Sunday, July 30, 2017

Set 1: The Battle for Earth

Art by Dave Dorman


In the year 2035, Earth is attacked by aliens hostile Xenoborgs who selected our planet as the next addition to their galactic empire.  In mere days, man's conventional forces are destroyed, and the earth is overrun by alien troops.

Now, Earth's only hope lies with the CYBORG COMMANDO™Force (CCF) – a cadre of super-soldiers who are part human and part machine.  With their state-of-the-art defenses and built-in weaponry, the CCs may yet be a match for the invaders.  But time is running short!

With this game, you can be a member of the CYBORG COMMANDO Force and drive off the aliens.  This set includes everything you need to start the defense of Earth:

     A 48-page CCF Manual for players – with character skills, combat rules, and a technical section complete with diagrams of CC construction,

     A 64-page Campaign Book for the Game Master – including full details on the aliens and their invasion, the world political situation in the early 21st century, and an index of CC bases worldwide,

     A 16-page adventure booklet packed with beginning scenarios, and

     Two pre-inked dice.

The CYB✪RG C✪MMAND✪™ science fiction role-playing game was published thirty years ago, an era when “pre-inked” was a selling point for dice, not something taken for granted. Young people don't know how good they have it nowadays.  Back in the day, RPG box sets came with unembellished dice and a white crayon...and we were grateful.

Published by New Infinities Productions, at least three Cyborg Commando sets were contemplated; however, no sets other than “Set 1” were produced.  The reason is that the game isn't very good.  In his Heroic Worlds, Lawrence Schick is not complementary.  “The rules systems are eccentric,” he writes, “almost amateurish.”  Sub-par role-playing games are hardly unusual, yet Cyborg Commando is a special case – it is credited to Gary Gygax, Frank Mentzer, and Kim Mohan.  Given their prior contributions to the hobby, their target audience held expectations that the trio failed to achieve.

Ostentatious phrasing did not help matters.  For instance, page 41 of the CCF Manual defines 'light':
     This term here applies to the range of the to the electromagnetic spectrum from about 10¹⁶ to 10¹³ Hz, or wavelengths of 100 to 10 million Angstrom units (1 Å = 10⁻¹⁰ meter).  It includes ultraviolet (100 - 4,000 Å), visible (4,000 - 7,000 Å) and infrared light (7,000 - 10,000,000 Å).
With regard to the passage of time, a Combat Turn represents 8.6 seconds.  Each Combat Turn consists of ten phases of 0.86 seconds each.  Why not a phase of one second and a Combat Turn of ten seconds?  Because 8.6 seconds is “exactly 1/10,000 of a day.”  Now, doesn't that make for a better role-playing experience?  Except there are exactly 86,400 seconds in a day, not 86,000.  So much for “exactly.”

The “16-page adventure booklet” is truthfully sixteen pages.  Technically, the cover carries the title “GM's Adventure Notes” and is followed by eight pages of material (including the inside cover).  However, when the booklet is flipped over, the 'back' cover has the title “Players' Adventure Notes” and is followed by six pages.  While it is certainly an 'adventure' booklet, “packed with beginning adventures” is a misstatement.  The players' section provides setting information (“The infamous Berlin Wall was removed in 2003...”), playing tips, and lists of accessories and equipment.  The GM's section provides advice on running a game and creating adventures.  There are twenty scenario summaries and each summary consists of a couple of paragraphs.  The summaries are contained within two-and-a-half pages.  Even if we conflate 2½ pages of scenarios to 16, not all of the scenarios are of the beginning variety.  Eight scenarios are in the 'simple' category (i.e., they “have straight-forward goals and involve standard combat”), seven are 'tricky' (i.e., they “usually require clever and astute play if the dangers and traps are to be successfully avoided”), and five are 'tough' (i.e., they “involve very hazardous situations, and require astute play and imaginative solutions to problems”).

Ace Books published a trilogy of novels based on the Cyborg Commando setting and which were co-authored by Mohan.  In an attempt to gain an appreciation of the setting, I read the first book, Planet in Peril.  My analysis of this novel may be found here.

Included in my used copy of the Cyborg Commando RPG box set is an advertisement for Realms of Adventure (shown below) – New Infinities Productions' house organ that offered “...a wide variety of articles and adventures from authors all over the world.”  I am unable to find much information about this journal, but it seems at least two issues were published.

Also included in my copy of the game is a typewritten flyer for Rock-Con XIV (November 7 & 8, 1987).


  1. Only two copies of RoA were published that I'm aware of, although NIPI had definitely accepted SASEs for a third issue (and, IIRC, there may have been some content roughted out for it at some point, per Frank Mentzer).

    The first two issues have some useful info in them. I'll post up a TOC if I can't dig one up online already elsewhere.


    1. Thanks! I knew someone would have some details.

  2. It was a decent cartoon adveture sort of setting but the rules were overdone and the characters created not very interesting considering they are freakin cyborg commandos.
    There is definetly a lot of extra science fluff included that is entireely irrelevant to the game such as what were the equations for warp travel (as I recall).