Examining the space opera/star empires subgenre (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
Freedom in the Galaxy: The Star Rebellions, 5764 A.D. Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI), 257 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010, 1979.
This is a very physically lavish game, but also very rules-heavy. The background closely parallels that of George Lucas' Star Wars. It can be seen as a pastiche of the space-opera genre – also with elements of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Since Star Wars was itself largely a pastiche, the SPI background emerges as too derivative and cliché-ridden. The mechanics of the game -- for a supposedly mass-market oriented effort -- are far too heavy. It can thus only appeal to rather committed gamers; the average Star Wars fan is likely to be daunted by the massive rules -- and, of course, it's not "the real thing". Freedom in the Galaxy was probably a signpost along SPI's decline, with its rules-heaviness sinking any chance of a broader appeal. However, if SPI had obtained the license to use the actual Star Wars background, the difficult rules might have been more forgivable, and the game would today be a real classic.
Buck Rogers: Battle for the 25th Century Game. TSR, Inc., POB 756, Lake Geneva, WI 53147, 1988.
This is one of the most colorful and physically lavish boardgames I have ever seen. It is full of attractive components. And, with the Solar System Display allowing the simulation of the inner planet orbits, it is more reasonably scientific than one would expect from the Buck Rogers theme.
The main complaint to be made is that more leader counters could have been introduced, so that players could play more in tune with the background (i.e., it is scarcely conceivable that Buck Rogers, Wilma Deering, and Doc Huer could be leaders of powerful factions locked in savage conflict with each other).
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.