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BattleCards Pack of 10 cards from US version

BattleCards, also known as Steve Jackson's BattleCards, were published by Merlin Publishing in 1993. Although distinct from Fighting Fantasy, they have an almost indelible link to Fighting Fantasy in the world of those who collect anything to do with the genre.[1]


In the early 1990s Steve Jackson came up with a collectible card game rooted in fantasy fiction. It was later published in the US by Merlin Editions, Incorporated in a different order but with virtually the same pack and largely the same artwork (the major difference being that artist Alan Craddock was replaced by Martin McKenna). The main objective was to gain the Emperor of Vangoria (BattleCard) by accumulating the eight Treasure Cards, which could be won via The Quests of Vangoria, or bought via the accumulation of gold from winning battles with other cards. There were a number of sub-games as well. The cards "fought" each other by rubbing scratch-off spots on each card, looking for blood symbols underneath. There were lots of other features, like spell battles etc. based on the scratch-off system and in the UK version there were also shield cards that added to the complexity of the battles. The success of BattleCards was eclipsed, however, by Richard Garfield's Magic the Gathering which came out a few months later.[2] Jackson later said that the game was "probably too complicated for the time", stating that he had no idea how many people got the final Emperor of Vangoria.[3]

UK Edition[]

See also, List of BattleCards (UK Edition)

BattleCards Logo - UK

The UK edition was the first to be published and one of its striking features was the artwork it employed, from some of the most well known and respected artists in the fantasy genre, including Iain McCaig, Les Edwards and Peter Andrew Jones amongst others. The cards, being published in the UK, were slightly larger than their US counterparts. Treasures could be found in the packs, if lucky, but more often were gained via The Trading Post (BattleCard) in exchange for gold accumulated through winning battles and/or solving The Quests of Vangoria. Battles could be fought in two ways (detailed below in the Battle Mechanics section). Also, Shield Cards and Magic Spells could be employed. The very rare Emperor of Vangoria (BattleCard) was numbered 150. The cards were popular enough to spawn a US edition.

US Edition[]

See also, List of BattleCards (US Edition)

BattleCards Logo - US

The US edition was simply known as "BattleCards", dropping "Steve Jackson" from the title, although his name was explicit in the copyright notice. The cards were smaller than the UK edition and were published in a different order. Also, a number of other developments were apparent. For a reason not at this time known, Martin McKenna's artwork replaced that of Alan Craddock. Also, two cards were dropped from the series, Quest Clues (BattleCard) and Battle Secrets (BattleCard) (which happened to be illustrated by Alan Craddock). The information on these cards was spread across 5 cards called Secrets of Vangoria. The artwork on the Secrets of Vangoria cards was the same as that used on the Shield Cards in the UK set (by Terry Oakes), but in all other respects the Shield Cards had been dropped, and therefore so had the use of shields in combat. Also, The Quests of Vangoria yielded not gold, but actual Treasure Cards. This meant that the US set had three ways of obtaining Treasure Cards rather the two. Additionally, in the US a special promotion was run on Treasure Cards whereby under certain circumstances special Limited Edition Gold Foil and also Silver Foil cards could be obtained (see Treasure Cards article for details). Thus there were 148 cards in the US set, with the Emperor of Vangoria (BattleCard) being 140, and additionally there were 16 Limited Edition Treasure Cards bringing the total to 164. Cards could be bought in packs of 10 and also in boxes containing 36 packs of 10 cards. Interestingly, on the back of the US packs, The Trading Post (BattleCard) is referred to as card #7, which is the number of that card for the UK edition. The US version is actually card 139.

Links to Fighting Fantasy[]

So closely are BattleCards associated with Fighting Fantasy, that many sources, especially Fighting Fantasy websites, list them as part of the Fighting Fantasy collection.[4] However, they are not officially part of the Fighting Fantasy collection, even as a licensed product. However, the links with Fighting Fantasy are strong, not least because the cards were created by Steve Jackson. The cards, as well as having a very strong fantasy theme, are also illustrated by a collection of artists many of whom are stalwarts of the Fighting Fantasy genre, including Iain McCaig, Les Edwards, Alan Craddock, Martin McKenna and Terry Oakes. Further, in the case of Iain McCaig, the artwork from Ian Livingstone's Casket of Souls is actually reproduced on the cards.

