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
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:
build option, players can expend troops to construct bases, which
produce one troop per time unit.
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
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.
guns option allows players to expend troops to destroy remote enemy troops.
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.
horizon option provides a `fog of war': you can only see enemy
troops if they are within a certain (configurable!) distance of yours.
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/