Published in 1987, Gammarauders is a tongue-in-cheek game of combat between groups struggling for control of what's left after a nuclear war. Aiding these "Cryptic Alliances" are giantic, cybernetically enhanced mutant animals known as bioborgs. The armies of the Cryptic Alliances (collectively referred to as "popcorn") move across the landscape, seeking the enemy and searching for the mutated, radioactive pumpkins (called pods) which provide power for the bioborgs and their fortresses. The goal is the annihilation the other Cryptic Alliances.
In the game, each player is one of the Cryptic Alliances. He or she also gets a bioborg (there are 12 in the basic game). During play, the bioborgs travel across the board (which consists of 12 hexagonal tile and provides virtually limitless configurations) looking for other bioborgs, popcorn, pods, and enemy fortresses. The bioborgs carry a number of weapons (taken from a hand of cards that each player gets at the beginning of the game) and each has a unique ability. Players also get popcorn for their Cryptic Alliance, which includes soldiers, hovertanks, and gammajets. Popcorn is not as effective as a bioborg, but can sometimes make the difference during a battle. Each type of popcorn has different capabilities and terrain restrictions (there are 5 types of terrian in the basic game). The exact conditions of victory depend on how many player there are, but usually involves trashing your opponents fortresses.
There are so many things to like about this game. First, there are the Cryptic Alliances. Six in all, each represents some aspect of pre-war society as viewed through a slightly twisted lens (OK, more than slightly). The six are The Crimson Moon (samurai), the Rayzors (motorcycle gangs), the Lab Rats (nerds), The Men in Black (shadowy government agent), FOWLOTEs (environmentalists), and Dah Boys (the mob). Then there are the bioborgs. They include a turtle, 2 rodents, a couple of dinosaurs, a bear, a kangeroo, 2 different apes, a musk ox, a vulture, and horror of horrors, a penguin.
The rules are simple to learn and games go quickly. There tends to be a lot of taunting and thinly veiled threats during the game, which adds to the fun.
In 1989, TSR released an expansion for the game called "Revenge of the Factoids." This expansion added 6 new board tiles with 2 new types of terrain, 3 new types of popcorn, 6 new bioborgs, rules for creating your own bioborg, 3 scenarios with different victory conditions, and, most frightening of all, a super-bioborg called the Gammasaurus. This brute carries up to twice as many weapons and twice as many pods. Whoever plays the Gammasaurus gets no Cryptic Alliance and no popcorn. Shudder.
In summary, Gammarauders is fun and easy to learn. It is a beer (or soda) and pretzel type game that doesn't try to be more than that.
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)