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[Obscure Games] Macross II

Macross II: The Role-Playing Game, first publi...

Awesome, ain't it?

At the end of our last session we were discussing some of the more obscure games we had found over the time of our roleplaying career. Not that most of my players have that much of a clue about different systems. Poles are really fond of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. And I mean really fond: some will not even accept other roleplaying games (gry fabularne) as real roleplaying games, because they are not WFRP.

That’s… stupid, but at least my players don’t do this. They are playing Traveller and Das Schwarze Auge with me after all.

But anyway, this got me into thinking about some of the more obscure titles I encountered so far.
This one came to my mind pretty instantly: the Macross II Role-Playing Game. One of the treasures of my collection (it cost me 10 Marks when I bought it and it looked awesome!).

This game is pretty much one of the most pointless tie-in games I have ever come across. Frankly, I think even the Leverage Roleplaying Game has more of a point that this.

Why is that?

Well, for starters: have you ever heard about Macross II?

Have you even ever heard about Macross?

Superdimensional Fortress Macross was a hit anime series in the late 1970s. It became famous in the West after it was cannibalized into Robotech.
The original Macross took longer to be shown in the West. Now this is where the story gets a bit complicated: Macross was a hit in Japan. And of course people were longing for a sequel.

That they got with Macross II. Which was translated into other languages as well. After all, it was a potential hit series. Or so some thought.
Do you know the reason why most likely you have never heard about Macross II?

It bombed.

Not for any real reason either, most negative comments about this series over the last twenty years were more along the lines of “Well, it is a decent anime, but…” and the but included things like two much of the same story as the original series in too short a time and with nearly no connection to the original.

The interesting thing is that this fact did not kill the franchise. Other series were commissioned after this failure, conveniently shifting the series into non-canon and creating a new canon with all the other series coming afterwards.
By the way, for some really good and modern space epic have a look at the recent Macross Frontier series: awesome animation, interesting characters, and a good narrative.

This makes the Macross II RPG rather an oddity, and I knew that when I was buying it. The series never had appeared in Germany, not even SDF Macross (too militaristic for German TV and too complicated licensing issues for smaller publishers). I don’t know why anyone thought it was a good idea to even get this game into a German store, but there it was. Even then I knew it was a bad idea to buy a game that seemed interesting but already was heavily marked down. Finding players for this was going to be difficult.

So, what about this game? What can I say how this game actually played? I have to say: I don’t have a clue.
It’s RIFTS, so I guess you can take your experience with RIFTS and think about giant transformable robots and see how far you get. It seemed like a variation on the usual AD&D at the time, with a few nice parts like the hitpoints rules or the alternate alignment system. I created a few characters with the system in the book, but gave up even trying to understand mecha combat.

And then, after I had created a few characters and a few NPCs I stopped.
Here I hit a snag which comes up pretty often with games like this: I did not have any clue what I was supposed to play with these rules.

I could try to get my group to play it, yes, but what then? I never had seen a single episode of Macross, I did not know what to think of these descriptions of female battlesingers and transformable robots doing Megadamage ™. I tried to invent some ideas but I just was blocked: there was pretty much no background presented in the book itself at all. There were a few sentences on the situation on Earth, a few about the alien society (mostly defined by not having much of a society) and that was it. Character classes were a repetition of military types with one civilian (Investigative Reporter) thrown in (in other words: it copied the characters that showed up in the series 1 to 1), and most of the game was basically a flimsy reason to show lots and lots of gorgeous mecha drawings.
One might have thought they might rectify this with the supplements, but no. I got my hands on the first (and only) sourcebook for the game at one point and noticed: damn, that’s pretty much exactly the same stuff that already was in the mainbook. More mecha porn and some new military classes. What the fuck?
All in all this game was wonderful to look at, and nearly not playable.
Even after watching pretty much all of Macross I am not really sure what to do with this game. Replay the (shallow) storyline of Macross II? They give the stats for all the main characters, but I can’t think of any situation I would choose them over a self-created NPC. Play some skirmishes between aliens and mechas in outer space? Play some city battles? Why not just get out Battletech and do it properly?
Pretty game, awesome illustrations, yes, but not very much substance. Maybe usable for one or another science fiction campaign though. After all: everything’s better with giant robots. And those Zentraedi might be a bit far-fetched,  but maybe they’ll fit into my Traveller campaign somewhere.

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2 responses to “[Obscure Games] Macross II

  1. Kevin Straight August 9, 2011 at 1:23 am

    Actually, there are four supplements in total for Nacross II; Sourcebook One, and Deck Plans Volumes one through three. Of course, the deck plans don’t really add anything more than additional artwork, even with the so-called scenarios included in the back of each.

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  2. Geoffrey August 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I seriously did not know that. But my whole interest in the game came to a halt when I noticed that there was no background at all even in the first supplement (and it wasn’t too big to begin with, I just could not do anything with it after all…)

    Like

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