Play it now!I’d seriously sweated for my midterms. Astrology, dialectic and calligraphy, I felt I had in the bag. Arithmetic and geometry, well, I figured I could get by on geometry with the extra-credit work that I’d done.

Incantation, though. Why had I taken incantation – one of the toughest branches of magic – this year instead of something like botany? Pride? The lure of being able to bend the forces of nature with a well-tuned wand? Whatever it was, I just knew I was going to make a poor showing on my midterms, and I had a lot to make up before the finals. I didn’t dare wash out.

All in all, I’m glad I picked up Academagia: The Making of Mages. I played it right through, and I had an awesome time with it.

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The appeal of mercenary company simulators is somewhat more broadly-based than other gaming genres, as they tend to (more or less) successfully blend strategic, tactical and logistical tasks into an appealing framework. Choose your work, or your targets, select your personnel, make sure everyone’s equipped, fed and getting paid, fight your battles – and maybe get some looting and pillaging in on the side.

Here are my pet picks from the genre, in no specific order.

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Play it now!This is sort of awkward. I don’t want to tell you about this game.

That’s because I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Let’s pull some adjectives out of the bag. It’s refreshing, surprising, haunting and surreal.

Got that? Good. Play it now!

For the rest of you who are still here, I’m wondering quite how to describe this without giving you the wrong impression.

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Play it now!Something a little unusual this time around. One that you can play right away.

From the very skilled – and I might even be inclined to suggest ‘artistic’ and ‘spectacular’ – Andrew Plotkin comes a sterling piece of short interactive fiction. It’s compact and lovely, and not too difficult.

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