Solo online / PC games with a vintage, paper RPG or board-game feel?
February 7, 2019 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations of current solo games that have a strong whiff of vintage RPG or boardgaming in their mechanics, art, and pace.

I'm casting a wide net, but want to exclude anything that has an FPS look and feel - I'm looking for games that are more slow and meditative, preferably turn-based. I've got a preference for horror/supernatural themes, and anything that knowingly evokes 70s and 80s TSR and TSR-adjacent art.

A few favorite board games to get a feel for what I'm hoping to find - Fury of Dracula, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu, The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31, Dungeon Degenerates: Hand of Doom
posted by ryanshepard to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based tactics game with a strong fantasy/eldritch horror theme. (It's also pretty hard!)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:40 AM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Pillars of Eternity has a very D&D-inspired character creation system. The first game is real-time-with-pause. The second one is also real-time-with-pause but recently patched in a turn-based mode for combat.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:42 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Bards Tale Trilogy. Just re-released and the retro feel is wonderful! It's turn based but looks/feels a bit like doom and plays a tiny bit like a graphic MUD/RPG.
posted by AnneShirley at 9:04 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Return of the Obra Dinn might work, I'm not sure. You mention slow, horror and vintage feel. It's a first-person view, but it's a self-paced solo murder mystery solving game with graphics meant to evoke an early b/w Macintosh. It's the nineteenth century and a ship comes back to port with nobody on board, and you're an insurance person who has to figure out what happened (spoiler: murderin').
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:16 AM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

King of Dragon Pass and Six Ages. Storytelling strategy games where you manage a clan of barbarians in mythic times. Very boardgamersque, seasons are basically turns, and random events occur much like they’re drawn from a deck, but they have under the hood stuff going on that would make it difficult (or at least extremely tedious) to implement as an actual board game.
posted by rodlymight at 9:40 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm casting a wide net, but want to exclude anything that has an FPS look and feel - I'm looking for games that are more slow and meditative, preferably turn-based.

Not strictly swords and sorcerers, but the new Battletech game is a really faithful recreation of the original board/RPG game. The single player campaign is very good, though short - the endgame is entertaining enough to make up for it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:44 AM on February 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Shadowrun Returns, and its sequels Shadowrun: Dragonfall, and Shadowrun: Hong Kong are turn based isometric RPGs produced by one of the creators of the original pen & paper RPG incarnation of the franchise (who is also behind the BattleTech that's already been mentioned).

If you're not familiar with the setting, it merges cyberpunk (virtual reality computer interfaces, bionic implants ... ) and fantasy (elves, orks, spellcasting...) in a setting 60 years in the future (but since it was published in 1989, we're already halfway there, so it counts as a retrofuture at this point). If you can imagine an 80s cyberpunkish version of Netflix's Bright, but not so notoriously bad.

Shadowrun Returns does feature some of the setting's more supernatual horror-oriented elements very prominently. Dragonfall, also has some very dark themes, and a great party dynamic with some very well written NPCs. I'll be honest, I haven't gotten around to playing Shadowrun: Hong Kong yet, but if it's anything like the first two, it should be worth it as well.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:52 AM on February 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Mutant Year Zero just came out and is good. Based on an old board game, it's like XCOM. Phantom Doctrine is another cold war spy style of that game. If you did like turn based my ultimate recommendation would be Invisible Inc.

Hand of Fate 1/2 is a weird blend of dungeon crawler where you build a deck of cards and those flip over as events to create a dungeon. You have to fight in third person similar to the Batman Arkham games, you get equipment as rewards or other things. There are different quests that form a story. Quite good!

I just found this game called Dark Quest which is based on Hero Quest from back in the day. Loved that board game as a kid.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:52 AM on February 7, 2019

Digital Boardgames:

Does a literal D&D game work? Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation is on sale. Not specifically horror, but it's an adaptation of D&D board games.

Talisman is decent. Straight up digital board game implementation. On sale.

Same with Mysterium. Got it in a bundle, but never played it. :(

Ethically iffy, but Tabletop Simulator has just about anything you can think of in the Workshop.


A little light, but Card Hunter is fun. Also available on mobile. Free.

Maybe not what you are looking for, but perhaps a run through the Lone Wolf gamebooks? Project Aon has several ways to "play", but the linked version has been the easiest for me (either in a browser or the Android app). Free.

