Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Ads of Dragon: Grav-Ball

Today's ad comes to us from issue #64 (August 1982) and it features (yet another) game I never owned but by which I was very intrigued: FASA's Grav-Ball.
Grav-Ball was a two-player science fiction miniatures game about a futuristic sport called, naturally, grav-ball. The very idea of it exerted a powerful influence over my young imagination, which is why, to this day, whenever I play a sci-fi game, I almost always include mentions of this as a professional sport. In fact, in one of my Traveller campaigns of old, a PC was a professional grav-ball player turned adventurer after his career ended.

This ad also stirs up fond memories of FASA, a gaming company now long gone. Like GDW, they were my go-to company for science fiction RPGs, producing both some of the best support materials ever made for Traveller and my beloved Star Trek.


  1. I love Grav brother picked up the game at a garage sale when we were kids and we played it several times. I recently dug it it out of storage to see "how it handles" 30+ years later. Not bad, though the miniatures are really small (and don't stay on their stands well)...but you can see a precursor to a lot of combat-style fantasy sport games (like 1st edition Blood Bowl), both in the system and the "tone" of the game (sports commentators narrating fiction throughout the rules, etc.).

    There was an on-line Grav-Ball, fan-group/league going for awhile...not sure it's still active though.

  2. I never played the game (or even heard of it until now) but the ad brings the 70s sci-fi film Rollerball to mind. Players try to slam a steel ball into a "goal" while roller skating or riding motorcycles around a hippodrome. Bloody violence, deaths, corporate corruption, what's not to love?

  3. Played and really enjoyed that game.

    For my Traveller campaign, Rollerball was the sporting obsession of choice in the Lunion subsector. I went so far as to write rules for the sport and generated some of the more prominent teams and players of different worlds' leagues.

    The game actually became a campaign plot point with the 1121 Strouden Cup, a triennial tournament between the best players from each world of the subsector. The PCs had to prevent an assassination without letting the target or his security ever knowing that the plot was in place.

  4. Many of the characters in our FASA Star Trek campaigns played Grav Ball. They formed teams representing their ship and would play against other ships, Starbase personnel, etc.

    Very fun

  5. In tying in with your recent Gamma World kick...

    ...was 1982's Grav-Ball the inspiration for the "Powerball gravitic accelerators" (p.30) from 1983's The Mind Masters module?

  6. The video game Final Fantasy X has a protagonist who is a player of a similar kind of sport -- called Blitzball -- and there is a sub-game in which you can set aside the main quest and enter tournaments and leagues, and there's even a transfer market in which you can buy and sell players and recruit almost any NPC you encounter in the main game. I think I've spent longer playing Blitzball than I have on the main narrative!

  7. Even though I never owned or played the game itself, grav-ball quickly became a background element of my Traveller games.

    (word verification = "equal"... yeah, right!)

  8. FASA is an interesting story, too. The company closed down in 2001 even through they were in good shape financially. I believe they still hold the licenses for many of their products, and now exist merely as a holding company for those licenses. A lot of my early memories in the gaming hobby come from Battletech and Renegade Legion, two of my favorite early games. I haven't played either in years, but Centurion (one of the Renegade Legion games) still has a place of honor on my games shelf.

    I never played Grav-ball, but it sounds a lot like Final Fantasy X's mini-game: "Blitzball"

  9. Those Dragon ads made me want a copy of Grav Ball sooo bad, but I could never quite come up with the money for it.

    I finally found a well-loved, used copy about 2 months ago and couldn't resist buying it . . . but I have yet to actually read it or give it a try.

  10. I bought this game a long, long time ago after loving Rollerball (I watched a Betamax tape secretly as my mother disapproved).

    I remember painting the miniatures crudely and inexpertly. They were mounted on thin lengths of wire that gave them the impression of floating in zero-G. Unfortunately every time someone sneezed they all fell over. That might have been something to do with having pushed the wires too far through the base when mounting them.

    From what I remember of the rules, there was a lot of counting action-points for movement which was too laborious for me. I wanted something more pacey - to match the image I had in my head from the box art. Unfortunately in my youth I seem to recall taking several hours to complete one quarter.

    I still have it in the attic, complete with my hand-written notes on the teams I had created and the stars' personalities. Very juvenile. I wanted it to be more of fast, exciting game than it seemed to me at the time but reading this reminiscence has encouraged me to dig it out of the loft to see what it really was like to play.

  11. Grav-Ball! I remember seeing that ad, too. Although I can't remember if I ever saw the actual game, that image is very familiar. It had a big impact on me, too, and I imagined what the game would be like.

  12. I own it...and played when I was in high school. Now I need to pull it out and see if my high school/middle school/elementary school age kids like it as much I as did back in the decade.