Other links also exist. For example, it has been commented that Vangoria bears a striking resemblance to the Old World, which is compounded by the fact that one of the seas lapping the shores of both continents is The Eelsea. However, the Eelsea of Fighting Fantasy was on the "other side" of the Old World, lending somewhat greater credence to the theory that, if Vangoria was a "lost continent" of Titan, its only remnants are the Isle of Scars and the Isle of Despair.[5]

Further links include The Orb of Shantos (BattleCard) which also also appears in The Tasks of Tantalon (see Orb of Shantos) despite being named as one of the eight treasures of Vangoria. This adds weight to the the theory that Vangoria, the setting for BattleCards, was formed after the splitting of Irritaria as that portion of the supercontinent that separates what became Allansia and the Old World. It was long ago lost beneath the oceans separating those two continents.

Additionally, in The Trolltooth Wars the line "Two tall moonweed plants grew on either side of the doorway, their round, white flowers swaying gently in the breeze."[6] can be compared with the line from The Cursewitch's Quest (BattleCard): "Moonweed is one of four potion ingredients (along with Redfern, Starwort, and Tiger Flower) needed by Griselda Troone, the Cursewitch of Stillwind Wood." Cursewitch is also a general term used by Steve Jackson in The Trolltooth Wars to denote any sort of hag or crone with magical powers. However, in Creature of Havoc, it is the name of the undead, Snake-tongued creatures that live in coffins in one of the central chambers of Zharradan Marr's dungeon complex.[7]

Battle Mechanics[]

Basic Combat Rules - "Scratch & Slay"[]

These were detailed on all Warrior Cards (with the exception of the Secrets of Vangoria cards in the US set). The UK cards described the Basic Combat Rules as a unique scratch-off combat system, whereas the US version went further, naming the system Scratch & Slay (and trademarking the name). The system was as follows:

  1. Choose your Fighters (Fighter Cards)
  2. Decide whether you will play for any stakes (e.g. cards from each others' collections)
  3. Toss a coin to see who strikes first
  4. On your turn scratch off one of your opponent's body area spots (which could be Head, Arm, Leg or Body).
  5. A Blank space means the blow missed, a WOUND symbol means the blow has struck.
    1. The WOUND symbol differed between the UK and US sets

      The UK wound symbol and the US version

    2. There may be other symbols, which in the Basic game should be treated as Blanks (specified in the UK set only).
  6. A miss means the play passes to the other player.
  7. Continue to take turns to scratch each others' spots.
  8. Two wounds = Seriously Injured. Therefore scratch off one LIFE box.
    1. A BLANK means the Fighter is still alive.
    2. A SKULL & CROSSBONES means the Fighter is dead.
  9. If the Fighter survives a Life Box is scratched off for every further wound suffered.
  10. If a FIGHTER dies the dead body (i.e. card) plus any stakes are given to the victor.
  11. The Purse will show how valuable the kill was, and this money can be used to buy Treasure Cards at The Trading Post (BattleCard).

The Warrior Cards went on to indicate that other cards illuminated how to buy Treasure Cards; how to play Advanced Combat; How to bring Shield Cards (UK only) and Magic Spells into battle; and how to take part in Multiple Card Battles.

Advanced Combat Rules[]

These were detailed on all Advanced Combat Cards. In Advanced Combat ("AC")you could could choose your strategy in battles with the use of the 8 Advanced Combat Cards although you did not need all 8 to play. In Advanced Combat you had to win the right to scratch a spot off your opponent's Fighter Card by beating your opponent in a short card game as follows:

