Too Much Free Time

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

Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

Presentation Manager Robots

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 27, 2014

Another OS/2 game: Presentation Manager Robots, a port of BSD Robots to the OS/2 Presentation Manager. Incidentally, I’ve taken the screenshots in OS/2 2.1, this time, so enjoy the increased authenticity over my previous posts.

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Quoting my pending MobyGames description:

Presentation Manager Robots is an implementation of BSD Robots. The player controls Smiley, who must avoid being destroyed by the Evil Killer Robots. On each turn, Smiley can either stand still or move into any of the eight adjacent positions, and the robots will move directly toward Smiley. If a robot catches Smiley by moving onto his position, the game is over. If two robots crash into each other, they are destroyed, leaving behind a heap of broken robots. If a robot crashes into a heap, it’s also destroyed.

The player has two options, if the robots surround Smiley. First, the player may choose, once per level, to use the Sonic Screwdriver, which will destroy all the robots adjacent to Smiley. Second, the player may choose to teleport to a random location in the level. This is not without risk, though, since Smiley may teleport beside a robot and lose.

The level is won when no robots remain. Later levels begin with more robots.

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Presentation Manager Robots is a pretty standard port. It starts out easy, with just five robots on the first level, but rapidly increases in difficulty.

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I made it to level 6 on my second try, which I suppose isn’t too bad.

There’s one annoyance to this port: no keyboard support. In order to move, you’ve got to click in the direction you want to go, and you click on Smiley to stand still for a turn. Robots is much better controlled with the keyboard, and I can’t imagine why this version doesn’t support that.

Other than the input issue, the game as much fun as Robots usually is. Worth a play, for sure! The game is actually still being distributed by its author, Kent Lundberg, from his homepage. It’s up to version 1.3 now (pictured above is 1.1), which he released under the GPL in May 2002, about nine years after its initial release in July 1993.

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Posted in 1993, Freeware, Full Review, Good, OS/2, Strategy | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 8, 2012

I played an hour or so of the demo for Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. I think it’s a fairly good conversion of the game, but severely lacking in customizability.

Without the ability to build unique decks from the available cards, mixing and matching as desired, it’s just not the same–half the game, at least, is building a deck, but DotP 2013 just lets you swap cards between a deck and its sideboard, AFAICT, which is very limiting.

There’s also a fairly small number of cards available–a sixty card deck and a 30 card sideboard, but a third of the deck is land and there are many cards that appear three or four times in the decks. I guess each of the ten decks has perhaps 30 distinct cards, counting the sideboard, so there are only about 300 cards total, assuming each deck has entirely unique cards, and since you can’t swap cards between decks (I think), you can’t be too creative.

Other than that, it was pretty good–it took a little getting used to the game before I was sure when I needed to stop the timer to play instants–the game shows which phase you’re on, but not which step, so I missed playing an instant after blockers were declared once. It’s not too confusing, though. The animations are a little slow, and I think that I may have toggled an option which made the game stop during damage resolution during combat, which was a pain, but probably my fault.

One thing I didn’t care for was the Planechase mode. It’s a multiplayer (up to four players) mode, which is fine, but the use of the plane cards just made the game confusing–I saw a card that made players mill seven cards at the end of each turn, then draw one of them randomly back out of the graveyard, and another that made non-werewolf creatures deal no damage, plus some ability that sometimes made creatures into werewolves, and yet another that had some other odd combat ability which benefited one player dramatically more than the others. Honestly, I’m not totally sure how the plane cards work–they seem to act like global enchantments, and there’s some die rolling mechanic that goes with them. They just seemed to complicate and slow down the game. I gave up after many minutes and only three turns of play in that mode. I’ll stick to the more traditional game, thanks.

Well, DotP 2013 won’t replace the real game, but I think it’s not a bad buy at $10, and if I can get it for half off some time, I might pick it up.

Posted in 2012, Card Game, Decent, First Impressions, Strategy, Windows | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Guns of Fort Defiance

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 6, 2012

The Guns of Fort Defiance is a 1981 game reminiscent of Artillery, published by Avalon Hill. I’m playing the 1982 Commodore 64 port.

Fort Defiance, according to the game, is an incomplete fort, and you must defend its unfinished eastern wall against an invading army, by ordering that your artillery be loaded with certain ammunition, raised to a certain elevation, and fired at a certain deflection, in order to strike at the enemy.

The enemy may attack with infantry, cavalry, or artillery, and you must choose the most appropriate way to defend against each attack. The game may be set to any handicap from 1 to 64, with 1 being the easiest game, and 64 the hardest. If you successfully repel the enemy, the game will suggest which handicap you ought to use on your next game–perhaps higher, or perhaps lower.


