As many of you are aware, Avalon Hill's Magic Realm is one of my favorite old-school fantasy RPG boardgames. It is played without a referee, yet has sufficient depth to satisfy your role-playing itch.
We played several games of Magic Realm over the holidays, and were never disappointed with the game play. Hopefully more games will be played in 2012.
For those of you who cannot find a tabletop version of Magic Realm, the free, electronic java implementation, called Realmspeak, is available here.
One of Magic Realm's unique features is the use of action chits to govern what tasks each of the 16 unique characters can perform.
Morritz Eggert of the Westpark Gamers has this to say about Magic Realm's action chits:
"Characters move, fight, cast spells and perform other tasks in Magic Realm utilizing their action chits. Below are the Black Knight's move and fight action chits.
Each action, like moving, fighting or casting a spell comes in Light (L), Medium (M), Heavy (H) or Tremendous (T) versions.
Each action chit includes a speed number, with 1 being the fastest action, 2 being the next fastest, and 8 being the slowest.
Depending on the character you play, some action chits will also have one or more effort stars (* or **), limiting their use, or forcing you to suffer fatigue (rather than wounds) as you overstrain yourself by playing action chits with effort stars.
Playing a combination of action chits that, between them, includes a total of two effort stars, results in one of your twelve action chits becoming fatigued, and therefore taken out of play until your character rests.
The four-tier system of light, medium, heavy and tremendous actions corresponds with everything you do in the game, and is actually very logical and easily understood.
For example, to wear heavy armour, you need to play a heavy move chit, otherwise you won't be able to wear it. Easy, isn't it?
Actually the game is far from obscure or difficult once you play it, and there are no myriad exceptions or special rules like in Advanced Squad Leader.
The best way to learn Magic Realm is have someone teach it to you. I have yet to find somebody who finds the game too complicated when taught to them, because it actually plays very fluidly and logically.
Yes, if you include all advanced and optional rules, you will have a lot to read, but the full game also simulates an absolutely complete and logical fantasy world: seasons; days and nights; weather; warring factions of natives that act realistically, buy and sell items, can be hired, and move around;monsters that have their own life;players that can interact with each other in complicated ways, each with completely different and interesting goals; and a fully fledged magic system that is by far the most interesting of any Fantasy RPG's.
In short, the world of Magic Realm really lives, in the best sense of the word, with a flawless internal logic to it that is far more realistic than the event-card driven games of the "Talisman" school, but can still surprise you at any moment.
Although I have played the game (really often) I still have yet to use every possible spell combination or every available magic item,so many possibilities does this game offer.
In addition, each of the 16 available characters not only has a completely different set of movement, magic and battle chits, but also has 2 special abilities, which makes each character totally unique and forces players to develop different strategies for each of them."