  1. Choose Fighter Cards and decide stakes as normal.
  2. Agree how many AC cards to be used (6 to 8 was an indication).
  3. Choose your AC cards from your collection.
    1. You could have more than one of the same card
    2. You could agree to have different numbers.
  4. Each AC card specifies a TARGET for attack (Head, Body, Arm or Leg) and two areas for Defending.
  5. Begin the round of combat by both secretly selecting one of your AC cards.
  6. Both cards are shown simultaneously and combat is resolved.
    1. Opponent 1 shows Attack: Head; Defend: Head & Legs (BattleCard); Opponent 2 shows Attack: Body; Defend: Head & Arms (BattleCard). Opponent 1 therefore attacks the Head, but this is defended by Opponent 2, therefore has no effect. However, Opponent 2 has attacked the Body and this is not defended by Opponent 1, therefore Opponent 2 scores a Hit and the right is won to scratch off a spot on Opponent 1's Fighter Card, and symbols are dealt with as per the Basic Rules.
  7. The AC cards used in the round are placed to one side.
  8. If all AC cards are used up and combat is continuing, pick up the used ones and start again.
  9. Continue until one Fighter dies as in Basic Rules.
  10. It is possible for both fighters to die in the same round. In this instance you both give each other your dead cards but no one wins stakes.

Using Magic Spells in BattleCards Combat[]

See also, Magic Spells (BattleCard Type)

The UK Magic symbol and the US version

Magic spell cards could also be used in battle. The players would agree how many spells could be used and then choose them secretly from their collections. One spell (the Mutiny Spell (BattleCard)) could only be used in Multiple Card Battles (see "Campaign Battles" below). Certain other spells could be forbidden on prior agreement. There were differences between the US and UK in the use of Magic Spells:

  • In the UK during battle each time an attack reveals a spell symbol on a defender's card the defender can immediately choose a spell from those he has selected for battle and cast this spell back at the attacker.
  • In the US during battle each time an attack reveals a wound symbol on a defender's card the attacker could immediately choose to cast one of his spells instead of taking an extra turn. This was because there were no spell symbols on the US cards.

Apart from this difference the two versions reverted to the same process:

  • Refer to individual spell cards for the effects of each spell.
  • Before the spell takes effect, you must check to ensure it works by scratching off one of the six boxes (chosen by the spell caster) on the face of the spell card.
    • A blank means it works.
    • A miscast symbol means it doesn't work and the spell card is useless in all future battles.
  • Individual spell cards can be used once only per battle. After use, they are removed from the fight whether or not they work.

BattleCards tried to reward experienced wizards by making the miscast symbol be in the same place on copies of the same spell card. Thus memorising where each spells miscast symbol is rewarded experience.

Using Shields in BattleCards Combat[]

See also, Shield Cards

The UK Shield symbols

These were used in the UK only. Before battle players agreed whether or not shields would be used. Shield symbols (found under some of the scratch off boxes) would then come into the game:

  • Each fighter could use only one shield.
  • Players had to agree on the particular shields used.
  • Players would place their shields face up next to the Fighter Cards so they could be clearly seen.
  • During battle, each time an attack on a player's Fighter Card revealed a shield symbol, they had to test to see whether the blow has been blocked by the shield:
    • Scratch off one box (chosen by the attacker) on the shield card.
      • A blank meant the blow was blocked (ie. no effect, continue as normal).
      • A broken shield symbol meant that the shield was shattered and the attacker can scratch another box on the defender's fighter.
  • When a shield is shattered it was removed from the fight and was useless in all future battles.
  • If a fighter who was using a shield lost it, ie. it shattered, then any further attacks which revealed a shield symbol counted as wounds during that battle.
  • When a fighter dies, the Shield Card was also lost to the victor.

Shield Cards could also be used in multiple battles (see Campaign Battles below).

Although the artwork on the US Secrets of Vangoria cards was the same as that used on the Shield Cards in the UK set (by Terry Oakes), in all other respects the Shield Cards had been dropped, and therefore so had the use of shields in combat.

Campaign Battles[]

Card 83 of the UK set (Campaigns) and its US equivalent, card 78 (Campaigns & Adventures (BattleCard)), introduced the concept of mass battles using any number of Fighter Cards, employing either Basic or Advanced Rules, and incorporating Shields and/or Spells if desired. Interestingly, the Mutiny Spell (BattleCard), could only be used in Campaign Battles.

Special Rules[]

Some Fighter Cards had special rules for combat (numbers given are UK versions):

Vangorian Alphabet[]

Illustration of UK placement of alphabet

Illustration of US placement of alphabet

The Vangorian Alphabet was a necessary element in being able to obtain the Emperor of Vangoria (BattleCard). On the back of each of the Treasure Cards, at the bottom of the text, was a message written in Vangorian. This had to be translated and pieced together with the translations of the messages on all other Treasure Cards to be able to send in for the Emperor of Vangoria (BattleCard).

