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Examining the space opera/star empires subgenre (Part Two)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted November 2, 2015

Freedom in the Galaxy: The Star Rebellions, 5764 A.D. Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI), 257 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010, 1979.
Howard Barasch, John H. Butterfield
400 die-cut counters (double-sided); 22" x 34" map (25 star-systems with 51 planets); 32-page rules; 12-page Galactic Guide;  2 sets of charts and tables (4 pages each); 140 cards (32 Character Cards, 20 Possession Cards, 15 Mission Cards, 30 Action Cards, 29 Galactic Event Cards, 14 Strategic Assignment Cards); 2 six-sided dice.
Bookcase box with attractive cover-art, plastic tray.
2 players

This is a very physically lavish game, but also very rules-heavy. The background closely parallels that of George Lucas' Star Wars. It can be seen as a pastiche of the space-opera genre – also with elements of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Since Star Wars was itself largely a pastiche, the SPI background emerges as too derivative and cliché-ridden. The mechanics of the game -- for a supposedly mass-market oriented effort -- are far too heavy. It can thus only appeal to rather committed gamers; the average Star Wars fan is likely to be daunted by the massive rules -- and, of course, it's not "the real thing". Freedom in the Galaxy was probably a signpost along SPI's decline, with its rules-heaviness sinking any chance of a broader appeal. However, if SPI had obtained the license to use the actual Star Wars background, the difficult rules might have been more forgivable, and the game would today be a real classic.

Buck Rogers: Battle for the 25th Century Game. TSR, Inc., POB 756, Lake Geneva, WI 53147, 1988.
Jeff Grubb
362 Plastic Playing Pieces (Plastic Figurines in Several Colors) -- 6 Leaders; 120 Troopers; 48 Gennies (genetically-engineered humans); 90 Fighters; 36 Battlers (Battleships); 24 Transports; 24 Factories; 14 Killer Satellites
54 Playing Cards -- 42 Territorial Zone cards (used for initial allocation of territories); 6 Leader cards (describe special abilities of leaders); 6 Turn Cards
1 21-1/4" x 35-5/8" mounted map, divided into a Solar System Display (inner planets), and Planetary Displays of 4 major planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth/Moon, Mars) and major asteroids
2 rulebooks -- 16-page Basic Game rules; 8-page Advanced Game plus optional rules
200 die-cut circular counters; 50 plastic chips; 5 10-sided dice
Huge box with attractive art, large plastic tray inside.
2-6 players

This is one of the most colorful and physically lavish boardgames I have ever seen. It is full of attractive components. And, with the Solar System Display allowing the simulation of the inner planet orbits, it is more reasonably scientific than one would expect from the Buck Rogers theme.

The main complaint to be made is that more leader counters could have been introduced, so that players could play more in tune with the background (i.e., it is scarcely conceivable that Buck Rogers, Wilma Deering, and Doc Huer could be leaders of powerful factions locked in savage conflict with each other).

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.

 

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