This book, a full-scale revision and expansion of the rules in the original Battlesystem Fantasy Combat Supplement, gives you all the information you need to set up and play battles with miniature figures.
These rules can be used without the AD&D game books, but you can also convert characters and creatures from an AD&D game campaign and use them in Battlesystem scenarios.
Lavishly illustrated in full color, this book is an attractive addition to any gaming library.
Battlesystem Miniatures Rules (1989), by Douglas Niles, is the second edition of the Battlesystem mass-combat system for AD&D. It was published in November 1989.
About the Title. The original Battlesystem (1985) was meant to be played with or without miniatures, and so came in a box full of fold-up figures and lots (and lots) of army counters. That changed with the second edition Battlesystem Miniatures Rules (1989), which put the word "miniatures" front and center.
Origins (I): Four Years Later. The original Battlesystem was an oddly positioned AD&D product. It came in a big box, full of expensive components — in an era before TSR regularly produced overly-stuffed boxed sets. It was clearly meant to be a big, showpiece item for TSR. And, it could have been very successful in selling TSR's D&D miniatures if (1) the boxed set weren't designed to be used without miniatures and (2) TSR hadn't shut down its miniatures production just as Battlesystem appeared.
Four years on, the advent of AD&D 2e (1989) offered the obvious opportunity for TSR to revamp their Battlesystem game. This time, they produced a much smaller product: a 128-page paperback supplement. Fans of fantasy mass-combat were still being served, but the new Battlesystem was obviously no longer intended to be a cornerstone of TSR's production.
Origins: The Miniatures (II). Ironically, TSR was in a somewhat better position to take advantage of a miniatures tie-in when 2e Battlesystem (1989) appeared. That's because they'd moved their AD&D miniatures license over to Ral Partha in 1987, and Ral Partha was ready to go with a Battlesystem line.
Ral Partha's "Battlesystem Miniatures Brigade" included both 15mm figures (more common for miniatures games) and 25mm figures (more common for RPGs). Ral Partha released several dozen blister packs as well as a few larger boxes of miniatures. Most were generic fantasy miniatures, but there were also a number specifically associated with the Forgotten Realms, tying into Battlesystem releases such as FR12: "Horde Campaign" (1991) and FRQ2: "Hordes of Dragonspear" (1992).
(In fact, the photographed miniatures in 2e Battlesystem all depict Ral Partha figures.)
Expanding D&D. The new version of Battlesystem is no longer dependent on the AD&D rules. It also includes far fewer AD&D magic spells than the original did. With that said, it still contains full conversion rules and can still be used as the mass-combat system for AD&D.
Revising Battlesystem. TSR didn't just revamp (and simplify) the Battlesystem product; they also massively revamped (and simplified) the Battlesystem mechanics. As Niles says, the new edition has "some resemblance to the original [rules]".
A few of the biggest simplifications:
- In 1e Battlesystem units had very extensive stats, usually laid out in a quarter-page of text. In 2e Battlesystem, that was condensed down to a single line of text — reminiscent of the simple stats of old-school D&D.
- In 1e Battlesystem, combat required players to do addition, subtraction, and even multiplication — all while consulting a complex combat results table. In 2e Battlesystem, each individual figure instead throws its own die, with the results revealing both if they hit and how well. The defenders then get to throw a huge pool of dice in return.
- In 1e Battlesystem, counters could represent between 2 and 10 individuals. In 2e Battlesystem, they always represent 10.
Overall, 1e Battlesystem was a more simulationist and more complex gaming system that hewed closer to roleplaying's wargaming roots. 2e Battlesystem instead moves toward the sort of streamlined gaming systems that would become more common in the roleplaying fields of the '90s and '00s. It was an understandable change given the overall evolution of roleplaying games … but it was a surprise to see this simplification while the game was simultaneously positioning itself as a standalone miniatures system.
Future History. The original Battlesystem had been extensively and coherently supplemented thanks primarily to designer Douglas Niles and editor Michael Dobson. In contrast, support for 2e Battlesystem was much more piecemeal and by a large variety of designers. Supplements like DMGR2: The Castle Guide (1990) and Castles heavily supported Battlesystem, while the Forgotten Realms' Horde war gave a great excuse to focus on Battlesystem in FR12: "Horde Campaign" (1991). However after that, support of Battlesystem became much more sporadic in books like FRQ2: "Hordes of Dragonspear" (1992) and HR5: The Glory of Rome Campaign Sourcebook (1993).
There was one major exception: The Dark Sun setting was originally called "War World", and was seen as a final chance to really push the Battlesystem game. Usage of Battlesystem was thus extensive in early products like DS1: "Freedom" (1991) and DSQ1: "Road to Urik" (1992). But soon afterward, Dark Sun became its own thing, and war wasn't a particularly important part of that thing.
Battlesystem Miniatures Rules also saw one complementary publication: Battlesystem Skirmishes Miniature Rules (1991). However that was already in the system's waning days. After 1992, the game largely faded away, through it occasionally was referenced in Dragon magazine through 1995.
About the Creators. Douglas Niles was the creator of both major editions of Battlesystem. By 1989 he was still producing RPG products like PHBR2: The Complete Thief's Handbook (1989), but the roleplaying design was waning as he embraced fiction writing, starting with the Moonshae Trilogy (1987-1989).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.