In order to translate the messages the playe needed to know what the Vangorian Alphabet characters meant. The characters were printed on various other BattleCards to enable the player to do this. In the UK set, the alphabet was shown a character at a time at the bottom of most Fighter Cards (the exception being that the alphabet was not printed on Warrior Cards). In the US set, all 40 Vangorian alphabet characters were found, in sets of 8, on the five Secrets of Vangoria cards.


Yard Games[]

These were detailed on UK card 81 - Yard Games (BattleCard) (US equivalent was card 79)

Card Games[]

These were detailed on UK card 82 - Card Games (BattleCard) (US equivalent was card 77)

BattleCard Types/Groupings[]

There were a number of BattleCard Types, or subsets, defined in the US version explicitey in the various Checklist Cards;

Additionally, a number of other types or subsets were mentioned in card descriptions, which would spread across the above types, or be subsumed within them:

BattleCard Stats[]

BattleCard Stats on the UK and US versions

At the top of all Fighter Cards were denoted stat categories (four types in the UK version, two in the US version):


For more details on Status in BattleCards please BattleCard Status.

This was common to both UK and US versions. Each Fighter Card had a Status which could be Strong, Powerful, or Awesome. A fourth status existed called Warrior, which was specific to Warrior Cards. These represented how relatively skilled the fighter is in battle. Higher status meant less Wound symbols on a card, making the card more difficult to kill. In the UK, higher status was more specifically related to how many Spell and Shield symbols were to be found on a card (see Battle Mechanics above). Therefore, a fight between a Strong and an Awesome fighter is not even. Higher Status meant a larger Purse.

Further Notes on Status[]


For more details on Status in BattleCards please BattleCard Alignment.

Again, this was common to both the UK and the US. Each Fighter Card had an Alignment, which could be either Justice, Evil, Chaos or Neutral. This stat came into play during Campaign Battles, whereby cards of the same alignment should be on the same side. The UK set did not make this clear, but in the later published US set, the Campaigns & Adventures (BattleCard), specified that in Campaigns and Adventures similar alignments should never fight each other, with the exception of Neutral who may fight anyone.[8]

Further Notes on Alignment[]


For more details on Status in BattleCards please BattleCard Race.

The UK BattleCards had a Race stat on Fighter Cards only (except Artists). This served no defined purpose and it can be surmised that it was intended to help in more advanced Campaign Battles perhaps. It was dropped from the US set, with the race being able to be picked up from the text. The races that appeared were: Arachnid; Arch-Demon; Artisan; Barbarian; Canine; Centaur; Created; Cross-Breed; Dragon; Droglyn; Fiend; Giant; Goblin; Gorgon; Hag-Witches; Half-Elf; Human; Human/Beast; Humunculid; Kraken; Lizardine; Lycanthrope; Minor Demon; Ogre; Ogre/Human; Orc; Plant; Reptilian; Rush-Demon; Saurian; Sea Serpent; Serpentine; Sorcerer; Undead; Unknown; Vampire Bat; Zombie.


For more details on Status in BattleCards please BattleCard Allegiance.

The UK BattleCards had an Allegiance stat on Fighter Cards only (except Artists). This served no defined purpose and it can be surmised that it was intended to help in more advanced Campaign Battles, and in particular in Adventures, whereby players could recreate the stories found within the BattleCards. It was dropped from the US set, with the Allegiance being able to be picked up from the text. The Allegiance would always be to a Leader (an allegiance type in its own right) or to None or For Hire. The allegiances that appeared were: Aragon Trueblade (BattleCard); Baalthazac (BattleCard); D'Accord (BattleCard); Dragon Prince (BattleCard); Dumm (BattleCard); Firenzi (BattleCard); For Hire; Gleeta Spee (BattleCard); Helmut the Bold (BattleCard); Karanga (BattleCard); Leader (i.e. the card represents a Leader and therefore has no other allegiance); Lord of Darkness (BattleCard); Lord of the Masque (BattleCard); Lord Vengeance (BattleCard); None; Obojo (BattleCard); Prince Gallant (BattleCard); Prince Lionheart (BattleCard); The Iron Maiden (BattleCard); Vanvincent (BattleCard); Verrancus (BattleCard); Zheena Nightshade (BattleCard).

