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Friday, February 12, 2010

Lords of War: FASA

"Lords of War" is a brief limited edition feature I started last year to celebrate particular war games that have become part of my gamer conscienceness. I usually discuss a single game rather than an entire game company but I just can't help myself this time. Please forgive the conceit, but I've enjoyed such a host of FASA products that it's just flat out impossible to mentally separate them into individual blogs about each one. I've had this little topic on my blogabout since around September, so well... let's do it!
I say this without the slightest exaggeration or hyperbole: I miss FASA more than I'll ever miss TSR. FASA had an entirely different vibe as a company; the creative and imaginative people working at FASA conveyed a sense of fun in everything they did, something I think Paizo has going for them, now that I think about it.

I did a little light research into what happened to FASA a while back and the jist of it is they are just as gone as gone could be. The Wikipedia entry pretty much covers what happened, so I'll avoid rehashing ancient game company history. Suffice it to say that FASA is just gone.

I also looked around to see what some of the fans are doing and I was disappointed and shocked to find a few web sites illegally publishing full revisions or derivative material online. I'll avoid this topic too, except to say that I'd rather they didn't.

Anyway my goal here is to celebrate in words what FASA really was and that's a company that produced some of the most astonishingly, simple and elegantly fun war games on Earth. Here goes:

BattleTech: I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but Battletech was my first foray into the FASA library of games and, man, was it a blast! This game was so much fun that it's one of the very few games I can actually say I've played at gaming conventions. I played BattleTech at a DallasCon in the 1990s (before I ever lived here) with some real die hard fans, who'd gone to the trouble of making styro terrain, trees, ruins and of course huge armies of deadly piloted robots with lots of guns and missiles carefully packed in cotton.

I still have the four pinkish BattleTech miniatures by Ral Partha I used in most of the games I've played. One of my two "Spiders" (the fastest, lightest and most versatile Mech in the game and my most favorite) needs a back wing repair.

If ever there were a problem with this game at all, it was the prolific number of supplements we, as young lads, couldn't really much afford, though my best friend gave it the old college try. This, many life changes and a lack of dedicated war game space, were the main reasons I sold off the 3-4 books I once had and retired from the field of battle. Still, I'd be real hard pressed to estimate whether I'd spent more time playing BattleTech or Ogre.

AeroTech: I've decided to write a separate blurb about Aerotech because the experience was slightly different. A part of the BattleTech universe, AeroTech was also a fun game, though we didn't get to play it much. The epic scale AeroTech promised staggered and still continues to stagger my imagination even today. Imagine loading your BattleMechs on to giant drop ships and protecting them with an array of space fighters as you drop them into a planetary atmosphere so when they land, they can duke it out and take over the planet. Imagine this on galactic scale! The possibilities for play were just mind bending! As an extension of BattleTech, Aerotech was hellacool, moving the scale of BattleTech to an epic scale. Again, it required dedicated war game space because there was no way you'd be able to finish a major planetary engagement in just one evening.

Renegade Legion: This little implausible hellion was my absolute favorite. Let's pretend the Roman Empire is still around, rules Earth, in the form of the "Terran Overlord Government" and pit a growing rebellion against it. Yes! I loved both Centurion and Interceptor and grew to prefer these fine games over the larger, more voluminous BattleTech universe.

It was for this game that I created my first styro hills, alien trees and a homemade felt battle-mat. I even designed a box to house all the stuff! I used heavy spray painted brown washers with crunchy artificial plants glued to them for the alien trees. I made tanks with foam board, complete with rotating turrets.

Shadowrun: As games go I always thought Shadowrun was a weird one. It never sparked my GM interest but I had a friend in high school who ran a semi-regular game. We played in a crowded little apartment. Elves, faeries and orcs are all alive and well and walking around in an implausibly futuristic Seattle where cyberpunk, guns and big corporations ooze throughout the setting. It was fun, easy and all D6 based, which was interesting to me. I still think Shadowrun was a very easy game to play.

I think I only played one character: a mean and stubborn orc bruiser decked out with so much cyber that he'd lost quite a bit of his "orc-manity." I seem to remember playing a troll in a campaign reboot, but it didn't last long enough for him to be memorable. I do remember the one thing I hated about the game though was its railroad-iness. Shadowrun adventures seemed to hinge on a single outcome and it ticked me off as a player. If there's any one thing I can't stand it's being railroaded into an adventure.

The Future: Most of my FASA games went bye-bye as the result of shelf cleaning. I've since started reacquiring the ones I miss. Of these, Centurion (looking for it) and Interceptor (got it!) hold the greatest interest for me. I plan to pickup them up. I might talk myself into some basic BattleTech, so I can teach it and these other very fine games to my kids.

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