by A.J. Coltrane
Back in the early 80’s TSR (the D&D people) published minigames. A minigame would come in a small plastic case with dice, a short rulebook, and a small map:
If you look closely at the top of the picture you’ll see the hole used to hang the game for display and sale. It’s a clever all-in-one package.
We played a lot of Revolt on Antares way back when. (It was published in 1981.) It’s a fun (if oversimplified) war game in the style of Axis and Allies. Little chits represent troops. You make little stacks of chits, move them around the hex map, and use them to attack other little stacks of chits/troops. Here’s a mid-game picture:
The symbols on the map represent terrain features and resources. If you squint really hard at the light blue chit on the brown island at the bottom center you’ll see that it says: “Hovercraft”, and, “2-8”. That troop unit has 2 attack and 8 movement. “Laser Tanks” are 6-4. “Jump Troops” are 3-5 (and can ignore rough terrain). And so on.
I gave up my original copy for lost years ago. I got the bug to play it again, so I bought a copy online. Naturally it was at that point my own copy resurfaced in an old D&D box.
Then I mostly forgot about the whole thing for a while. Periodically I’d see the game the closet and want to give it a go, but I didn’t get around to playing until very recently. I invited a buddy over and we tried out the most popular of the old scenarios.
The scenario calls for the “Terrans” to fight the “Rebels”. The Terran player starts out at a numerical disadvantage but gets more reinforcements over the course of the game. The game lasts ten turns, and the object is to control the most resource nodes and capitol cities at the end.
I believe that when I was younger my opponent and I would set up on opposite sides of the map and be tactical about it. Unaware of the finer points of these strategies, my buddy and I both set up in the center of the map and got into a giant slugfest.
The fight went back and forth. He was massing for another assault when I loaded a nuclear bomb onto a hovercraft… and directed the hovercraft into his two biggest stacks of troops.
And that was that.
It may be that if we played a few more times then some real strategy would kick in. Our strategies basically consisted of making the biggest piles of force we could and using those to smash smaller enemy forces.
I think we had fun with it.
In a related note: Shopping for games used to be a lot easier, but a bit of a crapshoot at the same time. If the game was by TSR or Avalon Hill then you were likely spending your money wisely, though without online reviews there was always an element of- “You pay your money and you takes your chances.” Still, the minigames were a cheap gamble, in contrast to some of today’s $60+ games..
BoardGameGeek page here.