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Buck Rogers Adventure Game (1993)

I don’t honestly have much context for Buck Rogers. My experience with the property is primarily through the schlocky TV space opera and, dimly, the other TSR Buck Rogers RPG, both of which are set in the far future. This game, The Buck Rogers Adventure Game (1993) was born out of the ashes of the XXVc RPG and returns to the pulp action of the original 1929 comic strip. This is a terrible mistake.

Let’s get the simple system out of the way. There are four abilities, each with a rating (OK, Good, Better and Best) which corresponds to the number of D6 in limited pools (2-5) you can roll to test. Rolls of sixes explode. Actions are determined by action points. This is less straightforward than it should be, as there are many actions that cost fractions of points. A neat thing: experience points are a metacurrency you can cash in to modify rolls or buy additional action points. A lot of the balance of the rules sort of frame the storytelling. I love the spendable experience points. Everything else can kind of get stuffed — it amounts to a game that is simple but not easy.

Which is fine, because holy crap is this game racist AF. I had no idea that the original Buck Rogers comic was basically the Yellow Peril in sequential art. The Han Empire has taken over America and it is down to Buck to take it back. The offensive stereotypes are all over this thing, but I’ve only included one image, of the emperor, to make my case. I think it is more than enough. Its a shame, because I really love the bi-planes and the retro-futuristic vibe. Denis Beauvais’s cover art is something special, too, evoking hazy pulp excitement. But no thanks to all that garbage inside.

The game was met with yawns, though, thankfully. Buck Rogers RPGs were never going to be massive hits, no matter what black magic Lorraine Williams called up. There was one expansion, then the version of Buck vanished into history.

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