Looking for the Perfect OSR Game
I'm giving it some thought as my gaming group will embarking on an old school campaign this summer. There's a few I'm considering - links go to reviews on this blog.
High up on the list is ACKS - Adventurer Conqueror King. I've had a lot of fun playing it in the past. It's based on what is probably my favorite version of D&D, the old B/X variant, but adds the sort of crunch that I like. It operates on the premise that characters will eventually become movers and shakers in the world, with rules for running domains, thieves' guilds, etc. On the negative side for ACKS advancement takes a while and it does require a bit more prep than most OSR style game. Prep time is something of a premium for me, as after a break of a few months I'll be resuming part-time pursuit of my Master's at Brandeis this July. My own experience is the prep time does yield excellent dividends, granting a lot of play time.
Another game probably just as high is Dungeon Crawl Classics, another game I've had some good experiences with. It is also the game where I GM-ed my first (and thus far only) total party kill. Sorry about that guys. I like the feel of DCC - a bit looser than ACKS, which reduces the prep time considerably. I do sometimes find myself wishing for a bit more crunch - there's quite a bit "make it up yourself" in DCC. I just received my pdf backer copy of Mutant Crawl Classics, a Gamma World-like game, which looks rather promising, though the pdf itself isn't generally available.
Those two are probably my top tier, though there's a few more I'm giving a bit of a flip through. The various incarnations of Swords & Wizardry give an experience a bit closer to pure old school D&D. Lamentations of the Flame Princess has a great take on emphasizing weird fantasy, something very usable even without the grindhouse elements which aren't quite my thing (nothing wrong with such elements, just a matter of personal preference. I've also been revisiting the excellent Astounding Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea - a nice tightening of the 1st edition AD&D rules in a default setting very reminiscent of Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea stories.
I'll probably spend another few days mulling over my game options before committing. It's fun research. It's odd taking a look at reviews I made several years ago.