The Guns of Fort Defiance is pretty fun. Each game is fairly short, and the ability to finely adjust the difficulty is very welcome. Unfortunately, the controls are not perfectly responsive. The instructions mention that it can be difficult to set the deflection, since the gun is so heavy, but I wonder if they’re just covering for poor implementation. I guess it doesn’t matter too much which; either it’s poor implementation, and thus blameworthy, or a poor design choice, and thus blameworthy. You may decide which is worse for yourself.

The Apple II port of this game looks a little prettier–it’s got color, for one thing. I’ll put it on my list of games to review. Perhaps it’s got better controls. Though, as I recall, plenty of Apple II games had unresponsive controls, so perhaps not.

Incidentally, it looks like there was an actual Fort Defiance during the War of 1812, now called Fort Morris, which was never completed, so The Guns of Fort Defiance actually is ‘an historical adventure game’, as it claims.

Posted in 1982, Artillery, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Strategy | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Phage Wars 2

Posted by Tracy Poff on August 22, 2009

Phage Wars 2 by Armor Games is a fun little flash game, though not a terribly difficult one.

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In Phage Wars 2, the player is a lab tech whose goal is to create the most powerful virus ever. This is accomplished by playing through the 32 stages (called ‘experiments’) and adding the gene proteins you discover to your virus in order to improve its strength, speed, defense, agility, and ability to reproduce.

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Each of the 32 experiments contains a number of cells and enemy viruses. The player can choose to infect cells or attack cells which are already infected by an enemy virus in order to take them over. Once a cell is infected, the virus inside begins to reproduce, so the player can then attack other cells. The stage is won when no enemy viruses remain. A new gene protein is discovered after beating each stage for the first time.

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Between experiments, the player has the opportunity to add the gene proteins to his virus. The proteins have varying effects, and can increase some statistics while decreasing others. Additionally, each protein takes up a certain amount of space in the virus’s genetic code, so the player must choose between them to create the strongest virus.

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The controls are pretty simple: click and drag from a source cell to a destination cell to send your viruses to infect or attack. To send viruses from multiple cells to a single destination, just drag over all the desired source cells. The best strategy I found was to infect as many cells as possible as quickly as possible, and then to attack the enemy viruses once all the empty cells had been claimed. To support this, I improved the attack, defense, and reproductive ability of my virus, though I understand that improving speed and agility is also a valid strategy.

Here lies the problem with the game: it’s really much too easy. With a decent bonus to reproduction, the viruses will fill a cell quite quickly, and with a decent bonus to attack, it’s not hard to destroy any enemy virus given a mostly-full source cell. The game requires a little juggling to make sure you maintain control of your cells, but it’s not really hard to do, and by improving defense even that becomes very easy.

Phage Wars 2 has basically identical gameplay to its predecessor, with the exception of the ability to add proteins to improve your virus rather than simply choosing a virus at the beginning. The idea isn’t totally original to this series, either–the concept is basically just Risk, and the game’s particulars are rather reminiscent, to me, of the primordial soup subgame in The Time Warp of Dr. Brain.

The lack of difficulty and originality aren’t really so bad that they ruin the game; it still pretty fun. To be honest, I’m not sure I know any way to make the game more difficult without also making it frustrating or otherwise less fun. As for the originality–well, some ideas are reused because they work, and I’d say this is one of them. Give the game a shot if you’ve got the time to spare.

Gameplay: 7/10
The controls are nice, the mechanics are understandable, the concept is solid. It’s a little too easy, though, and the main skill required, I think, is clicking and dragging very quickly at the beginning.
Story: 2/5
The story’s just an excuse for the gameplay, so this only counts half. On the other hand, the story’s obviously just an excuse, so minus some points.
Graphics: 9/10
The graphics are polished and lovely. Minus a point since the foreground and background were sometimes hard to distinguish, and there was nothing that really impressed me.
Audio: 5/10
There’s nothing really wrong with the audio, but it didn’t stand out in any way. Some more interesting audio might have made my interest in the game last a bit longer.
Personal Slant: 6/10
I enjoyed the game, though I think the sequencing part was a little dull, and the lack of difficulty made it drag on a little by the end.
Total: 6.4/10
Phage Wars 2 is worth a play, though not a replay. In fact, I’d say that the moment you begin to become bored with it, you should abandon it–it’s just more of the same, and the ending isn’t worth plodding through the game if you’re not enjoying it. It only takes a few minutes to play through the first few levels, though, and those few minutes are worth it.

Posted in 2009, Decent, Flash, Freeware, Full Review, Strategy | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »