I hate to bury my humanist essay below (please check it out if you have the time and inclination), but I thought I'd let people know about Strategy First's offer as a favor to folks out there who want to try out some games they may not have heard of before. If the idea of spending money doesn't appeal to you, though, skip to the end of this entry to see a neat video reel for a clever, freeware version of the space sim Privateer.
Looks like Strategy First, makers of... well a lot more than strategy games apparently, is having a buy 2, get 3rd select title free sale on their website. Doesn't include shipping, of course. You buy two from their current catalog, which has a lot of stuff, then you select one from the list below and get it for free. I'll take it upon myself to put up some links of reviews, or at least to meta sites that have lists of reviews for you to check out, if this sounds interesting to you. I'm doing this pretty much as a favor to other budget-minded gamers (although make sure the shipping tally isn't a problem for you).
I'm only familiar with Disciples I and II, but some other titles I recognize (Uplink, Jagged Alliance 2 in the main catalog), and I imagine some are quality titles despite them probably not being popular, just because it's a smaller publisher. The sale link:
I'll look some of these games up and link reviews of any that look interesting (y'know, maybe, if I can get up the will to actually read all these reviews), and I'll take down this blog post when the sale is over, or I get tired of looking at it. The select titles include Disciples, so if you haven't tried that out and want to, you can use this chance to benefit a smaller publisher.
Here's a list of their select games you get for free if you buy two from the catalog (the three exceptional ones have ** around them, while the one that looked OK has *):
Alliance: Future Combat - bleh
| Battle of Europe - Not so hot|
Brigade E5: New Jagged Union - Not the Jagged Alliance sequel fans were hoping for
Call For Heroes: Pompolic Wars - Dismal?
Combat 6 plus 1 Pack - Here's a list of the games, at least. Note this is Combat, not Conquest
Ducati World Championship - Hm, I'm starting to see a trend here
| Emergency 3 -Sixteen Tons and whattaya get?|
Great Invasions: The Darkages 350-1066 ad - generally poor
|Gun Metal - TV's Jeff Gerstmann reviewed this one. Others liked it better. (They review the XBOX version, though. The PC version is the one for sale)|
**Jack Keane** - One of the higher raters, floating around Disciple's rating on average. Whimsical point-and-click adventure
*Legion Arena* - Bland graphics, many strategic options, command a Roman legion
Some of them don't look too familiar. Maybe there's a reason for that, but there may be hidden gems in there. I liked Disciples, so I could recommend that, and I haven't played the second Jagged Alliance (which isn't part of the free games but is purchasable in the regular stock available, and tended to get good reviews when it was noticed by critics), but I have played some of the first, which was fun. Just be sure to read the descriptions, look up reviews, that sort of thing, if you try to see if this is worth your while. I used Gamerankings mostly just to find the reviews.
From what I've gathered, the turn-based strategy Game Disciples II, Jack Keane, and Making History all look like decent picks, with some others having heavy strategy elements but which may still be appealing to some. There are some dogs, though, too, looks like. If I were in a place where the shipping was easy for me I might do Jagged Alliance 2, Jack Keane, and maybe Disciples II for free (if I didn't own it already). Since you pick to catalog items plus one of the above, you could probably grab Jack Keane, too, and then go with some of the catalog games below if you, like me, already have Disciples.
I'll keep adding updates if I find anything in the regular catalog (the ones you have to buy, usually about 20 bucks, sometimes less) that looks interesting:
Space Empires IV Deluxe is a 2006 update to the 4X game Space Empires Gold that looks like it got good praise. I remember playing the demo and not being impressed with it myself, but I'm rather picky when it comes to 4X games.
Penumbra Episode I (can't find any of the others) seems to make the adventure gaming crowd happy.
Jagged Alliance 2, probably the highest ranking game here if you go by gamerankings at all
Culpa Innata looks like a decent adventure game
Dark Star One (probably nothing to do with the movie): space combat sim game that I think I remember from somewhere got decent marks
Sacred Gold looks like an inoffensive Diablo-oid RPG, although I can't find more than one (7.4/10) review for it.
Hover Ace reviewed by the same site, with about the same score. A hover ship racing sim.
Exodus from the Earth: An adequate shooter
The sub sim Dangerous Waters rivals Jagged Alliance for top ratings among the games listed here (although I don't recognize the mags that review it, so take that with a grain of salt)
All of this is contingent on you liking one of the free games, even if you're going to just get it for laughs. The game selection in the regular catalog has some definitely good titles, though, regardless if the sale doesn't sound like your thing. Like I said, I probably won't bother because the shipping for me will likely be ridiculous, but I hope this stupid legwork I just did was at least informative for someone :)
Anyway, here's ASCII Privateer:
I dunno about you, but this looks frigging cool to me. Very clever, and a freely improvable version of an open universe space sim. Still, you know, it's ASCII, so there's that.