Since our session this week didn’t happen due to school and illness, the other night I went through the box of FGU’s MERC I’d bought recently. Like many of us, I’ve been rebuilding my old long lost collection and was happy to be able to get the actual box and rules along with original accessories. These include two six sided dice, the usual PC sheet, a transparent sheet of plastic with a marksman’s scope imprinted on it, and a paper with an illustration of a generic human form to be used as a target.
MERC came out in 1981, and I think I must have gotten it that year or the next. At twelve years old, I was just becoming aware of politics. At the time, and until about ‘85, I was big fan of the The Gipper. It’s probably even safe to say that I was a full-on Reaganaut for a while. MERC’s appearance on the RPG scene should have come as no surprise - there was no shortage of gamers hepped up on anti-USSR rhetoric. MERC, “A Modern Game of Counter Insurgency” was perfectly placed to fulfill the fantasies of those wishing to support either the Contras in Nicaragua or the anti-Soviet Afghan resistance. In retrospect, it’s probably what the founders of Blackwater were playing back in the day.
Character attributes are: Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Knowledge, Intuition, and Prior Military Service, and are rolled with 2d6, generating numbers like 1-4, 3-2, 5-6, 6-3, etc. Somewhat strangely, height, hair and eye color, voice quality, handedness, and complexion (“…the factor for sunburns etc.”) are also rolled for using 3d6. Combat consists of a 2d6 roll for H2H, or a 3d6 for Small Arms, with a variety of attacker / defender modifiers and base to hit numbers. The plastic transparency is laid over the human target illustration for use with sniping, and dice results are cross referenced on the cross hairs to find the actual hit or miss location. Assassination anyone?
The included sample adventure takes place in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Here are some excerpts from the opening text: “…by 1975, only two nations could still boast of a White Power control…and both were under attack. …The situation was opportune to Communist interests. Soon terrorists appeared…armed with Soviet weapons. …In an attempt to stabilize the situation, the White government decided to hire white mercenaries to train and lead loyal troops (both white and black). Hundreds of white soldiers of fortune answered the call.” Guess what side you’re on!
I played this as GM a few times. Looking back now, it’s fascinating to see the game in the context of the political events unfolding at the time we were playing it. I was a newspaper junkie as a kid and especially interested in foreign affairs. In the end though, the game failed to hold our interest for more than just a few plays, and for the most part we went back to our beloved D&D.
Maps! My Real Maps!
50 minutes ago