Yesterday, Douglas Cole at Gaming Ballistic wrote up some of the games that he'd like to play, and then today Peter V. Dell'Orto at Dungeon Fantastic did the same. Since I'm stuck in the review that I'm writing (for a recent game, of all things), I figured, "what the heck?" and decided to do the same. I've written things like this before, but I like the focus of limiting myself to three games (not a hard and fast rule, but that's what those two gentlemen did). And anyway, my list has changed slightly from those earlier lists.
1) Top Secret. I recently ran across the flowchart that Merle Rasmussen put together in Dragon magazine #40, and looked at my slowly growing draft of a TS retroclone. Then I remembered how much fun the game was, and how much fun it looks now. It's an odd game, occupying a niche closer to the Mission: Impossible TV series than the superheroics of Bond or Bourne (or the movie version of Mission: Impossible), more like Secret Agent/Danger Man or To Catch A Thief than Munich or Three Days of the Condor. And yet, it can manage to fill those other roles as well. Sometimes. When the dice fall right. The person running it would need to have access to a lot of the articles that appeared in Dragon magazine, especially "Pop the Clutch and Roll!" in Dragon #78, which gave a good, gameable system for car chases.
2) Flashing Blades. Especially using the High Seas supplement to play pirates in the Caribbean - but I wouldn't turn down playing in France either! There is still no better game for swashbuckling adventure. Character creation is as quick and breezy as the game system itself. Yeah, there are some clunky bits (weapon skills, notably), but they work without needing to be changed. The idea of having a goal in the form of the careers that a character can pursue is brilliant and quickly puts the players in the position of generating the adventures on their own as they maneuver and intrigue for power and position.
3) Traveller. Classic, Mega-, GURPS, Mongoose, I don't care. I'll even play New Era, T4, or T5 (though I won't be as happy). I do have a strong preference for Classic or Mega-, largely because I like the simplicity of the mechanics and clean feel of the gadgets and setting (Mongoose is a little too baroque for me, though the mechanics are good). GURPS is not a bad choice, though the system isn't as pristine. New Era is alright, but the system was not the best thing that GDW ever came up with. T4/T5 are pretty similar, and I don't like the way that the system has gone much, but at least it isn't SpaceMaster (I kid! I'm kidding! SpaceMaster is totally better than Space Opera. I'm kidding again!) I'd probably like any of them even more if the setting was the Referee's own, developed from the game assumptions, rather than the Imperium universe. Not that I dislike the Imperium, but ever since Virus it's kinda lost its appeal in all eras to me. Well, the GURPS "No Rebellion" alternate timeline is pretty cool. Too bad they had to go to the Interstellar Wars era in 4E, forcing everyone who just wanted to play the default setting to do a tonne of conversions. Easier to just roll up some subsectors and go. The point is, though, that Traveller is a pretty awesome game, maybe the best for me.
Of course, I'm not counting games that I'd run (well, I'd run Traveller). That is currently a fixed list: AD&D 1E (with small alterations), GURPS Fantasy Old West (which I am running for myself using a solo GM emulator), MegaTraveller, ACKS, Fantasy Wargaming, Space 1889 (not the new one, the original GDW game), Chivalry & Sorcery. There are a couple of other games that I'd like to play, too, but not as seriously as the three I listed. Hârnmaster, D&D 5E, and RuneQuest 6E, notably, as well as any of those that I said I'd run.
What are you looking to play?