Xenonauts – Compatibility

Xenonauts Title Screen

Xenonauts Title Screen

System Requirements

Linux

Operating System: Ubuntu 14.04 or greater, Linux Mint 17 or greater
Processor: 2 GHz x86 or greater
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: SDL Compatible Video Card, 1280×720 resolution or greater required.
Hard Disk: 3 GB

These packages are required:
libc6:i386
libasound2:i386
libasound2-data:i386
libasound2-plugins:i386
libsdl2-2.0-0:i386 and dependencies.

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7 or greater
Processor: 2 GHz x86 or greater
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: 1280×720 resolution or greater required.
Hard Disk: 3 GB

Windows

Operating System: Windows Vista or greater
Processor: 2 GHz x86 or greater
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: 512 MB DirectX 9.0c Compatible Video Card, 1280×720 resolution or greater required.
Hard Disk: 3 GB

Ubuntu 16.04

The GOG version of Xenonauts appears to run natively with no issues in Ubuntu 16.04.

Xenonauts – Linux, Mac OS X 10.10, and Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Xenonauts Title Screen

Xenonauts Title Screen

It was in the summer time, likely 1996. My best friend was an only child and seemed to have a great knack for talking his mother into buying him computer games from the bargain bin section of whatever store they happened to be shopping in. During this particular week, he and his mom were shopping at Tuesday Morning and he was able to purchase a game neither one of us had ever heard of, but the box cover sure looked interesting. It was a game for MS-DOS and because of its outrageous memory allocation requirements, he couldn’t figure out how to get it to work with his family’s computer system. Since both of his parents worked full-time, he came over a lot during the summer, and one day he brought the game with him to my house to see if I could get it to work on my system. After building a special custom boot disk to boot into a favorable DOS environment to run the game, we both experienced our first contact with the game called X-COM: UFO Defense.

Select Your Main Base

Select Your Main Base

X-COM: UFO Defense is a strategy game, developed by Mythos Games and released in 1994 by MicroProse, that combines real-time strategy with turn-based tactics. The player is tasked with creating and managing the global defense force protecting Earth from hostile invasion by extra-terrestrials. The player must spend their budget wisely purchasing aircraft to intercept and shoot down UFOs. They must hire soldiers to go on missions to eliminate the threat of downed alien spacecraft and to retrieve valuable alien technology. And they are also responsible for hiring and managing scientists to research new technologies to create weapons comparable to the ones the aliens carry.

Intercepting UFOs

Intercepting UFOs

Xenonauts, a game developed and published by Goldhawk Interactive in 2014, seems to have been created to recapture the same vein of nostalgia I had from when I used to play X-COM: UFO Defense with my best friend in the mid-1990s. The game developers state that the game is not meant to be a clone of X-COM, and it is not, but the spirit of that original game is certainly alive and present here. Gamers who played X-COM: UFO Defense will feel at home when selecting their beginning base site, managing their initial base, sending planes out to intercept UFOs and sending out a team of soldiers to investigate a UFO crash landing site.

Close Encounter Shot to the Face

A Close Encounter Shot to the Face

When playing through Xenonauts for the first time, I noticed it seemed to appear very spartan for the year it was released. No cutscenes or rich animations were employed, and I have been unable to find an actual tutorial on how to play the game as far as I can tell. With X-COM: UFO Defense a player had to rely on the manual. Without the manual it was easy to lose very quickly. Maybe Xenonauts was designed to cater to the more mature PC gamer who is used to reading a thick manual to get the most of their strategy game’s mechanics. There are tool-tips that pop up the first time a player accesses any new screen, however, so the player doesn’t have to fly completely blind. I realize having had played X-COM: UFO Defense as a child, I am not much of a newcomer to the genre, but without reading a manual or following a tutorial, I was able to intercept two UFOs and successfully complete my first mission to retrieve alien artifacts from my first downed UFO. There is also a Xenopedia that serves as an in game online help resource while playing.

