These are wargames built around a book, TV show, or fictional movie. So while it's tempting to include SPI's old STARFORCE: ALPHA CENTAURI and tons of other science fiction and fantasy games in this genre, I'd like to limit this to those games that have direct lineages back to the books, TV shows, and movies that inspired them. The big question is--did they work?

Now, I'm not talking about taking something like the film KELLY'S HEROES and building a Lock 'N Load scenario, ASL scenario, or other tactical system scenario around it. Or Great War at Sea series (Avalanche Press) scenarios pitting an armored cruiser "Thunder Child" against a Martian Tripod from H.G. Wells' WAR OF THE WORLDS. And SPI AIR WAR scenarios pitting U.S. aircraft against UFOs, Smaug, or Godzilla and definitely out! I'm talking of entire games that draw from commercially published fiction--be it a novel, a TV show or series, or a movie.

My first exposure to this was Avalon Hill's first edition of STARSHIP TROOPERS. I actually hadn't read it when the game was first advertised and I used to be a huge science fiction buff when I was a kid (before my mom gave away all my James Blish STAR TREK compilations and everything else before a particular PCS move!). I sent in an order sight unseen based on ad copy in the pages of THE GENERAL magazine and bought the paperback to read while I was waiting for the game to show up. The book was good. Really good. And so I tore into the game when it showed up. Definitely it captured the book quite well and the game system was interesting enough to make me want to play it again and again. The programmed instruction worked quite well, so my Mobile Infantry (M.I.) graduated from battling "Skinnies" to getting into the hives of the dreaded "Bugs." And being the non-M.I. player was fun as well and quite a challenge to play. I never played the 2nd Edition that was spun off the STARSHIP TROOPERS movie and can't talk to it. Hopefully others can. I'll be honest. I was not a fan of the movie.

After that was SPI's LORD OF THE RINGS with the folio games SAURON and MINAS TIRITH within. I didn't think much of the folios, but the big game tracing the fellowship's journey to the Crack of Doom and the wars between Mordor, Saruman, and the good guys was a lot of fun when we were in college. It seemed to work well enough. But it lost its luster after a while and I recently auctioned it off and don't miss it a bit. At the time, it was quite a colorful package, even in the SPI flat pack.

Avalon Hill's PLATOON, based on the movie of the same name, was definitely an introductory game, but it had some nice features to it that allowed one to lure people into wargaming (and then transition them into the much more involved FIREPOWER. A man-to-man combat game, it was less about the movie and more about what tactical combat at the squad level was like. TSR's HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and RED STORM RISING had the title of the Clancy novels, but while the former was a faint resemblance of the story, the latter was just completely different. And while TEAM YANKEE was a fun book for me, a former armor officer, to read, the GDW game of the same name was barely interesting (but definitely did replicate tactical situations in the book).

Never did get to see or play SPI's JOHN CARTER: WARLORD OF MARS, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. And there's so many LORD OF THE RINGS games out there that I'll never get to play. Regarding STAR TREK--is there anything else of note besides STARFLEET BATTLES? That system sure got a following and is very addicting--I loved the asymmetric possibilities of it and it's very evocative of its subject.

No, I'm not going to talk about SPI's DALLAS, or that thin Godzilla replication, THE CREATURE THAT ATE SHEBOYGAN (which seemed a lot like Steve Jackson's OGRE in different window dressing).

What's your take on fictional books, TV shows, and movie themes/subjects made into wargames? What are your favorites? What ones aren't? Is this a good idea? What fiction do you wish would be made into a wargame and why?

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Comment by Jim Werbaneth on December 17, 2009 at 12:11am
Platoon is one my favorite simple games, and a good one for teaching new members of the hobby. I even played it with my late father, who generally hated wargames, but kind of liked Platoon. In fact, I think he liked the game better than the movie.

Lord of the Rings and the folios got a lot of play back in my prep school days, more than thirty long years ago. I still like the main War of the Ring, but my opinion of the folios has changed over the years. The Minas Tirith siege game doesn't seem nearly as good as I remember it, but I like Sauron a lot more.

Of all the fiction-based wargames that I've played, I still think that the original Starship Troopers is the best of class. I agree, it is supremely evocative of the book, and is a most effective, enjoyable game on top of that.
Comment by Seth Owen on December 2, 2009 at 12:25am
The new LOTR does a pretty good job of reflecting the book. I think Team Yankee does a better-than-average job of showing off it's book as well, but the rules do have some pretty big holes in them. Two Avalon Hill Sci Fi games are very good. Like the OP I think the first verison of Starship Troopers really captured that book's action and Avalon Hill's Dune is also excellent at capturing the intrigue of the novel, although the course of the story will be different.
Comment by Ted Henkle on November 28, 2009 at 9:18pm
I still have both copies of War of the Ring, the original SPI version and the new Fantasy Flight Games one. I've seen the games mentioned above, but never bought any. I still love playing War of the Ring.
Comment by Mike O'Brien on November 27, 2009 at 9:43pm
The Battlestar Galactica game seems to follow the new BG series very well with a sense of paranoia and fighting against overwhelming odds. In the same system, Shadows over Camelot has similar properties of fighting against overwhelming odds, completing quests and dealing with a potential traitor.

I would love to see Robert Conroy's 1901 made into a game. The book is alternate history where Germany invades New York City to force the US to give up it's newly acquired territories, won from the Spanish. It was a real possibility and the book gives interesting possibilities for an operational level game.

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