Friday, June 15, 2012

What Were Your Earliest SF Gaming Experiences?

Mine were the following:
  • Lou Zocchi's Alien Space starship warfare wargame, which my Dad bought for me on one of our many trips to the Strasenburgh Planetarium. This game had cutouts of alien ships (one per 8.5" x 11" sheet, if I recall correctly. I believe range was determined by running a string between ships. I never quite figured out how to play the game; I was pretty young.
  • SPI's Starforce: Alpha Centauri, a wargame of interstellar conflict among humans and a few alien species near Earth. Space travel was based on teleportation. The band the Human League took their name from this game. SPI created a very interesting setting, technology, and races for this game. There were two follow-up wargames, Starsoldier and Outreach, but it is too bad there was never a roleplaying game. One of the distinctive features of the game was that warfare primarily involved using teleportation to move enemy ships to another system. So, actual violence wasn't necessary in space (however the Xenophobes, a race with Nova bombs, had another quite genocidal strategy. The setting was particularly influential in the space empires that my friends and I created in the years before Traveller.
  • A hyperspace movement-based strategy game, whose name I have forgotten. With this game, the longer your ships stayed in hyperspace, the more of the game board was available to you when you chose to exit hyperspace. So in other words, hyperspace movement is a form of expanding potential energy until it is committed to a spacial expression upon exiting hyperspace. I don't even want to think about what happens if a ship isn't able to exit for some reason. Come to think of it, this would be excellent to implement in a FATE space opera game. If anyone knows what that game is, please feel free to drop me a line in the comments!
So what were yours?


  1. I have a soft spot for Metagaming's Warp War, although it wasn't my first. Particularly the idea that technological advancement was faster than the speed at which ships travelled.

    My first space naval game was a set of garage-produced miniatures rules by some people in the UK, with scratch-built warships made of balsa and pins, and stuff (much as many conventional [surface aquatic] naval miniatures were made. No fighters (it was before Star Wars. And used string to calculate vector movement.

    And Starguard (McEwin Miniatures) for tabletop.

  2. I remember first reading about Metamorphosis Alpha in an old issue of Dragon Magazine. Then I had the chance to play in a Traveller game using the Little Black Books. Originally I was allowed to watch the older, High School kids play the game. The GM was very gracious. The party got stuck and I offered-up a solution and the GM ruled that I was a crew-member back on the ship. It turned out to be a lot of fun and I still have the boxed set I bought right after that game.

    I also remember playing in a game of FGU's classic Space Opera at a local convention back in the early Eighties. Our group of space commandos were tasked with breaking some political prisoner out of a prison-planet/gulag. Thimble grenades and det-packs were in our gear-list so we put them to a lot of use, not always a good use, but a LOT of use. Fun game. Totally went off the rails and well away from anything that the GM expected or planned for, but we all had a blast.

    Holy Crap--Space Opera is still available from FGU?!? For $20? Wow...I thought it was another 'lost' game. That $20 price is not exactly the bargain it might seem at fist though. The Space Opera rules are disjointed, disorganized, and a real bear to wade-through, but if someone were to really take some time to edit and revise this old beast into something more closely approaching gamer-English, this could be a pretty decent game. A fresh edition that put it all into a sensible order, cleaned-up the glaring inconsistencies, and addressed decades of kvetching from those who really wanted to like the thing could go a long way to challenging some of the space-fantasy Retro-Clones...

    The Space Opera support materials, especially the Sector supplements are really good and I've met a few Traveller GMs who adapted the old Space Opera Sectors over to the GDW rules...

  3. D6 Star Wars. Back when Star Wars was still great.

  4. Metamorphosis Alpha was a big one for me as well. I must have read Heinlein's Orphans of the Stars just a few years before the TV series The Starlost aired. MA + Heinlein + The Starlost created a lifelong love of generation ships. Readers will be seeing a few of them here over time.

  5. Had the SPI: Alpha Centauri but was "too cerebral" for me at the time. Traveller was ok, but I was into startegic wargames at the time. Plain and simple, I wanted to blow something up. Task Force Games came along with "StarFleet Battles" and that was it; I was hooked. Unfortu nately after awhile I got tired of all the addendums and "non-canon" perspectives of the game so it went into the garage sale.

  6. Hi Michael:

    We played a LOT of SFB too. We never did tire of that, although my friend generally played the Federation, and I the Klingons. He won just about every ship to ship engagement, which was probably about 40% nature of the engagement and 60% his mastery of the rules and fine tactical sense.


  7. MayDay, Traveller, High Guard, SFB, Starfire, Godsfire, OGRE, GEV, Blackhole, and Stellar Conquest.

  8. A lot of classics there! I used to love the Metagaming pocket games. Melee and Wizard were faves of mine, although I had and played OGRE, too.

  9. First game I ever owned, Star Frontiers.

  10. @Juan: I am embarrassed to say that I didn't have access to a copy until last year, when a friend loaned me his. Great game!