UFO Secured

UFO Secured

Upon further research, it appears Xenonauts was actually the product of a Kickstarter campaign that was able to raise the sum of $154,715 from 4,668 backers according to Wikipedia. This is an impressive amount, but far from the budget of a AAA studio. With this information to place things in perspective, what the developers of Xenonauts were able to accomplish with this game is impressive. The musical score is complex, easy to listen to, and fits the atmosphere of the game. The sound effects are rich and fit within their contexts as well. While the animations and graphics are simple, no extra imagination is required on the part of the player to discern what they are looking at on the screen at any given moment.

Research Alien Technology

Research Alien Technology

Goldhawk Interactive allowed partial access to the Xenonauts source code which resulted in the creation of Xenonauts: Community Edition, a mod for the Xenonauts game. Those with a retail copy of Xenonauts can apply the community edition mod to expand and enhance their Xenonauts game experience. I’ll try to add another article covering the community edition mod at some later point.

I had a lot of fun briefly playing Xenonauts today, moseying down memory lane. The GOG summer sale just started today. Those that visit GOG.com before June 6th can download a free copy of Xenonauts to play themselves. This is a good game. I’d recommend getting a free copy before the promotion runs out.

Goldfinger James Bond 007 – Board Game Review

Goldfinger James Bond 007 Game Box

Goldfinger James Bond 007 Game Box

As alluded in the title, Goldfinger James Bond 007 Game is a board game released by Milton Bradley in 1966 after the release of the hit movie starring Sean Connery playing as James Bond. The Goldfinger board game centers around the scene in the movie in the vault room of Fort Knox as depicted on the game’s board. This is a two player game. One player controls the red pieces while another the blue pieces and one yellow piece which depicts Goldfinger. There are 8 blue pieces. The blue player’s objective is to get the Goldfinger piece to the outer edge of the board. If the blue player is able to accomplish this, they win. There are 16 red pieces. The red player wins when they are able to successfully capture the Goldfinger piece.

Game board with initial starting locations colored in.

Game board with initial starting locations colored in.

Capturing is accomplished by directly surrounding a piece on both sides. The blue player would capture a red piece by having two blue pieces on either side of it, and vice versa. If the red player were to move a piece between two blue pieces, their piece remains safe and is not passively captured. A player may capture two pieces in one turn, if they happen to move a piece into place such that it completes the corner of a right angle. When capturing, the Goldfinger piece may act as a blue piece. Neither red nor blue pieces are allowed to occupy or move through the Goldfinger piece’s starting location.

Standard capture.

Standard capture.

The Goldfinger piece can be captured in one of three ways. It can be captured if it is on the yellow dot in the center of the board if there are four red pieces surrounding it on the blue dots with white circles which are adjacent in cardinal directions north, south, east, and west to the yellow dot. If the Goldfinger piece is on one of the white circles, it may be captured by one red piece that places itself on a normal dot such that the Goldfinger piece is sandwiched between the yellow dot and the red piece. And if the Goldfinger piece is on a normal dot, it can be captured in the same way as any other blue piece.

Capturing two pieces at once.

Capturing two pieces at once.

Red always goes first. Each turn a player must move one piece in any horizontal or vertical direction any number of spaces. They may not turn a corner or move in two directions in their move. Play alternates until the Goldfinger piece escapes to the edge of the board or the red player captures the Goldfinger piece.

Capturing the Goldfinger piece.

Capturing the Goldfinger piece.

Goldfinger James Bond 007 is a very mentally stimulating, challenging strategy board game title. Much like chess, it really takes a great deal of skill and thought to master. The first few times I played through this game, I made some of the clumsiest mistakes that my opponent was quick to take advantage of. It’s nice to play with someone who has never played before on your first time, because she made just as many mistakes that I was then able to take advantage of as well.

Capturing the Goldfinger piece.

Capturing the Goldfinger piece.

