Like a tin of hyperstrength lager lurking behind grubby plastic curtains in the chiller cabinet of a dismal newsagent, Gratuitous Space Battles knew just what it was about, and didn’t make any secret of the fact. It was about selecting massive fleets of spaceships, tooling them up with guns, and wellying them into each other like shopping trolleys full of anvils.
There was no live tactical control during battles, and only the most limited instructions could be imparted on ships prior to the action. Almost entirely, victory hinged on piling the right types of lasers on the right type of hulls, and starting them off in the right places. In its way, it was far more a puzzle game than an RTS, but even more than that, it was an excuse for setting up the kind of bombastic, ultra-destructive light shows that sci-fi daydreams are made of. It could have been something far more nuanced and tactical, but then it wouldn’t have been Gratuitous Space Battles, would it? It would have been Nuanced and Tactical Space Battles.
Indeed, Looking at new releases in 2019, ten years on from GSB’s debut, you’d think to find a spiritual successor in something like the maximalist deep future fleet ‘em up Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2. Instead, I’d contend that the game has much more in common with Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, in which you line up armies of boneless, spinny-eyed goons, and then grin in delight as they wail on each other. So if you’ve enjoyed TABS, but felt it needed a little more in the way of plasma weaponry, you know where to go next.