Thursday, January 27, 2011

Holy War

Recent discussion of the Shén -Transporter Wars and specifically of the role of religion in Humanspace circa 62000 AD brought to mind Metagaming’s 1979 MicroGame, Holy War, a two player strategic space war game.

Holy War utilized a pretty clever mapping scheme that represented three dimensional space wherein a series of seven connected hexes, each representing a volume of one cubic light-year, spiraled down within each mega-hex. A similar system for 3-D space mapping was used in Godsfire, another Metagaming product by the same designer, Lynn Willis.  Sweeping warp-lines, representing “unusually accessible folds in space,” were also included on the star map. These provided shortcuts through space and Warp Line Generator ships (WLG or vulg kankal) were available to project temporary artificial warp lines for use by friendly star craft. Lacking a convenient warp line or a friendly WLG, ships were generally limited in movement to one adjacent hex per turn. At the risk of dispersal, simulated by allowing the opposing player to place the dispersed ship anywhere on the map, ships were allowed to attempt long distance jumps of up to six hexes.

Like most of the MicroGames, Holy War was not particularly remarkable in terms of its combat resolution. Combat occurred when opposing ships occupied the same level and both players agreed to engage. Combatant ships were then ordered into flights and the weapon system, launched weapons, energy weapons, or psychic weapons (which allowed boarding enemy ships) to be employed by each flight was randomly determined. Each player then totaled the appropriate weapon system strength for the engaged flights, the lesser total was subtracted from the greater total to obtain the Combat Differential, and each player rolled a d6, indexing the roll to the differential on a table, Results included no effect, damaged weapon systems, dispersal, or destruction of the flight.

The individual ship units, including Rangers, Star Cruisers, Probes, Jammerswarms, Luckships, Pressorships, Starbusters, Psycheships, Emissaries of Prayer, et al were actually pretty interesting and this stemmed directly from the game's fascinating setting.

The action took place within a 30 light-year wide pocket universe within the body of Amtik, an intelligent, slightly damaged giant space cloud, possibly some sort of alien bio-machine. Within Amtik, the laws of physics were bent; time and light speed were compressed. The opposing space fleets were crewed by the Eltani, a highly philosophical space faring race that had split into warring factions over the nature of God. Amtik had been unaware of their existence and rapid development until it detected the Eltani building pyramids on their home world, soon afterwards they are flying starships to the edge of the universe to check out Amtik’s exposed sensor points…

From the back of the book:
"GOD" is alive and well...
Amtik the god had a problem. The universe was internal to his 400,000km long self. He was "god" to the universes' inhabitants. Unfortunately, only the Holy Band truly believed in and worshipped Amtik. The unruly Sunthrowers believed in Amtik's existence, however, they also believed that "life was not an end, but a by-product of systems design." Amtik was in danger! The Sunthrowers were hurling stars at his universe sensor ducts. The Holy Band wanted his divine intervention. A sun in the ducts would dissipate poor Amtik and free his creations. While the Holy Band mightily struggled to believe and triumph, Amtik might even get bored and "turn-off" his universe…

Some of my favorite units in the game:

Emissary of Prayer (vas val or fearing tongue) ships were crewed by a compliment of 120 fanatical, ritually purified monks. Victory conditions required that one of these be present in one of Amtik’s sensor ducts to plead the faction's case with God…

Jammerswarms, operated by the Sunthrowers, were capable of blocking communication between Holy Band vas val and Amtik. The game book noted that if the Sunthrowers really believed that these were effective using them would have been essentially heretical…

Both the Sunthrowers and Holy Band engaged in intensive ESP research; Luckships (gelon, never trips) and Holy Band Psycheships (efgelon, we trip you) were crewed by ESPers. Luckship crews could sway a battle with PK powers; Psycheship crews could mentally dominate and reprogram the brain-circuits of Sunthrower units, converting them to the Holy Band cause.

Pressorships, huge Sunthrower ships covered with spines and robot subships (ipital), used to push a star through some sort of sub-space window with the ultimate goal of shoving it in God’s sensor duct…

Holy Band Starbusters (eche tihn or God Hurters), drone ships designed to explode the stellar core of a star being shoved around by the Sunthrowers…

…back to Humanspace Empires…there’s something in Holy War, maybe the weird fanatical space cults pushing stars around or trying to blow them up, or the ESPer ships, or the prayer ships full of space monks that, if run through some sort of Buck Rogers Fantastic Pulp Sci-fi translation device, speaks to me of Humanspace…

Also…those 3-D star maps might be useful for tactical space battles…more on that soon.

2 comments:

  1. Very, very interesting 3D map technique. Never seen that before.

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  2. I love those Microgames. I wish they would make a return.

    ReplyDelete

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