Rebelstar (series)

Rebelstar (series)

The Rebelstar games are a series of turn-based tactics video games programmed by Julian Gollop. Rebelstar Raiders, written mostly in BASIC, was published in 1984 by Red Shift for the ZX Spectrum. It was reworked in machine code as Rebelstar, published by Firebird in 1986. A sequel, Rebelstar II, was published in 1988 by Silverbird. Rebelstar, but not its sequel, was also adapted for the Amstrad CPC.

The games in the Rebelstar series achieved critical acclaim, and form the beginning of a development history that led to the Laser Squad and X-COM series.


Each title in the series is a science fiction-themed turn-based tactics game, in which each player controls an opposing squad of soldiers. Each soldier has a number of action points which are used for movement, attacking, and other activities. The playing area is top-down plan view, with units shown in profile.

Rebelstar Raiders

Rebestar Raiders was originally released for the 48k ZX Spectrum in 1984 by Red Shift Ltd, a war games publisher who had also released Gollop's space strategy game, Nebula.

Raiders does not feature a computer-controlled opponent, so is strictly a two-player game. It includes three different scenarios, the maps for which are loaded in as a screen data, thus the playing area is limited to the size of the screen. In each scenario, each player's units are deployed manually before play commences.

Combat can either be melee or ranged, which takes into account limited ammunition and line-of-sight. Damage is taken from a unit's endurance statistic. If this is reduced below one fifth of its initial value, the unit is seriously wounded. If reduced to zero, the unit is destroyed. Units also have skill and armour values.


The first scenario, Moonbase, is the beginning of a storyline that runs through the whole series. The Raiders are attempting to destroy a vast organisation based on a planet called Pi. Before any of the Raiders ships can land on Pi, the planetary defenses on the moon, Spyder, must be destroyed.

One player controls a squad of 24 raiders, who are led by "the first of the Capricorn clones", Joe Capricorn. The Raider's squad also includes Captain Krenon, a character who features in the two later Rebelstar games.

The moonbase, which is disguised as a mining station, is defended by sentry robots, mining robots and auto-guns in pre-set locations, and deployable technicians and security guards.

The Raiders win if one unit can get to the control room and destroy the sensitive equipment there.

In the second scenario, Starlingale, Joe Capricorn, Captain Krenon and a few other survivors have returned to their eponymous escape vessel. The ship is still undergoing hull repairs, and must be defended for twelve turns. The Red Shift player, controlling various robot operatives, must destroy the two Navcomps on the bridge to prevent takeoff.

The Raider's units include the pre-deployed Starlingale pilots and "plod-bots", 14 delpoyable raiders, with 8 raiders arriving later as reinforcements.

The Red Shift Operatives include "Zorbotrons" (armed with gas bombs), "fly-bots" (armed with zeekers), "Slavers" (with las-whips), a mining robot and two security guards.

The third and final scenario, The Final Assault, has the Starlingale join the Freedream on the surface of Pi. The Raiders must destroy eight parts of the Main-Comp in an underground shelter.

Critical reaction

Rebelstar Raiders received good reviews. CRASH magazine noted the detailed blueprint-style maps and their flexible layout and the strategic mix of different weapon types and unit deployment. However, the sound effects were deemed irritating, and the packaging amateurish.


Rebelstar was originally published in 1986 by Telecomsoft's budget label, Firebird. It was written in machine code, rather than Raiders BASIC, featured a single, larger, scrolling map; both single player and two player variants, and overhauled game mechancs.

Morale, stamina and encumbrance are new statistics for units, and ranged fire has the option of fast snapshots or more action-point consuming aimed shots. In addition, an "opportunity fire" system allows a player to interrupt their opponents turn with pre-targeted shots.

Objects are more interactive than in Raiders, with units able to drop or collect weapons, ammunition, dead bodies and other items. Some types of terrain may provide cover and slow units down. Wreckage of droids and dead bodies also cause partial obstructions.

The objective for the Raiders in Rebelstar is to destroy ISAAC, the computer responsible for breaking the Raider's secret codes. The game can be won either by destroying ISAAC's central core, or eliminating all enemy forces in the base. The player can gain reinforcements by destroying three Laser Defence Computers located around the base; this allows reinforcements to arrive a few turns later.

In the single player version, the difficulty level can be set from one to eight, each level increasing the number and power of the droid forces. The game has a built-in time limit, and the Raiders automatically lose if they fail to achieve either objective within the time limit.

Critical response

CRASH magazine awarded Rebelstar 93%, impressed with the improvements over Rebelstar Raiders, the highly competent computer AI and superb error-trapping in the user-interface. The character graphics and individual morale and skills were felt to contribute towards the game's atmosphere.

Rebelstar was also ranked as the second greatest Spectrum game of all time in the Your Sinclair official top 100, in which it was praised for bringing a thrilling experience to the wargaming genre.

Rebelstar II

Rebelstar II was published in 1988 on Telecomsoft's Silverbird label (their rebranded budget range). Again, it was programmed by Julian Gollop, with Ian Terry providing graphical assistance.

The scenario takes place on the planet of Thray 6, on which an alien race is threatening Rebelstar. The Raiders' objective is to kill aliens, kill the alien queen, and capture alien eggs. The Raiders have a set escape window, with their shuttle landing on turn 15 and taking off on 26. At that point, the game ends and victory points compared.

The left half of the map is an outdoor environment, with bushes, trees, rivers and marshes. The Alien's fortress lies to the right; the aliens are predominantly armed with bows and arrows (in the two-player version) or "terminator" guns (in the one-player version). The alien queen herself can fire a short-ranged but deadly acidic spit.

Critical reaction

CRASH awarded Rebelstar II an overall 90%, highlighting the excellent graphics and engrossing gameplay: "it can all get very exhilarating to see laser bolts flying back and forth, occasionally missing by pixels."

Similarities with the film Aliens were pointed out, with the visual appearance of the antagonists, the storyline, and the names of some of the Raiders: "This is a game to appeal not only to strategists, but also fans of the Alien movies and in fact anyone who enjoys a really good - and very tense - game."

Related games

All three games in the series were re-released as part of The Rebelstar Collection, a compilation of Gollop's games published in 1991 by Mythos Games. This compilation also included Chaos and Nebula.

Many of the features and ideas in this series would go on to be used by Gollop in the Laser Squad and X-COM series of games. Rebelstar: Tactical Command, a Game Boy Advance game released in 2005, was developed by the team behind X-COM. It shares the Rebelstar name as well as many gameplay similarities, but is neither a remake of nor a sequel to the original. Two other related games made by the same developer and sharing the same mechanics but in a fantasy setting are Chaos and Lords of Chaos.


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