Review: 23rd Century Productions – Battlelords of the 23rd Century (7th Edition)


Battlelords of the 23rd Century
Battlelords of the 23rd Century is a military sci-fi role-playing game in its 7th edition, written by Anthony Oliveira, David Soruco, Michelle Soruco, and Kurt Willis and published by 23rd Century Productions.
By Aaron T. Huss

Learn more about Battlelords of the 23rd Century here
Purchase Battlelords of the 23rd Century – 7th Edition here (paid link)
Find other Battlelords of the 23rd Century posts here

Before getting started, please note the Battlelords of the 23rd Century 6th Edition review here. This review will compare this new edition to the previous one.

Battlelords of the 23rd Century sets the gold standard for military sci-fi role-playing games. It is literally built from the ground up to embrace all nuances of military science fiction. With that in mind, the last edition of the book looked beautiful, but was still in black-and-white, albeit a very good looking black-and-white book with a really great layout. So now, in its 7th edition, it comes to you as a full-color core rulebook with all the bells and whistles and possibly the kitchen sink to boot.

The core mechanics of the game did not change, so there’s no need to rehash them. If you want to learn more about them, just check-out the review link above for the 6th edition review.

So what did change? Well, for starters the book is twice the size as before. Second, it’s in full color, and not only that they actually took some of the old black-and-white artwork and created colorized versions! Absolutely awesome and a total homage to the roots of the game. Third, you get more content; not different or altered content, just more. More options – there are three more PC species to choose from, you have even more armor and weapons to choose from, there is more Matrix powers to choose from, and a lot of things have been further fleshed out or described better. Obviously when you’re in your 7th edition you learn from your mistakes and can really absorb many years of player feedback.

In addition to more of the core content, this new core rulebook includes the full mechanics for vehicles and spacecraft along with a number of craft to choose from. You don’t need a supplement to incorporate those items into your games as they are fully included in the core rulebook. The setting has also benefited from much more content including the advancement of the setting by 3 years, from 2279 to 2282 (at least I think so…).

There is one change that was made that I feel was a wrong move… the Battle Master is now the Game Master. Yes, GM is such a universal term that it’s synonymous with tabletop RPGs and everyone knows what it is. But this is “Battlelords” and “Battle Master” just sound so much cooler and set the game apart as something more unique. That and the game is military sci-fi… although I fully understand why you would change to GM as you want the person running the game to embrace more than just the “battle”. As such, the GM does benefit from a whole lot of content including guidance on running more than the run-of-the-mill military sci-fi campaign as soldiers or mercenaries. This is really cool and a great addition to the game.

Now, GMs should be ecstatic about this last nugget in that the core rulebook now includes a small collection of the common adversaries (Hostile Alien Lifeforms) to the setting. Once again, you don’t need a supplement to have this content at the ready. Finally, the game includes an adventure to get things going.

With all this in mind, the 7th edition Battlelords of the 23rd Century core rulebook is a complete, all-in-one book that does not require any supplements to run an entire campaign. That’s pretty cool…

But I would like to point out that this book is probably bulletproof… (not seriously)

There is this interesting tendency in the RPG industry right now to create these massive core rulebooks that go well beyond 500 pages. That’s a lot of content, especially when it’s 90%+ filled with mechanics. It would be different if the book is 50/50 setting and mechanics, but this book, along with others like it, is filled with mechanics everywhere! The problem is not so much the mechanics as it is the layout. There are a number of locations within the book that leave a lot of white space instead of maximizing use of the space provided. The 6th edition core rulebook did an incredible job of maximizing space usage while this 7th edition core rulebook almost seems padded. The worst of it is in the equipment section with each weapon having an entry with full header that has lots of space above it and below it. Yes the book looks great, but it could have utilized the space better in some areas.

The space issue is really just a personal preference, but the one thing I would definitely ding this book on is the lack of an index. There is so much terminology within its pages that an index is pretty much required. The table of contents is incredibly long, but it really needs an index to find out where all those fiddly bits are that players and GMs use throughout the course of adventures and campaigns. Shorter books can often get away with it, but a 500+ page core rulebook cannot.

If you’re a Battlelords fan, you should upgrade. This is a great core rulebook with even more awesomeness in a single package! If you’re into military sci-fi and have never heard of Battlelords, then you’re not really into military sci-fi and have been living under a rock for way too long (just kidding). Get this RPG; it will give you all the military sci-fi feels you yearn for.

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One Comment

  1. From the publisher:

    Why isn’t there an index in Battlelords? This was a deliberate decision on our part, in order to free up space for more content. Instead we opted for an expanded, 6 page, table of contents (with about 600 entries). A 3000+ entry index will be available soon in as a free download.