Phoenix Command (1986)

Phoenix Command (1986) isn’t technically an RPG. Rather, it is a small arms (and later, through expansion, all sorts of arms) combat system intended to replace existing systems for such in your favorite game. Why you would do such a disservice to your favorite game like that is beyond me, but hey, who am I to judge?

This thing is painfully complex. There are an eye-watering 35 different hit locations tied to a percentile table (Rolled a 30? That’s a hit to the stomach/spleen!). Weapons all have an aim time that impacts accuracy. There is an alphabet soup of abbreviations. There are tables galore, not a one of which I can parse. It’s gotta be one of the most complicated RPG systems ever conceived.

I love it. It’s so unapologetic. I will never play it or take it seriously, but I will forever appreciate its utter hostility to fast and smooth gameplay. That clip-art Rambo on the cover, covered with so many guns he probably can’t move, is the best possible mascot. He sums it all up perfectly.

Even better: the designers couldn’t even deal with this shit. When Leading Edge produced Living Steel and the various licensed games (Dracula, Aliens, Lawnmower Man lol), they used a simplified version of the Phoenix Command combat system. Humbled by their own creation. Beautiful.

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