Jovian Chronicles

rules cover

Brief Description

This unusual game combines a complete role-playing game with a tactical combat system, and the two can be used separately or combined (i.e., so that role-playing characters can "game out" a critical battle). The role-playing rules handle fighting on a character vs. character level, while the tactical combat rules handle vehicular combat (ground, air or space combat).

Characters can be generated using the role-playing rules, selected from a list of archetypes (pre-designed characters), or simply be assigned a general skill level (i.e., Veteran). The rulebook provides information on six exo-armor (short for "exo-skeleton, armored") suits, two fighters, and six spaceships.

Before tactical combat begins, the leaders on each side make a Leadership skill test in order to gain Tactical Command Points. Before each combat round, further Leadership tests may gain Initiative Command Points. These points can be spent to gain an extra Action, to obtain a defensive bonus, or to activate a unit out of sequence.

In the tactical system, fighting takes place in a series of Combat Rounds. Each side takes turns activating one of its combat groups, and then resolving sequentially the activities of each member of the group. Actions (i.e., firing a weapon or turning sensors off) can occur before, during or after movement. The number of Actions a vehicle can take is determined by its crew size; if additional Actions are taken, a penalty is applied against the dierolls for all Actions taken by that vehicle.

In space, combatants use vector movement (in 2D or 3D, players' option), with rules allowing for lightning strike combat (high velocity fly-bys), orbital insertion, and re-entry. Planetary rules allow combat on worlds of different gravity, as well as aquatic movement (in water or liquified gasses). Aerial movement is in 3D, with rules covering gliding, diving, falling, and stalling. Vehicles can transition from ground to aerial to space in the same combat.

Period The 23rd Century. After an economic collapse, a resurgent Central Earth Government & Administration (CEGA) engages in a power showdown with the former colonies (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn). As all sides militarize, the solar system is on the brink of war.
Ground Scale Tactical Combat System - Space: Each hex is 500 meters wide
Tactical Combat System - Air: Each hex is 250 meters wide
Tactical Combat System - Ground: Each hex is 50 meters wide
Time Scale Role-Playing Game: Each combat round represents 6 seconds.
Tactical Combat System: Each combat round represents 30 seconds
Figure Scale Each figure represents a single combatant.
Miniature Scales The Jovian Chronicles line of miniatures was formerly produced by RAFM, and remains available in many stores. A new line of official figures in a new scale is also available. Fusion Models makes a few official resin kits in 1/200 scale.
Contents232-page soft-cover book
Designers Phillippe Boule, Jean Carrières, Wunji Lao, Marc A. Vezina
Publisher Second printing of current rulebook published 1998 by Dream Pod 9

Supplements Available

Jovian Chronicles Companion

Mechanical Catalog

Lightning Strike

What You Think

Dan Higdon (
Jovian Chronicles uses the same sleek and easy to play tactical system introduced in Heavy Gear. The only differences come from the technology differences in the two game universes. (J.C. is not Heavy Gear's past, they are two different game universes.) Units have a certain number of actions which can be used to make attacks, activate ECM, sensors, or comms, and other tasks.

J.C. uses a 2d vector movement system for space. Once you get used to it, this system works very smoothly. I've heard it's much like other space vector games, but I wouldn't know. It does remind me a bit of the old Traveller space movement, but with less math. :-) (Note: 3d can be used, but 2d is simpler to manage on a table.)

J.C. has the same ground combat engine used by Heavy Gear. The feel of the game is a little different, since Exoarmors and Gears don't really have that much in common (apart from being mecha).

Exoarmors have super-advanced control systems and smart computers which combine to make them much more powerful than 'Gears. However, their size makes them less maneuverable and more expensive, making them relatively rare on the battlefield. J.C. does have a smaller mecha that is more like a 'Gear (exosuit) or powered armor, but they are mostly super-infantry. And of course you get plenty of grunts and hover tanks. :-)

Combat tends to be very Top Gun, with Exo-armors (space mecha) launching smart missiles at captital ships, hacking up each other in close-range dogfights, dodging incoming enemy fire, and generally blowing up any and everything that gets in their way. Loads of fun, and very open to RPG potential and tactical engagements.

My only complaint with J.C. from a wargaming perspective is that the capital ships seem a little squishy. But then again, how hard is it to sink a modern destroyer/frigate with a few harpoon missiles? Exoarmors can usually maneuver in close enough to get through the anti-missile systems all warships carry.

From an RPG perspective, J.C. is a very open-ended system. GMs will have plenty of room to mould their campaigns in whatever direction they want, from Iron Eagle to Saving Private Ryan to Aliens (although there aren't "officially" aliens in J.C.) to Event Horizon, or wherever you want to go.

In summary, Jovian Chronicles is a fun tactical space/ground game, with a really great role-playing tie-in for those who want it.

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Online Resources

Publisher's Jovian Chronicles Page
Background material, including an illustrated guide to exo-armor and other vehicles.
Jovian Chronicles FAQ
At publisher's website. Maintained by John Prins.
Jovian Chronicles Online Store
At publisher's website. Complete product listing, some descriptions.

If you know of other resources for this game, or if you have material you would like to make available to the Net, please let us know.

Last Updates
20 October 1999added Lightning Strike
7 April 1999comments by Dan Higdon
29 March 1999page first published
Comments or corrections?