It’s strange and interesting to switch colors and play the other side from game to game. The set of strategies is completely separate between blue and red players, and I found myself really having to think through every move. The rules make a point of stating that this game is meant to be played like chess. That means, while the blue team could win by taking direct advantage of a mistake made by the red player and move the Goldfinger piece to the outer edge of the board, the blue player is supposed to alert the red player as such a move is made. The idea is that a sort of check and checkmate should be called as the game is approaching completion in order to ensure the game is played strategically, not accidentally.

Example of "checkmate."

Example of “checkmate.”

It surprised my opponent and I both how quickly the tide of the game can turn. It is easy to get cocky when you have clearly captured more of your opponents pieces than they have captured of yours, yet still get routed. This game is not quite like any other two-dimensional strategy board game I have played. It is sort of like Chess, Checkers, and Nine Men’s Morris, but none of these games really do justice to explaining the gameplay going on here.

I found my copy of Goldfinger James Bond 007 at a local antique store a few blocks from my house in the city I live in. They sold it to me for $15. The cheapest copy I saw online was on Ebay for $40, which is a little steep. From my limited research it appears this game may be rare, but it would really be trivial to duplicate on a checker board without the movie theming. In order to do this you would need two sets of checkers pieces for one of the colors. So if the red player were still red when using checkers pieces, they would need two sets of red checkers or 16 red checkers. Meanwhile, the black player which is taking the place of blue would place 8 black checkers in their places on the board and two black checkers stacked on top of each other in the center to designate the Goldfinger piece. Instead of playing on the squares, play would be done on the intersections of lines and the board would have to be laid out as shown in the pictures in this article.

Initial piece positions. Note how this could be imitated on a standard checker board.

Initial piece positions. Note how this could be imitated on a standard checker board.

Goldfinger James Bond 007 is a great game for the collector. It’s a nice piece of American cultural history, it’s a Milton Bradley game from the 1960s, and it’s somewhat rare – all things that make the game a nice conversation piece. But beneath all this theming and history is a well balanced, impressive strategy game that can be played using very basic gaming components. I would hate for any fellow gamer to have to miss out on the richness of this impressively amazing strategy gameplay simply because they haven’t been able to get their hands on this particular movie to board game title.

Disciples: Sacred Lands – Compatibility

Disciples: Sacred Lands Title Screen

Disciples: Sacred Lands Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95/98
Processor: Pentium 200MHz
Memory: 32MB RAM
Hard Drive: 400MB
Video: DirectX 6.0 compatibility required.
Sound: 16-bit Sound Card required.
Optical: 4x CD-ROM drive

Windows 10

Installs – Yes.
Runs – Yes.
Uninstalls – Yes.

Disciples: Sacred Lands runs nearly flawlessly in Windows 10. When exiting the game, it sometimes fails to exit gracefully. All this requires on the part of the user is to click the “End Process” dialog that pops up when this happens.

Disciples: Sacred Lands – Windows 98 Game First Impressions

Disciples: Sacred Lands Title Screen

Disciples: Sacred Lands Title Screen

Disciples: Sacred Lands is a fantasy themed turn-based strategy game released by Strategy First in 1999. In this game you play as one of four distinct races: The Empire, The Mountain Clans, The Legions of the Damned, and The Undead Hordes, all battling for supremacy of, well, the manual actually just says “war-torn world.” I guess they’re still working out a name for it. Not sure where these characters actually exist within the game’s lore.

Gameplay centers around three core components: city management, managing unit movements throughout the overworld, and actively engaging enemies in tactical combat. Disciples: Sacred Lands is a serious strategy title. A player does not simply train troops and send them out blindly in this game. A great deal of planning is required to ensure the player’s towns are adequately protected and logistics have to be thought out.

The player starts the game with a capital city filled with a variety of troops. A leader is stationed at the city to protect it, while another leader is at the ready to be sent out on quests on the player’s behalf. Regular troops must have a leader in order to exit the city and fight or travel in any strength or speed on the overworld map. The number of units a leader may lead is designated by their leadership indicator. If a leader dies in battle, but some of his units survived, the broken party may hobble back to a town controlled by the player to resurrect the current leader or create a new leader and offload the units to the new party.

