Friday, September 25, 2020

Battlesystem 1st edition - repurchased

I received a package from Noble Knight Games.* Someone mentioned a book I'd never heard of, which sounded interesting. I couldn't find a PDF for sale, so I checked Noble Knight Games. They had it, along with modules 3 and 4 in a 4-book series I own 1 and 2 of. But I figured, while I'm there and ordering, I should see if they have some other things I'd like.

One of them was a boxed set of TSR's Battlesystem.

They had two - one unpunched, and one partly-punched. The unpunched had a better box condition . . . so I ordered it. It arrived today:

The cover depicts the fantasy battle we all want to have played, but didn't.

Everything is as-described. It lacks the minis, which is fine. Less fine is the fact that the record sheets have clearly been folded over in the box for years. Ugh.

But hurrah! I have an intact copy of the AD&D mass combat system. Thanks to a used bookstore pickup years ago, I own the original Companion Set and Masters Set books so I have War Machine, too.

The annoying thing is, I owned Battlesystem. As far as I know, I still own it. While I did give away all of my duplicate books at one point, and I did box up and sell off a big whack of gaming material, I don't recall selling Battlesystem. I doubt I would - I really like the rules, and I still have pieces of the sheets (both the originals and hand-typed ones for my own big battles) in one of my folders. I found it when I went digging for my battlesystem rules.

I just couldn't find the rest of the rules.

I have the two minis from the set, and painted the one I liked better. I have all of the counters (well, I'm sure I lost a few). But the box? Long gone. The rulebooks? I just can't find them. The painting guide? It's not with my mini painting guides I have handy, and I can't lay my hand on it. It's very mysterious. Like I said, it's not something I would have given away, I don't throw out game materials, and who would buy random bits of Battlesystem even if I did sell it?

Hopefully I'll stumble across it.

As it stands, though, now, I have a complete set, minus the minis, unpunched. The counters will stay unpunched in case I ever do sell it. I have enough if I want to use the system anyway. Another 801 counters isn't going to make my left better. All I really needed was the rulebooks and tables.

I'm not sure I'll get to use it, but I hope so. I played a lot of Battlesystem in the 80s. I played every battle in the book, and ran the battles from Dragonlance modules, too. I bought H1 Bloodstone Pass and played that out by myself since no one wanted to play a mass-combat centered game.

I have to admit I was surprised when I found some real hate for Battlesystem on the blogs back when I started reading them. Or just antipathy and a general, "It sucks" attitude. I really like it, and I found it worked as scale-modified AD&D pretty well.

We used it in my big Unearthed Arcana-era AD&D game in high school. Only myself and one of my players thought that was interesting, and ending the campaign with a big battle (using Old Stoney, the castle from Dragon magazine, as the objective) was probably a mistake. It was probably going to end anyway, as people had started to drift out of gaming or into different groups. Which was also too bad because everyone was name level by that point - an 8th/12th ranger/druid, a 10th or 11th level Cavalier-based Paladin, an 11th level magic-user, a 9th level fighter a small army of troops and some henchmen, another paladin around 8th level, a thief of some significant level (11th? 12th? I can't recall), and they had just started as a group to enjoy bossing around the NPCs. A lost chance, I suppose.

Now, all I need to make me really happy is a replacement copy of X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield. I should just invest the money in getting the PDF version I do own printed nicely and the counters printed on cardstock, so I could play it again. I know that in my current group maybe 1-2 people might be into it, but I suspect most of the group would just want the war in the background and chafe at needing to do diplomacy and just want to kill things. That reason alone stays my hand on the "Print" button.

In any case, thanks Noble Knight Games. I'm quite pleased.

* I remember ordering from them back in the day when they'd mail a .csv file with a list of books. My copy of Elric! and Sea Kings of the Purple Towns and some Twilight:2000 modules are from them. I missed out on Sorcerers of Pan-Tang, which someone else bought before my order arrived. That was . . . mid-90s?

(Editing later - Rob Conley has an Ascending AC Adaptation for Battlesystem.)

(Editing Even Later - James Maliszewski did an interview with Douglas Niles, game designer for Battleystem.


  1. Noble Knight's new storefront/warehouse is a 20 min drive from where I live. Before the pandemic we had our weekly game there, went to mini painting with the kids some Saturdays, and occasionally sold Dungeon Scout cookies to hungry gamers. Good folks.

    Have you ever actually played out X10? I have a copy, and owned that version of Battlesystem (maybe still do? lots of boxes of old game stuff), but never played it out.

    1. I did play it out. I remember the Desert Nomads losing although they took a fair amount of the Republic of Darokin. In retrospect, though, I probably played them a bit too cautiously. I have a tendency to try to conserve my units and not risk unnecessary casualties. If I played it again, I'd run them like I learned to run the Warsaw Pact in the Third World War series - fast and hard, and accept casualties and loses as the price of rapid advances.

  2. You won't regret your purchase. As for those who hate Battlesystem 1e, I will respectfully say they don't know what they are talking about.

    The great thing about it is that it works across nearly all the various editions of D&D due to the fact that the core mechanic is a chart and formula that sums up the damage done by X folks, with Y odds rolling z dice for damage.

    The major tweak is working the formula to get the math right for editions using ascending AC.

    1. I'll add a link to that, above.

      I agree across the board. It's easy, it lines up well with D&D, and it's fun on its own. I just need a D&D-based game and players who like mass combat on the tabletop.

  3. You make me feel lucky to have a copy of X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield still after all these years. How much does it sell for?

    1. Unpunched? $145.
      X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield

      My copy is really ratty, and I'm sure I lost counters. I should re-print it from PDF, and take some time and see what counters are missing. Maybe I could just replace them instead of a whole re-do.


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