Text originally appeared in Simulacrum #27.
Designer: Greg Costikyan
Publisher: Metagaming Concepts Inc.
Playing time: many hours
Era: science fiction future
Scale: 1 ship/counter; map and time scale abstract
1 – rulebook
1 – 12x14” map, a blank grid on tan stock with a few star systems marked in the middle
1 ½ - sheets of die-cut, single-sided counters (total of 126 counters)
1 – box
1 – wee die (sometimes)
There are 126 counters. There are no blanks.
4 – sets of 19 counters each in red, blue, green and yellow: 1 headquarters, 4 factories, 14 ships (total of 76 counters)
4 – neutral ships in tan colour
46 – system markers, each with a name and rating: 4 x B, 12 x C, 8 x D, 6 x E, 16 x F
What the designer says
“Can you trade your way to riches? TRAILBLAZER is the space game of free market exploration and exploitation. The productive and efficient thrive beyond the realm of government. Players build their commercial dynasties with fleets, factors, products and skill. A Turn includes Product Purchase, Fleet Movement, Star Exploration, Product Sales and Maintenance. Victory goes to the best trader and financier. TRAILBLAZER is not your usual Microgame. There is a lot of record keeping. Games may last for days. Libertarians will love it.” [ad copy on box]
Player’s Value: Judging by the general tone of comments here, this would be a good game for you if you are the sort of person who derives a warm sense of satisfaction from filling out his tax return, again and again and again…and yes, a lot of libertarians are also science fiction fans.
Reviews: Space Gamer 50
Scenarios/ variants: Interplay 7 (redesigned record sheets), Interplay 8 (combat rules)
No one appears to have developed a PBEM version of this game, though a computer version of the game was once available for purchase. I found this notice in the back pages of Interplay #6 (March-April 1982): “Metagaming has sold a license for a computer versions of Trailblazer to Zeta Systems Inc.. The game is for 48K Apple II and retails for $29.95. Order direct from Zeta Systems Inc., 1725 Adelaide Blvd., Akron OH 44306.” A “Zeta Systems Inc.” exists today in Glendora, California, but its business is data systems and consulting.
- Last edited Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:50 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Oct 1, 2007 11:13 pm
but I'm not the only one
My hands are small, I know, but they're not yours, they are my own
Years ago, I corresponded with Greg Costikyan about any chance on whether he was planning to make a computer game version of Trailblazer (I was interested in a Mac version). He said that he could not reach Howard Thompson to obtain info about regaining the rights to his game, so his hands were tied. He also said that he thought the math and record-keeping were a large part of gameplay and he wasn't sure it would make a good game if the computer did it all for you. I think it would, though.
- Last edited Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:21 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Apr 1, 2011 8:03 am
Please choose a state
I could find no reviews of the game.
There was a short review of the Trailblazer Apple II computer game in Issue #6 of Softline magazine. No luck finding an Apple II ROM for the emulators though... what a shame!
Review from Softline #6, July 1982
By Games Research Group.
It's always a pleasure to run across an interesting multiplayer game on a microcomputer. Computer gaming is, for the most part, a solitary endeavor characterized by eye strain, joystick elbow, and a marked decline of social activity.
Many of the multiplayer computer games available to Apple owners today are adaptations of extant board games, usually war games, fantasy role-playing games, and strategy games. As with the non-electronic versions of these games, the price is usually quite high and the packaging elaborate.
Among the most refreshing developments in the gaming world were the emergence of Steve Jackson Games and the Microgames from Metagaming/Games Research. Both are series of inexpensive, booklet-sized games as good as any of the slick, high-priced, boxed games. Trailblazer is one of the most popular Microgames; it's now available in a computer version from ZSI.
Trailblazer maintains the tradition established by its noncomputer predecessors. It is good—and inexpensive relative to similar game programs on the market. It offers space exploration and trading for one to four players, with an option that permits the computer to play along with any number of players. The computer isn't a tough opponent in a simple face-off, but in the multiplayer version it does add to the game by being something of a spoiler.
The game is played in four distinct phases. The object is to accumulate the greatest number of victory points in a predetermined number of rounds of game play. Victory points reflect a player's success in both commerce and exploration. The phases of play are: bidding, cargo loading and movement/exploration, cargo unloading and product sales, and finance.
Players must bid against each other for limited supplies produced on known worlds in the galaxy. The bidding is open and competitive. Sales information on the products (selling price on different worlds at different quantity levels, for example) is available at all times, as is reference information on one's fleets, location of branch offices, fleet status, star status (with information on production and consumption of goods), and galactic and local maps.
Once players have bid and purchased products for resale, they must load the cargo onto their faster-than-light vehicles and move it to other planets for resale or warehousing in branch offices. Providing one does not lose a fleet in space, products are unloaded and sold, and the money is then used to make further purchases in the next round as well as to pay for maintenance on ships and offices.
The finance phase is used to restructure companies: to open or close branch offices; to delete ships or cargo; and to advertise products in order to get a better selling price.
Exploration is accomplished by sending ships to empty quadrants on the galactic map, with a one-in-seven chance of discovering a new world. As the game progresses, all known worlds develop technologically, evolving into planets with starship production capabilities. At the beginning of the game there is only one such planet, Sol. Thus the goal in Trailblazer is twofold: accumulate wealth and develop new markets for expansion of commerce.
Trailblazer is much more than Outer Space Monopoly ... as you play, you must develop marketing strategies and carefully plan ahead for several moves if you hope to survive against an astute opponent. If the game has a bottom line, it is perhaps resource management, for without a careful watch on one's fleet, products, and offices, cash flow problems rear their ugly heads and demolish one's carefully constructed intergalactic conglomerate. With resource management as the prime concern, Trailblazer rises above the category of being a simple game and becomes a potential lesson for all. In what is perhaps a quite intentional piece of irony, Trailblazer has a short-term path to victory: one can peddle weapons for a quick megabuck.
Apple II Plus; 48K, disk. $29.95
from Zeta Systems, 1725 Adelaide Boulevard, Akron, OH 44305.
EDIT: Removed a comment about developer Shaun Southern. Web research shows that he did author a series of games under the name of Trailblazer (first in 1986) but that's a different game completely. I think his attribution as developer on the Metagaming conversion is a mistake.
- Last edited Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:59 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:17 pm
Thanks Mike, for typing up the review.
I will remove the comment in my OP about Shaun Southern as it probably is a mistake: I can't remember now where I saw the reference, but it probably was to another game with that title.
Thanks for the correction,
Please choose a state
For what it's worth, a playable copy of the Apple II version has finally turned up on the Asimov archive as ZSI Trailblazer (in the simulation folder). Certainly a product of it's time in regards to user interface and minimal graphics but it appears to be a faithful conversion of the boardgame as advertised in the review.
It allows 1-4 human players and an optional computer-controlled corporation for solo players.
I've yet to try a full game but it looks interesting and I haven't seen any bugs in the few turns I've played. A little cryptic without the instruction manual but manageable with knowledge/rules of the boardgame.
Kudos to whomever managed to dig this one up!