We’ve done a bunch of podcast episodes. Sometimes in our unending search to find cool crap for you, we find or mention stuff that may or may not get linked and we get all smartassy and tell you to google it. I thought I’d take a few minutes and link you to some of my favorite free-ish stuff that I’ve found. Some I’ve mentioned, some I haven’t. Keep in mind that my particular bent is old school style gameplay and turn based strategy. Most of these picks skew in that direction. Almost all of this stuff is Windows compatible. I’ll specifically mention if they run on OSX as well.
Back in the day, FASA had the license for Star Trek. By back in the day, I mean just before Star Trek: The Next Generation launched. The tale differs somewhat on what caused the end of the FASA license, but the all-powerful wikipedia says that two Next Generation supplements weren’t fully vetted by the licensing gods at Paramount.
In any event, there is a small but devoted following of the Star Trek Starship Combat game online to this day. Most of the rules from the final edition of the ruleset are implemented Jason Robinson’s version of the game for windows. Given all the Paramount official material published since the original rules for this game was released, this is in no way canon, but rather a quick and fun way to get involved in the very old school war-game.
Yeah, okay, I was a FASA whore when I was a young man. FASA’s other major property in the eighties was Battletech, and I penned a bit of a love letter to it’s modern interpretation here. For the last 10 years, there’s been an unofficial Java version of it called Megamek. The bot for single play is decent, but this version really shines online versus other humans. Various mech construction programs like the one we linked to from Solaris Skunk Werks will export to Megamek, making the game about infinitely customizable.
A few years ago, a small group of programmers got together, and pounded together an excellent verbatim implementation of Space Hulk for the computer. The program befell some legal difficulties with finger pointing between major corporations complicating the issue. Such are the complications of a third party development of a licensed property. Long story short, some graphical assets had to change, but the gameplay remained the same. With a persistent campaign and easily moddable assets, Alien Assault deserves a bit of your time if you’re a fan of turn based strategy.
Another licensed property that went beyond the rim is the Agents of Gaming product Babylon 5 Wars. Similar to the very complex Star Fleet Battles, AoG’s ruleset simulated ship to ship combat in the Babylon 5 universe to exacting detail. The game was pretty well balanced and presented fairly well, but AoG lost the license when Warner Brothers decided that they weren’t doing anything to enhance the license. Since then, Mongoose published their own ruleset, but that’s gone now too.
A group of fans banded together to protect the work, and released the Advent of Galactic Wars ruleset. It’s basically all the rules from the Babylon 5 Wars rulebooks and supplements with the Babylon 5 color text and graphical elements removed. This manipulation doesn’t make it any less of a good game, though, just be prepared for lots of rule references as you play! The linked source also includes ships from other universes, just in case you wanted to run a Robotech versus Star Trek versus Babylon 5 scenario.
Once more, back in the day, there were two Doctor Who roleplaying games. Time passed, and so did the Doctor Who franchise, so into the vortex they went seemingly never to return. One of the two games was Timelord. Originally published in a large paperback format rather than the industry conventional 8.5×11 size, I think the game suffered a bit because of it. In 1998, the game was released for free on the internet. There are no character creation rules to speak of, but it’s fairly well fleshed out, at least for classic Who. Since the new official Doctor Who RPG from Cubicle 7 doesn’t really acknowledge the earlier series other than some passing mentions, this is the only way to get your classic Who on.
When FASA dissolved, their properties went all over the place. The most egregious treatment after the breakup was Night Shift Games’ handling of the Renegade Legion franchise. Technically, the license is held by Topps who seemingly has no interest in the product. The old post FASA Night Shift Games work is available with a fan produced supplement for the game.
The rules, specifically fighter and tank damage are very flowchart oriented. For fear of sounding old and cantankerous, they don’t seem to make games like this anymore. With a unique armor widowing mechanic as well as the wiring diagram damage flowchart, it’s worth a play.
This one confuses me a great deal. Games Workshop jealously protects it’s intellectual property, and even old versions of the Warhammer franchises aren’t readily available online. In a notable exception, their own starship combat rules are, and have been since 2008. It’s a good game, if a bit ponderous, but most starship combat games are!
Once upon a time, if we wanted to play a war-game we’d have to get a bunch of players together, find a sufficiently clean large flat surface, and break out the million pieces of cardboard or multi-thousand dollar miniature armies. With the advent and ubiquitousness of fast internet connections, there has to be a better option!
There is a better option. Founded in 2003, VASSAL is a universal game engine limited only by the ability of the module programmers. There are over 800 games with modules available for VASSAL. Some are official, some not so much, and some are straight out forbidden by the game designers! You still have to have a functional knowledge of the rules for whatever game you’re playing, but VASSAL will provide everything else you need for a smooth internet play session. A modicum of technical knowledge is required for proper use- if you can’t open and redirect ports on your router, then you shouldn’t serve a game. Otherwise, if you’ve got the ability to understand war-game rules, then you can use VASSAL!
Star Control – The Ur-Quan Masters – Windows, OSX, and Linux
One of the earliest video games ever was Spacewar. Two players duking it out on a single screen for control of the galaxy. Almost 20 years later the Star Control series was very popular for a number of computers. In August 2002 Toys for Bob, the developer of the 3D0 released the source code for Star Control 2 to the community.
This version of the Ur-Quan Masters takes assets from all the games and combines them into one mega-game. Graphically, the game is dated, but the gameplay is excellent with an outstanding Rock Paper Scissors mechanic and fantastic balance between the factions. Good for either a campaign or a quick deathmatch!
Mechwarrior 2 may have been ubiquitous, but Mechwarrior 4 was a much better game! Yes, the game is 10 years old, but there is still a vibrant community that stands behind and maintains the game to this day. Featuring a branching storyline and a robust online contingent of gamers this game is a must play even now, 10 years after release.
I hope this whets your appetite a bit. I intend on this being a living document- as I find more cool stuff in this vein, I’ll add to it!
Did you get this far? Do you remember our review of 20SON Review – AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA: For The Awesome?
Want it on Steam? 3FRQA-NY745-8TT9E Leave a comment here if you’ve snagged it.