Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for the ‘Board Game’ Category

Dungeon Chess

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 25, 2014

I promised to write about some more interesting OS/2 games, so here’s one I thought was really neat: Dungeon Chess by Craig M. Seavey, Computer Scientist.

Yes, he credits himself as "Craig M. Seavey, Computer Scientist".

Yes, he credits himself as “Craig M. Seavey, Computer Scientist”.

This one’s a quite interesting variation on chess. I’ll just quote the description I used on MobyGames here:

Dungeon Chess is a board game similar to chess, played on an 8×8 board, called the dungeon. The player has access to sixteen weapons of five different types: eight Circs and two each of Arcs, Trigs, Rects, and Stars. Each weapon moves differently: Circs can move one room in any direction; Arcs move like knights in chess; Trigs, like chess bishops, move along diagonals; Rects, like chess rooks, move along the rows and columns; and Stars, like chess queens, can move any number of rooms either diagonally or along the rows and columns.

Circs and Trigs also have special abilities. Circs, like pawns in chess, can be morphed into any other type of weapon upon reaching the opponent’s home row. If a Trig is the last weapon available, it gains the ability to move like a Circ, so that it can access the whole dungeon.

When starting a new game, the player has the option of starting with an empty dungeon and placing his weapons manually when and where he chooses, or starting with the weapons already placed on the first two rows in a similar manner to the initial configuration of chess pieces.

Dungeon Chess keeps score, but only as an indicator for how the game is going. The game is won when all the opponent’s weapons have been captured–there is no checkmate in Dungeon Chess.

One major difference from chess is that the player can only see those rooms of the dungeon which one of his weapons can access. If, for example, the player has only a Rect left, then only the row and column the Rect occupies will be visible–and the view will be blocked by any weapons that are in the way of movement.

Two game modes are offered: Master and GrandMaster. In Master mode, the grid of the dungeon is clearly marked and visible rooms are colored differently. In GrandMaster mode, the dungeon is solid black, and the rooms that are visible aren’t marked, so the player must carefully inspect the positioning of the weapons to determine which rooms are definitely empty and which are simply out of view.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-24-13-21-08You can see in the above screenshot that there are three enemy Circs visible and a number of dark blue squares which may or may not contain enemy weapons, but which aren’t visible to me. This makes the game quite difficult! I’m reminded of Stratego, where you don’t know the rank of the enemy pieces until you attack them. The game of chess is quite different without perfect information.

Dungeon Chess is still sort of a parlour game, but it’s much more interesting than the bland conversions of Connect Four and such that I’ve been seeing. It’s a game that can only really work on a computer, since it wouldn’t be practical to play it on physical boards. You could do it with two boards and a moderator, but it’d be a pain.

This is something I really like to see: doing things in computer games that wouldn’t be possible for a physical game. For example, if you’re playing a computer pinball game, why not have effects that couldn’t be done on an electromechanical table? It can be done badly, of course, and there’s something to be said for accurate simulation of real-world games and toys, but I like to see people exploring the possibilities.

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GrandMaster mode is substantially harder, since the game doesn’t indicate which rooms are visible. Frankly, I prefer Master mode–it’s just too much trouble to work out which rooms are empty and which are just invisible, at least for me. Maybe some people who are more into strategy games would feel differently.

Dungeon Chess is single player, but it seems that it’s based on a multiplayer (network) game called ChessNet. There’s a chess game for Windows with that title from the right time period, but I think it’s not the same one. I’d like to see the multiplayer version of this game–it ought to be great fun.

There is actually still a version of this game around. Behold the modern homepage of Dungeon Chess. From the description, I suspect the modern version is really a different (if similar) game from this old one. I’m not shelling out $15 to find out, though.

Posted in 1993, Chess, Freeware, Full Review, Good, OS/2 | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

OS/2 parlour games by Peter Wansch

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 23, 2014

Continuing in the grand tradition of this blog, I’ve let time pass me by for a while with no updates. I’ve not been idle, though.

Recently, MobyGames started accepting OS/2 games, so I’ve been spending a bit of time looking at old freeware titles for OS/2. There are an absolutely shocking number of parlour games for that platform! Here’s a quick look at a few I’ve added to MobyGames lately, all by Peter Wansch.

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First, Connect Four. It’s a straightforward implementation of the Milton Bradley game. You can see me losing, above.

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Second, Master Mind. Pretty straightforward as well, though this one does offer a Beginner difficulty, on which the four colors chosen must be distinct.

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Finally (and still pending approval, just now), Tic Tac Toe. This one is more interesting, because in addition to the regular 3×3 game board you see above, you can play on 3x3x3 or 4x4x4 boards.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-23-10-22-46

Pretty cool! Not exactly a new idea, of course. In 1978 alone, MobyGames lists two different games called “3-D Tic-Tac-Toe” and one called “Qubic”, which is a translation of the board game of the same name–a 4x4x4 version of Tic Tac Toe. Even if it’s not novel, it’s still more fun than playing the 3×3 game to a draw a hundred times.

All three of these were released in a compilation of games made OS/2 2.0 and above, Entertainment Pack for OS/2, and some of them (including these three) seem to have had separate releases of updated versions.

There’s one big flaw with these games: they’re single player only! I can’t understand why Wansch didn’t just let you turn off the AI and play with a friend. I mean, I realize that Master Mind is really better off as a single player game, but the other two are perfect for multiplayer games.

Wansch may have contributed a couple of dozen parlour games to OS/2 by himself, but there are many more. I haven’t really explored the available games in depth, but it looks to me like OS/2 has a much higher proportion of parlour games than, for example, Windows 3.1. I wonder why.

It’s not all checkers and Parcheesi, though. I’ll get some reviews of the more interesting games up, once I’ve added them to MobyGames. It’ll be a nice break–it’s surprisingly exhausting writing descriptions for simple games. I dread writing yet another explanation of how Tetris or Conway’s Game of Life works.

These games can be downloaded from this page, if you’re interested. Of course, you’d probably spend more time getting OS/2 installed than playing the games, so caveat ludor.

Posted in 1993, 1994, Connect Four, First Impressions, Freeware, Mastermind, OS/2, Tic Tac Toe | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Checkers

Posted by Tracy Poff on January 6, 2009

Checkers is a Windows 3.1 implementation of checkers by Gregory Thatcher, released in 1990.

I’m just going to assume we all know the rules of checkers, and skip that part. Checkers provides an AI, so you can play against the AI or another human in hotseat play, or watch the computer play against itself. The difficulty (how smart the AI is) can be selected from five levels, Beginner through Master. You can also choose whether to play black or red, and can switch in the middle of the game, if you so desire.

The one with the white circle on it is a king, and was thoroughly beating me.

For anyone who doesn’t know how to play, the help file includes instruction on how to play the game as well as how to use the software.

Checkers can be downloaded directly at this link.

AI: 4/5
The AI beat me, so I guess it can’t suck too badly. However, I do suck very badly at checkers, so I’m only weighting this half to account for my inability to tell whether the AI is actually good. Minus a point since it could be more granular, too.
Gameplay: 4/10
It does what it says on the tin, but minus a point because waiting on the computer to move is boring.
Graphics: 2/10
The graphics are far too simple, and the board looks rather squashed. There’s no excuse for this, given that the DOS version of Battle Chess came out two years earlier and looked much, much better. The Windows version of Battle Chess wouldn’t come out for another year or so, but it too would look much nicer.
Personal Slant: 1/10
I don’t really like checkers that much, and this particular implementation doesn’t make me want to play it any more. I give it one point for including 0-player mode. Fight amongst yourselves, my minions, fight!
Total: 3.1/10
Checkers does indeed play checkers, but it doesn’t do anything beyond that. The overly-simple and somewhat poor graphics hurt this one quite a bit, along with the utter lack of anything original. Battle Chess had been out for two years at this point, so we all knew more was possible. Of course, this implementation probably wasn’t intended to be anything special–but it gets no points for achieving that goal. There’s really no reason you’d want to play this, since there are far better checkers games out there.

Posted in 1990, Bad, Board Game, Full Review, Windows 3.x | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »