Towards the end of their reign as The Universe's Best-Selling Spectrum Mag, the magnificent Your Sinclair began cover mounting full games with the casual abandon of a philanthropic extrovert. One such treat was Rebelstar; written, designed, produced and tenderly loved by the ingenious Julian Gollop. This game initiated the genre we now snappily recognise as Tactical-Squad-Based-RPG-Combat-Type-Thing.
Unlike subsequent similar titles, Rebelstar featured just one map (Moonbase Delta) complete with droid bays, conveyer belts and sweaty dormitories. The briefing required Player One (the Rebels) to destroy the "ISAAC" computer and Player Two (the Operatives, played by the Speccy or an unwitting colleague) to blow up Player One. From this basic premise, the drama unfolded. Dramatically.
Appealing directly to the war-gaming nerd, Rebelstar was packed with stats and role playing elements. Every action ate up a certain amount of points, and each member of your team had a name: emotional attachment was a dangerous possibility. Default starting positions would place men around each entrance to the base, but there was nothing stopping a sneaky commander abandoning one or more entry points completely and overloading another in order to establish a beachhead. An experienced player could also create a defensive web by making clever use of the snapshot "opportunity fire" option. Weirder still, the Moonbase garden could be mowed - providing a satisfying distraction from complex supercomputers and killer androids.
Rebelstar blazed a bright trail for this gaming style, of which Gollop was the undisputed master. Requiring intelligence, strategy and, yes, a touch of geekiness, the gaming table never looked so tasty. Although his later work would gradually become more sophisticated, this early effort remains one of Gollop's best.
8 / 10