Tuesday, June 14, 2011


This time up in my random walk through my game collection we come to a game that I have not played since probably 1993, Steve Jackson's Battlesuit.  This game is set in the overall 'universe' as the game Ogre, but instead of focusing on giant cybernetic tanks, Battlesuit focuses solely on infantry.  Granted, in the game it is 2085 and infantry wear powered armor that lets them fly through the air and shoot tactical nuclear weapons at each other, so it is nothing like modern infantry combat.  Or, at least, on the surface it's nothing like modern combat.  But how does it hold up as a game?

Battlesuit was sold in a plastic "clamshell" box, which Steve Jackson Games used a lot in the 1980s for their games.  Within that box is a one-sided paper map with some generic-looking hills and forests.  The only real thing of interest on the map is whereas Ogre used an industry-standard hex map, Battlesuit's map consists of hundreds of evenly spaced dots.  While these are set up in a hexagonal pattern, the use of dots allows for more careful plotting of line-of-sight than a hex grid would.  In addition to the map, you get ~250 card stock counters that you had to cut out yourself with scissors, and a rulebook.

The basic conceit of the game is that you will have a group of infantry, and will try to kill the other player's infantry.  There are a variety of scenarios in the rulebook, so sometimes you are just trying to get guys off the other end of the map, or you know you're gonna die but you win by holding off your opponent for a certain number of turns.  In the end, though, the game generally comes down to killing the other guy's units.  Each infantry unit has an attack rating, an Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) rating, and a movement rating.  To make an attack, you take your attack rating, subtract the target's ECM rating, and add and subtract other modifiers to arrive at a final attack rating.  You then roll two dice and look up your roll on the combat results table to see what happens.  You can kill a target outright, do varying degrees of damage, or just 'shock' the unit, which limits target's ability to act on their turn while not actually damaging them.

The game is more involved than that, though.  While you move your own units, they can be shot at by your opponent's units, so just running pell mell across the landscape is going to get your guys good and dead in a hurry.  You have to use terrain to your advantage to keep your guys from getting picked of as they move into position.  You can also use one of your units to "target" another unit.  Whereas most units can attack twice on their turn if they don't move, a unit that "targets" another unit only gets one attack, but gives a bonus to every other one of your units that attacks the targeted unit.  Some scenarios also give you robot drones that you can use in various ways; some are scouts, some have guns, and some are just big bombs.  There is really a lot of tactical variety to the game and it can get quite tense.

While this is actually a pretty good game, if I want a tactical infantry game I'm probably going to play another game in my collection, like Combat Commander.  Something about Battlesuit makes it slip to the back of my mind and not get played.  I'm still keeping it in the collection, though, because it is the only sci-fi infantry combat game I have.  And you never know when you are gonna need one of those.

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