XBattle is a multi-player real-time strategy game that, according to the authors, ``captures the dynamics of a wide range of military situations through numerous options''. It is played on a (virtual) board consisting of a configurable number of hexagonal, square, triangular, or octagonal and square cells.

Each player in XBattle is represented by a colour. Each cell can be occupied by `troops'; the number of troops in a cell is indicated by the size of a coloured circle appearing in the cell. Players set up links between cells; in each time unit, a fraction of the troops in the source cell will move to the destination cell. If a cell contains troops of different colours, they fight, reducing the number of troops of each colour in the cell. The goal is to use strategy, tactics, and a little bit of luck to wipe out all your opponents' troops.

One of the best things about this game is the vast array of user-configurable options. These can greatly affect the nature of the game. For example:

  • Using the build option, players can expend troops to construct bases, which produce one troop per time unit.
  • With the farms option, each occupied cell slowly produces troops. This makes it advantageous to capture large territories, rather than simply setting up supply lines from bases to the front line
  • The decay option simulates attrition: troops not at a base slowly disappear. This effectively means that each base can support only a limited number of troops.
  • The guns option allows players to expend troops to destroy remote enemy troops.
  • The dig and fill options allow players to raise and lower terrain at the cost of troops. Troop movement is slowed uphill, and accelerated downhill. This option also allows players to construct uncrossable moats, and bridges for piercing these moats.
  • The horizon option provides a `fog of war': you can only see enemy troops if they are within a certain (configurable!) distance of yours. map and localmap make this apply to terrain as well.

XBattle runs on any computer with the X Window System---typically, but not necessarily, Unix. The program runs on a single machine; the program uses X's network transparency to draw a window on each player's display. Unfortunately, the inefficiencies of the X protocol make this very slow over low-speed or high-latency connections. The current developer has planned a client-server version of the game, but see below.

XBattle was developed by two Boston University graduate students: Steve Lehar and Greg Lesher. The first version was released in 1991, based on a board game designed by Lehar. Lesher continued to develop the game over the next few years, adding a number of new features. Unfortunately, it seems that development more or less stopped in late 1996, before the planned client-server version could be completed. The latest version is 5.4.1, released in February 1996. A sneak preview of the client-server version was released in April 1996, though it is clearly labelled a development version, and is quite buggy.

All is not lost, however. Mathias Broxvall has developed an unofficial continuation of XBattle, called XBattleAI. This version adds computer-controlled players using two different algorithms (one by Broxvall and another by Pierre Bureau), victory detection, and a few miscellaneous features. The latest version of XBattleAI is 1.1.8, released in late 2001. Broxvall is now working on a client-server version of the game; snapshots are available from eir web site.

  • The XBattle web site is at http://cns-web.bu.edu/pub/xpip/html/xbattle.html
  • The XBattleAI web site is at http://www.lysator.liu.se/~mbrx/XBattleAI/

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