Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Everything, By Everyone

The Internet is a crazy place.  A magical, mystical, intangible world of cats, porn, information and every so often, a game or two.  I'm focusing just on the last one for now.  Online games have a lot of advantages over board games in that you have a computer to do calculations for you.  These games couldn't really ever have a physical version.  It just wouldn't or couldn't work.

There's tons of sites out there solely for games and even more that are for mainly something else, but post a bunch of games as well.  My point is, there are a million and one games on the web.  Personally, I like Newgrounds for my gaming.  A lot of people don't like Newgrounds as it's all user submitted, but that's part of why I like it.  There's a lot of real gems in there (if you stick to the highest rated lists).  Also, a lot of "professional" gaming sites post their games on Newgrounds as well.  So, I'm here to highlight some of my favorite games from Newgrounds.

The first is a game I first found YEARS ago, called Proximity.  It's a lot like Othello, but WAY better.  The game is played on a hex grid and each player takes their turn placing tiles on the board.  However, in Proximity, tiles have a strength value.  Only stronger tiles can overtake weaker ones.  This makes the game far more involved.  It's not just a matter of pattern anymore, there's strategy and tactics and luck.

The settings for the game are really what clinch it, making it great.  You can really change a lot of the game with only a few options.  You're open to variants that strengthen adjacent allied tiles or weaken opposing ones, or both!  You can change victory conditions from number of armies (total strength) or controlled territory (total hexes).  You can also change the map around, making an even more dynamic game.

For an simple as it is, Proximity is a lot of fun.  The computer player is smart enough, and the game also allows for hot-seat 2 player mode.

Mastermind: World Conquerer
If you don't know the Mastermind series, it's a handful of 10 or so minute short animations and they're pretty funny.  The fifth one was kinda weird... not terrible, but.... anyway, the spin-off game is a lot of fun.  It's kind of a Real Time Strategy, but also kind of not.  The game has a great in-play tutorial and I'm not going to even try to explain it all here.  It's really not very complicated, but it's just a lot of type out when you could and should just go play yourself.

The highlights of the game are hiring minions to commit crimes for you, hiring henchmen to make your minions work harder, killing those henchmen when they lose their value or get too insubordinate and defending your base from waves of military.  Like I said, there's a lot more than just this, but the game does well in balancing it all and not making anything too complicated.  It locks a bunch of the options until you're at the point of the game where you might need those options.

Hex Empire
A lot of strategy games use hex grids.  I mean, mathematically, it's a slightly more balanced system for moving pieces around a board, and such, but still, not THAT much.  Anywho, Hex Empire is a 4 player war game.  Each player starts in a corner of one of the thousands of randomly generated maps and works their way across the map, capturing towns and sea ports.  Each town, port or rural area captured grants you troops to use in your battles.  The strength of each army is based on manpower and morale.  The addition of these two numbers is that army's total strength.  Stronger armies defeat weaker ones.  Simple.  This game took me a long time to get the hang of.  It is VERY difficult if you're not careful.  The computer is smart.  You really have to take your time and rally the troops.

What makes this game stand out, to me, is the morale system.  Each army squad has a morale score.  Winning battles increases morale.  Losing battles decreases morale.  In addition, you have the option of giving an invigorating speech to your troops, greatly increasing morale for all your armies.  The game points out your army "will only buy your rubbish once", so you can only use this once per game.

All in all, Hex Empire is a lot like Risk, but different enough that it doesn't feel like the same game.  With the thousands of different maps, no game ever really plays out the same.  It took me a few tries to get the hang of it and before I did, it was a very frustrating game.  Once I won the first time, though, it starting happening more often.

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