Battlesystem (1985)

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. This is Battlesystem (1985), the box set of mass combat rules TSR spent decades trying to shove back into D&D, even as D&D was mostly leaving its wargame roots behind.

This is a craaaaazy product for the time. A two-inch box set packed with a rulebook, a scenario book, roster sheets, reference cards, piles of chits, a booklet of cardboard fold-up terrain, two metal miniatures and a guide to painting miniatures. This was obviously meant to entice players. If the contents of the box weren’t enough, the Jeff Easley cover featuring barbarian cavalry on triceratops-back at least makes a compelling case. The thing was a full-blown wargame, though, requiring lots of stats and math and resolution charts. Even if the various watered down introductions to Battlesystem (like those in the Dragonlance modules) convinced folks to try the full Battlesystem rules, they’d be crushed in an avalanche.

My favorite part of the boneheadedness of Battlesystem is that it doesn’t actually require miniatures. That’s why there are all those cardboard chits in the box. But why? Didn’t TSR play dirty with the Grenadier over the license for official D&D miniatures to found their own official miniature forge? Yes, indeed, they did. And the miniatures were so bad, production so agonized, that TSR shuttered the miniature division…just before Battlesystem hit shelves. Truly, the game wizards.

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