In 1979, a hit movie of the year was James Bond 007 in Moonraker. For a sci-fi geek like myself, the battle in space was a definite highlight moment of the film. Silver-clad space suited Marines with thruster packs and chest-mounted lasers take on the bad guys high above the earth!
That same year, I spied a box in my FLGS, Fascination Corner. On the cover was another silver space-suited soldier with a thruster pack. It looked like they were being dropped over a domed city from a very Traveller roleplaying game-looking ship. Without even reading the back of the box I had to have this game—Marine: 2002.
Alas…I never got it.
Marine: 2002 – A Game of the First Lunar War is designed by Kerry Anderson and published by Yaquinto Publications in 1979. It is a tactical wargame that depicts combat actions on the surface of the moon. My copy is technically from the second printing in October 1980.
Physically, Marine: 2002 comes in 1.5-inch deep 14″x11″ flat box. I’m a bit surprised the box has lasted over 40 years because the cardstock used is on the lighter side. Inside the box comes a rulebook, player aids, a three-piece geomorphic map, counters, dice and a storage tray. Oh yeah, my copy also has a Yaquinto Publications sales flyer from 1982.
The rule book for Marine: 2002 is in the Yaquinto landscape format. It uses a modified case system like a good wargame should. The player aids are functional if not fancy. The counters are nice and colorful. When I opened my box the counter sheets were complete but warped. A few days under a stack of heavy books restored them to flat. The three geomorphic maps can be arranged in multiple ways to create a map that is square, long, staggered, or some combination of the others. The color is on the brownish-tan side; I kinda expected something a bit more gray. The storage tray has no cover, but the rule book recommends simply getting a piece of cardboard and using “cellophane” tape to attach it.
Sergeant Draper reporting for duty, sir!
Marine: 2002 is a squad-level tactical wargame. Each hex is .5km across and each counter represents a squad or team of 2-4 soldiers. Each vehicle or gun represents a single item. Each turn represents about 5 minutes of time. The sequence of play is simple and straightforward:
- Step A: Movement Initiative Phase
- Step B: Moving Player Phase
- Units in F-mode (discussed below) conduct direct fire in this phase
- Step C: Movement Alternation Phase (non-initiative player moves)
- Step D: Indirect Fire Phase (Advanced Game only)
- Step E: Direct Fire Phase
- Step F: Direct Fire Morale Phase (Advanced Game Only)
- Step G: Turn Adjustment Phase
There are two rules that set Marine: 2002 apart from other tactical combat wargames—mode and line of sight.
Take the high ground!
In Marine: 2002, units can select different movement modes which affect how far they travel and how well they fire in combat.
- ‘G’ or Ground-mode moves a maximum of 2 hexes on the surface of the moon; the slowest form of movement but has advantage of cover
- ‘N’ or Normal-mode moves a maximum of 4 hexes; trade-off between movement and cover
- ‘A’ or Air-mode (on the airless Moon?) moves a maximum of 10 hexes; most rapid but no cover
- ‘F’ or Fire-mode does not move; is considered in G-mode for cover but has advantage in fire combat.
“Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes!”
If Marine: 2002 has a “gimmick” rule—one that sets it apart from other wargames—it is the line of sight rules. In Marine: 2002, the movement mode of a unit is associated with a height above the ground and each has a different Horizon Line:
- G-mode has a maximum horizon (horizon line) of 5 hexes
- N-mode has a horizon line of 12 hexes
- A-mode has a horizon line of 20 hexes
- Units in F-mode are grounded with that same 5 hex horizon line as G-mode.
Horizon lines not only determine what you can see, but what you car fire at. When it comes to fire combat there are three weapons ranges; Short is 0-3 hexes, Medium is 4-10 hexes, and Long at 11 hexes to the maximum horizon.
On the bounce!
Mode and horizon combine in Marine: 2002 to become the primary factors in your tactics. Fire Mode is certainly best for attack, but with the loss of maneuvering. Air-mode is the fastest moving and can see the most, but your soldiers are the most vulnerable when using this mode.
Squad Leader in spaaaaace!
[I hate rating a wargame’s complexity because it is such a personally subjective matter. I’ve been playing wargames for 40 years and have learned rules ranging in complexity from Ogre to World in Flames. What is simple or complex for me might be second nature or totally incompressible to others.]