One of the worst looking games ever, but a great mix of a deck-builder and dungeon crawler: Dream Quest. Available for PC or iOS. Mechanics are amazing. Also not horror. :(
posted by hankscorpio83 at 10:03 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of the Divinity Original Sin series, which contains two games. It does have kind of a whiff of tabletop gaming to me, with many ways to approach quests and puzzles and optional co-op. Falls a bit more on the typical light fantasy side, thematically, but it has turned-based combat and lots of different ways to approach solving quests and puzzles.

The second one is (IMO) quite a bit better than the first, and you don't need to play the first to understand it. It actually even has a Dungeon Master mode for creating and running your own campaigns so they're really trying to bring home that tabletop feel.

This one is kind of an "out there" suggestion but - there was a series of CYOA books in the 80s called Kai Chronicles. I just purchased them on Android for a long plane ride and found them surprisingly enjoyable to go through. The app that runs them has a random number generator and keeps track of your inventory for you.
posted by one of these days at 10:03 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Haha, double recommendation for Lone Wolf / Kai Chronicles player :)
posted by hankscorpio83 at 10:05 AM on February 7, 2019

Also highly recommend Divinity: Original Sin 2.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker won Game of the Year 2018 at RPGCodex. I am on my third playthrough. It can be configured to run more turn-based, but just pressing spacebar to pause and plan has been my method.
posted by bastionofsanity at 10:29 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

On the very off chance they’re what you’re looking for and you haven’t heard of them, the Baldur’s Gate games are AD&D based. The series arguably goes up to and through the first Dragon Age game, Origins.
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 10:56 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Some of the original Infinity engine games including Baldur's Gate, BG2, and Planescape: Torment just got "Enhanced Editions" for more modern computers. Spiderweb Software specializes in turn-based fantasy if you don't mind older graphics.

If you want to dip into sci-fi I think Wasteland 2 is also isometric/turn-based. The Shadowrun series have been some of my favorite anti-twitch games of the last few years. Returns is a lot weaker than Dragonfall and Hong Kong.

If you want a fun and humorous turn-based roguelike with 2D aesthetics, there's Dungeons of Dredmor.

And I think Sunless Sea is worth checking out given your thematic preferences. Victorian London has fallen into an alternate dimension of perpetual night. Many years later, you sail the black seas in search of, something. It's 2D, and not very twitchy in my early play. Sunless Skies was just released and the Fallen London web game can give you a taste of the writing.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:49 AM on February 7, 2019 [7 favorites]

And Atom RPG was just released in the turn-based category.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:50 AM on February 7, 2019

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) is based - literally, mechanically - on the D20/Saga edition of the Star Wars RPG from Wizards of the Coast. You even see the results of dice rolls on some combat encounters (which are pause-turn based).

Can't speak for KOTOR II, although it followed in close succession I presume it's the same mechanics underneath. Both are available through GOG and Steam.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 11:50 AM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Kingdom of Loathing
posted by soelo at 12:07 PM on February 7, 2019

Slay the Spire just came out of early access, and is fantastic. It's a combination of roguelike and deckbuilding card game (think Dominion).
posted by spatula at 1:09 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) is based - literally, mechanically - on the D20/Saga edition of the Star Wars RPG from Wizards of the Coast. You even see the results of dice rolls on some combat encounters (which are pause-turn based).

Can't speak for KOTOR II,

KOTOR 2 is not as good as the first one (famously a lot of content was cut due to lack of time but I think there are mods that restore some of that content), but if you like Star Wars and RPGs, KOTOR is exceptionally good.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:14 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's been praised repeatedly, but Divinity Original Sin 2 is really that good. Fantasy world, interesting characters, expedience vs diplomacy issues, etc. The previous one is ok, but it pales in comparison to the sequel.

For a post-apocalyptic run, Wasteland 2 is (well, the sequel to Wasteland, or course, but more importantly) the spiritual successor to Fallout 1 and 2.

The art for both is not exactly TSR 80s, but Wasteland 1 was released back in the 80s, so there is some setting stuff based on that.

The Battletech game is made by the same people who made the Shadowrun games. If you like the SR games, you'll like the smashy giant robots.
posted by Hactar at 9:04 PM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

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