Battlesystem Miniatures Rules (2e) – Sean’s Pick, 051716

Just got back from Chupacabracon (what a fantastic game con in Austin, TX!), and still digging out after about a week away. We’re going to the Dungeon Masters Guild site for our Pick today, a callback to an important release in D&D history. The Battlesystem brought things full-circle, opening the way for D&D groups to go even more tactical for some encounters, and go really epic with full-scale battles in their D&D campaigns.

Excerpts from the product page –

This book, a full-scale revision and expansion of the rules in the original Battlesystem Fantasy Combat Supplement, gives you all the information you need to set up and play battles with miniature figures.

These rules can be used without the AD&D game books, but you can also convert characters and creatures from an AD&D game campaign and use them in Battlesystem scenarios.

Lavishly illustrated in full color, this book is an attractive addition to any gaming library.

Product History

Battlesystem Miniatures Rules (1989), by Douglas Niles, is the second edition of the Battlesystem mass-combat system for AD&D. It was published in November 1989.

About the Title. The original Battlesystem (1985) was meant to be played with or without miniatures, and so came in a box full of fold-up figures and lots (and lots) of army counters. That changed with the second edition Battlesystem Miniatures Rules (1989), which put the word “miniatures” front and center.

Origins (I): Four Years Later. The original Battlesystem was an oddly positioned AD&D product. It came in a big box, full of expensive components — in an era before TSR regularly produced overly-stuffed boxed sets. It was clearly meant to be a big, showpiece item for TSR. And, it could have been very successful in selling TSR’s D&D miniatures if (1) the boxed set weren’t designed to be used without miniatures and (2) TSR hadn’t shut down its miniatures production just as Battlesystem appeared.

Four years on, the advent of AD&D 2e (1989) offered the obvious opportunity for TSR to revamp their Battlesystem game. This time, they produced a much smaller product: a 128-page paperback supplement. Fans of fantasy mass-combat were still being served, but the new Battlesystem was obviously no longer intended to be a cornerstone of TSR’s production.

 

Expanding D&D. The new version of Battlesystem is no longer dependent on the AD&D rules. It also includes far fewer AD&D magic spells than the original did. With that said, it still contains full conversion rules and can still be used as the mass-combat system for AD&D.

Revising Battlesystem. TSR didn’t just revamp (and simplify) the Battlesystem product; they also massively revamped (and simplified) the Battlesystem mechanics. As Niles says, the new edition has “some resemblance to the original [rules]”.

A few of the biggest simplifications:

  • In 1e Battlesystem units had very extensive stats, usually laid out in a quarter-page of text. In 2e Battlesystem, that was condensed down to a single line of text — reminiscent of the simple stats of old-school D&D.
  • In 1e Battlesystem, combat required players to do addition, subtraction, and even multiplication — all while consulting a complex combat results table. In 2e Battlesystem, each individual figure instead throws its own die, with the results revealing both if they hit and how well. The defenders then get to throw a huge pool of dice in return.
  • In 1e Battlesystem, counters could represent between 2 and 10 individuals. In 2e Battlesystem, they always represent 10.

Overall, 1e Battlesystem was a more simulationist and more complex gaming system that hewed closer to roleplaying’s wargaming roots. 2e Battlesystem instead moves toward the sort of streamlined gaming systems that would become more common in the roleplaying fields of the ’90s and ’00s. It was an understandable change given the overall evolution of roleplaying games … but it was a surprise to see this simplification while the game was simultaneously positioning itself as a standalone miniatures system.

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