The rules for Marine: 2002 are pretty much what I expect from the era. While I reference Squad Leader in the header here, Marine: 2002 is not that complex a game when it comes to the rules. In more than a few ways, the tactical combat games from Yaquinto that I experienced skewed towards a kind of “minis on a hexmap, but with cardboard chits.” This means that physically manipulating the game was often the most complex part of play. For instance, in order to properly show what mode a squad counter is in, each player keeps a Mode Orientation marker on the board to show which way is “up.” Each counter has a different mode in each corner and to show which mode the unit is in the proper corner is oriented to the Mode Indicator. Good: No extra admin counter to stack. Bad: Making sure you turn the counters right according to the mode and your indicator. Marine: 2002 also offers the use of a range stick (center spine of the counter sheet) to measure range—its harder than simply counting hexes and another thing that can bump counters and make them “lose their mode.”. There are also more than a few tables to reference in play. Administrative tracking is done with a combination of off-board tracking sheets that are marked off in pen/pencil and on-map administrative markers. Step losses are tracked by replacing squad/team counters—each squad of four soldiers has four counters and as soldiers are lost the counter is replaced by the one reflecting current strength. The end result is that, while the rules for movement or combat or morale are not that complex, tracking the effects of those rules is cumbersome at times. Marine: 2002 is a very functional game, but—to use a very modern game design concept—it lacks “elegance” in how it’s implemented.
The First Lunar War
If there is one place where Marine: 2002 totally misses it’s the story it tells. I mean, look at that cover? What do you see? I see an exciting story. Fortunately, the rule book includes a note on the cover illustration:
COVER ILLUSTRATION: “The Descent into Hell.”
The Armored Shuttle, U.S.S. Werewolf ‘high jumps’ Howard’s Howlers (Alpha Company, 1st Special Battalion, United States Marine Corps) above the Soviet military installation in the Hell crater on the Deslandres Plain at the height of Operation Dante. Though virtually annihilated in the ensuing action, Alpha Company, whose mission was to merely draw fire of the powerful Soviet fixed batteries, successfully penetrated and neutralized the command dome, eliminating coordinated Soviet resistance in this pivotal lunar battle.
Of the 121 men in Alpha Company only 7 survived, including Col. William Howard the company commander.Marine: 2002, p. 2
That passage right there is pretty much the extent of the “canon” of Marine: 2002. The rule book does briefly mention in the General Introduction the “First Russo-American Lunar War of 1998-2002.” The design notes, “Weapons in Space,” goes a long way towards making the claim on the box back come to life:
Marine: 2002 is a tactical level simulation of combat on or near the surface of the moon. The futuristic weapons used (neutron warheads, rocket shells, lasers and charged particle beams, and conventional shells) are playably duplicated with a system that faithfully shows their strengths and weaknesses. The game includes rules that cover ground and air movement for all units, combat with beamed weapons and a battlefield which is limited only by a horizon which varies with the current altitude of engaged units. Other rules easily account for communication and command control, morale, individual casualties, cumulative vehicle damage, orbiting weapons platforms and much more.Marine: 2002, box back
After all that exciting build-up I was anxious to play the game. Then I got to the scenarios which are named:
- SCENARIO ONE: BASIC GAME RULES
- SCENARIO TWO: BASIC GAME RULES
- SCENARIO THREE: BASIC GAME RULES
- SCENARIO FOUR: ADVANCED GAME RULES
- SCENARIO FIVE: (ADVANCED GAME RULES)
- SCENARIO SIX (OPTIONAL RULES)
- SCENARIO SEVEN (OPTIONAL RULES)
- SCENARIO EIGHT
- SCENARIO NINE
Each scenario consists of the same seven items of information:
- Mapboard Configuration
- Terrain Layout
- Order of Battle
- Entry/Set Up
- Special Rules
- Victory Conditions
- Game Length
No “situation.” No “historical outcome.” No “meeting engagement” or “high-jump assault” or…anything that triggers a story. Granted, every scenario is playable, but there was a great opportunity missed here to tell a story. I don’t need a “historical” campaign, but may adding a bit of some “flavor” like “Scenario One: First Encounters – US Marines encounter a Soviet patrol at the confrontation line” would make playing this game that much more enjoyable. Sure, I can create that narrative in my head, but that is best done when designing my own scenarios (which the designer encourages) rather than left to the “first encounter” with the scenarios.
Shake off that lunar dust…
Marine: 2002, though of a dated—if not inelegantly manipulative—design, lacks a full story but is still an excellent game. It takes a bit of some patience and organization to play, but the emphasis on movement modes and horizon lines is easily understood and made central to the game experience. Maybe the challenge here is for me to mix my roleplaying game campaign building with Marine: 2002 and make my own history of the First Russo-American Lunar War. You know, something like For All Mankind.