircraft - they would always ride them down hoping for a lucky shot that would deliver revenge.
Tobruk is a game I have only played once or twice against a friend over 10 years ago - but it was so much fun when I spotted it for sale at a local gaming convention - I had to buy it just in case. Second only to submarines in simulation matter in my games is simulating WWII tank battles. Tobruk deals with battles fought between the Germans and Americans in Africa (Italy and England may have tanks also in the game) and it was there that I discovered the falacy of running around with open turreted German tanks (Howitzers?) when the air was controlled by the other side. Our second game lasted alot longer than that disatorous introduction - but I still have yet to win a game of Tobruk.
A sign of a really good game is one that makes the losing player(s) feel that they did not simply flush their time down the toilet but that they had a good time and while winning would have been better - it was not overly so. A good game is one that you enjoy playing even though you may lose every game and only win one infrequently.
All of these games I have mentioned here falls into that category - with the exception of later rule revisions of SFB - after a while even WINNING did not seem to be worth the sheer quantity of time involved in playing the game.
Sometime in 1986 while browsing the shelves of the local gaming store a friend and I discovered a game fought between giant robots using all sorts of weapons of mass destruction. The game reminded me of Car Wars in that you started with the basic framework of the Robot - and then purchased weapons and ammunition for it. The name of the game was "BattleDrioids" although most people probably know it by it's lucasfilm correct name of "Battletech" This game allows the players to build robots tailored to their individual playing style - as opposed to starting out with a selection of pre-built static robots similar to the ship choices in SFB. A player could decide to arm his robot as heavily as possible - but that generally meant sacrificing on the armor worn and the speed it could move at. The most effective robots are probably the ones that can move the quickest - not necessarily the ones with the biggest guns. Light agile robots are able to dance around their slower heavier weaponed plodding opponent and slowly destroy it while nimbly hopping out of range when it's the other robot's time to fire.
In the almost 14 years I have been playing Battletech/Battledroids the rules have changed less than StarFleet Battles did in roughly 1/3 as much time. Another sign of a good game is it's F/W ratio - or the "Fun / Work" ratio. A game that is enjoyable to play BUT require mass quantities of time and tedius hours of notetaking quickly results in a F/W ratio than a game that is not quite as much fun - but oodles less work to play - an example being "Ironclads".