Lensman

Tagged: Game

Board and counter Wargame (1969). Designed by Philip Pritchard.

Lensman is the earliest known sf Wargame to be made available commercially. Like Spacewar (1962), it was inspired by E E Smith's Lensman books. Unlike that game, and despite its lack of authorization from Smith's estate, it is intimately involved with its source material, and difficult to fully understand without a preexisting knowledge of the milieu. The game mechanics are carefully chosen to represent the super-scientific technologies of the novels, especially when dealing with Smith's apocalyptic vision of combat between opposing fleets of enormously potent spacecraft. Lensman depicts one battle in the war between Smith's Arisians and Eddorians, fought on a two-dimensional map of a small area of one galaxy. Gameplay concentrates on exploration, economic development of newly discovered worlds and combat, both strategic and (in the "Tournament" version of the game) tactical, using a separate set of rules derived from the World War One naval Wargame Jutland (1967 Avalon Hill) designed by James Dunnigan. The rules are densely written but comprehensive, though they can on occasion seem somewhat arbitrary. At the time of its release Lensman was considered innovative for its degree of replayability. Many characteristics of the galactic map are randomly determined, in contrast to contemporary Wargames which simulated specific historical conflicts, allowing a great deal of variation in individual games. Perhaps the game's greatest significance, however, lies in its historical importance to the development of sf Wargames; its existence was an inspiration to the developers of such later efforts as Triplanetary (1973). [NT]

Related works: A second edition was released in 2010 as Phil Pritchard's Lensman, designed by Philip Pritchard, Guy Ferraiolo and developed by Tsunami Games. [NT]

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