Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Azhanti High Lightning consists of a 44-page rulebook, a 44-page supplement, several sheets of deckplans, and cardboard counters. According to the rulebook's introduction, it's "a game of close-action combat between individuals on board a large military starship," namely a vessel of the 60,000-ton Azhanti High Lightning class of cruisers. The rulebook consists primarily of a modified version of Traveller's combat system (pared back in some places, expanded in others) and some scenarios. As a stand-alone game, Azhanti High Lightning is about running battles aboard a starship, whether those battles are the result of boarding actions, hijacking, alien attack, or something else. In that regard, I never found it particularly interesting. Rather, it was the supplement and -- especially -- the deckplans that made it so appealing.
Taken together, Supplement 5 (Lightning Class Cruisers) and the deckplans provided the referee with a wealth of information about these large military vessels. This was like catnip to me. When I was a kid, I remember drooling over deckplans of the Enterprise from Star Trek and I kept that memory in mind when I started playing sci-fi RPGs. Certainly other games included deckplans, but they were always very small and/or "unrealistic," whereas the plans for the Lightning-class cruisers were neither. Just seeing them filled my head with all sorts of ideas about running a "big ship" military campaign rather than the already-standard "tramp freighter" approach.
The problem was that, while I knew of the existence of Azhanti High Lightning from reviews and advertisements, I could never find a copy to buy. The first time I ever saw a real copy was at a local game gathering, where some older guys were playing Traveller. I spent a good portion of that gathering staring at the maps rather than playing games with my friends and the other assembled gamers. I knew then that, if I ever found a copy, I'd make it mine. Alas, I never did or at least I never did at a reasonable price. As the years dragged on, Azhanti High Lightning's value shot up considerably and nowadays, if you can find an original copy in decent condition, it sells for $100 or higher -- far more than I'd ever pay for a product I'd be unlikely to use.
Posted by James Maliszewski at 9:32 AM