Beginning Capital City Units

Beginning Capital City Units

Once a party is created in the capital city, it may be sent out on quests. There are all sorts of bad fellows around the countryside to pick a fight with. Each fight won gains the party experience points and comes with a chance of obtaining some loot. The party may receive gold, magic potions, or magic staffs and scrolls that may be used to cast spells. When party members reach enough experience points, they may level up given that the appropriate structures are available in the capital city for them to do so.

It is best to leave some units behind protecting your towns. It surprised me how quickly and easily I got routed by the enemy AI when I was not expecting it. It is also good to always have a plan of retreat for all active parties. Building up a party’s experience takes time, and once the easy pickings of the game are dead, only difficult enemies remain. In one game I focused on leveling up only one party and was disappointed when they got routed and I lost the match. In another I focused on running a multitude of parties, maxing out my gold income per turn on units. I actually did better with this strategy, but it was not enough to overcome my opponent since he was able to level up his armies on my weak ones until he was at ample strength to wipe me out. A hybrid of the two approaches seems to be required. Treat your unit parties with kid gloves. Disciples: Sacred Lands seems to have been designed to be played more like chess and less like checkers. As long as one member of the party survives after a battle or retreat, you can resurrect the entire party if you can get them back to one of your towns.

Planting a rod to increase territory. Player territory is in green.

Planting a rod to increase territory. Player territory is in green.

The player is provided a great deal of choices in Disciples: Sacred Lands while being granted finite resources. Gold is used to recruit troops and leaders, resurrect dead party members, build buildings to train and level up units, and buy other in-game items. Various colors of mana are used to research and cast spells. The amount of gold and mana received each turn is directly proportional to the number of gold and mana resources controlled within the player’s border on the overworld map. Rods may be placed by certain units to claim land that surrounds a precious resource. When playing as The Empire, the rod placing unit is the Arch-Angel.

When facing an enemy, the game enters a tactical battle screen. Each unit takes turns attacking enemy units until all units on one side have died, or one side has retreated or surrendered. When recruiting troops the player may notice there is a two by three grid containing the leader and her units. Moving units around in this grid changes their ultimate positioning on the tactical battlefield. Keep this in mind because troop position is incredibly important. I got burned when I placed all of my warriors, a melee unit, in the first column also known as the back row of fighting. When their turn came to fight, they were all out of range of the enemy because they weren’t close enough to hit anything.

You have got to be kidding me.

You have got to be kidding me.

Even though it seems the level maps are static which provides a certain degree of consistency and predictability, the game has thrown me curve balls when I least expected it. This is a challenging game. Really fun, but really challenging. I would recommend keeping a notebook of all active units and their general whereabouts. There are no automatic orders that are continued from turn to turn. A player must simply click on a unit and move it any number of movement points that it can be moved in that turn. This makes it very easy to forget to move a unit on a given turn. My first thought was to be frustrated by this lack of game feature. As I continued to play I discovered how it would not be helpful since providing the player the ability to automate units would cause all sorts of problems for the player when an enemy human or AI is encountered. Disciples: Sacred Lands is a game where you want to be in complete control of all of your units at all times. It is best if all actions are calculated. Sending a unit out to explore as cannon fodder is always a losing tactic in this game.

Disciples: Sacred Lands Game Disc

Disciples: Sacred Lands Game Disc

It’s really not fair to relegate Disciples: Sacred Lands to a simple first impressions review. This game is incredibly deep and demands more time played to fully review its gameplay and winning strategies. My wife has been trying to get me to start doing weekly Twitch streams. Maybe this would be a good game for that. This game works nearly flawlessly in Windows 10, so don’t hesitate to purchase it online or from your local thrift store if you are a fan of strategy titles and want a good challenge to play on your modern computer.