The card The Dark Warrior (BattleCard), had as an allegiance, Obojo (BattleCard), but only "(currently)". Similarly, Krudd & Gorr (BattleCard), had a "?" after their allegiance to Dumm (BattleCard).

Variations Between the UK and US Editions[]

UK (left) and US (right) versions of the Strangler BattleCard (artwork side)

UK (left) and US (right) versions of the Strangler BattleCard (text side)

The US version of BattleCards differed in a number of ways from its British counterpart:

Generic Differences[]

  • Numbering: The US cards were numbered in a different order from the UK cards. Although the number of the card was in the same place on the textual side of the card, the numbering difference was obviously reflected here. Very few cards had the same number, although number 1, "Vangoria" was one of these. To compare and contrast the numbers in the two sets, please see:
  1. BattleCards - UK Edition to US Edition Conversion
  2. BattleCards - US Edition to UK Edition Conversion
  • Grouping: Related to numbering, there was a marked difference in terms of the way in which cards were grouped. The US cards were published such that cards that were related to each other were published in numerical sequence. Thus, as an example, cards 20 to 39 in the US version were "The Darklands", whereas cards 110 to 130 were "Quaine". In the UK version, these cards were spread throughout the deck. Interestingly, the groups also grouped the artists as well because each artist was responsible for a different grouping as well (in the above examples "The Darklands" all used Iain McCaig's artwork and "Quaine" all used Gino D'Achille's artwork. In the UK version the link between the areas and the artists would not have been immediately apparent.
  • Size: The US cards were smaller, being 2 ½ inches wide by 3 ½ inches high as opposed to the UK cards which were 2 and 5/8 inches wide by 3 and 13/16 inches high (see the image opposite which shows the UK version on the left, the US on the right).
  • Artwork: The ‘Scratch & Slay’ side of the card (the side with the artwork) was affected by the size. Rather than shrink the artwork for the US cards, the US cards simply showed less of the artwork.
  • Scratch & Slay symbols: On the UK version, the metal foil scratch & slay spots were silver in colour whereas on the US versions they were gold in colour. Also, perhaps due to size constraints, the US version showed what the spots related to on the side, whereas on the UK version, what part of the body (i.e., Head, Arm, Leg or Body) the spot related to was shown above the spot (or whether it was a Life spot, or a Purse spot).
  • Font: Both on the artwork side of the card, and on the textual side of the card, the font type used differed between the UK and US versions.
  • Information Boxes: The UK version featured four information boxes on all cards that had an individual or monster. These boxes contained information on: Race; Status; Alignment; and Allegiance. In the US version, only Status and Alignment featured, the rest of the information having to be gleaned from the text on the card.
  • Artist Mark: In the UK version this was on a yellow background, whereas in the US version it was on a white background. Note that the "Mark's" themeselves were the same except that of Iain McCaig.
  • Seal: This was the Merlin Publishing logo on both, but in the UK version it was on a yellow background, whereas in the US version it was on a scroll on a white background.
  • BattleCards Logo: Although very similar, the UK version incorporated Steve Jackson's name in a similar fashion to Sorcery!, i.e. "Steve Jackson's BattleCards", whereas Jackson's name did not appear in the logo itself in the US version.
  • Shield and Magic Scratch-off symbols: These appeared on Fighter Cards in the UK version, but not in the US, where Shield Combat was dropped, and the rules for use of Magic in battles was altered.

Specific Differences[]

See Also[]


  1. Fighting Fantasy Collector
  2. Commenting on the success of Magic the Gathering, Jackson simply said: "Wish I'd have come up with THAT one...!"
  3. Next Generation - Edge interview with Steve Jackson "Writing Fiction", December 2007
  4. Fighting Fantasy Collector
  5. Non-canon
  6. The Trolltooth Wars - p.54
  7. Titan Rebuilding - Post 2496
  8. The UK equivalent of Campaigns & Adventures (BattleCard) was Campaigns (BattleCard) and was largely the same card but did not mention the alignment specification