[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="598" class="zemanta-img"] Atari 2600 with joystick. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption] I realize much of the focus of the Nerdarchy website is tabletop role playing games, but it is not all the site is about, and with Christmas fast approaching my thoughts always turn to...
[caption id="attachment_13611" align="alignright" width="340"] 1978's Tomb of Horrors[/caption] [caption id="attachment_13613" align="alignright" width="336"] 1981's Tomb of Horrors[/caption] Few words raise the ire of long-time Dungeons & Dragons aficionados more than “Tomb of Horrors.” The words “Fourth edition” come to mind, but that’s fairly recent and probably somewhat unfair...
[caption id="attachment_13226" align="alignright" width="388"] Peter Hooten as Dr. Strange in 1978.[/caption] Everybody knows Marvel is releasing a Dr. Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch next month, but did you know there was a Dr. Strange movie for television way back in 1978? It’s true. Peter Hooten starred as...
1983 was a big year for me. Over the summer I turned 14, and in the fall I would begin ninth grade, kicking off my high school years as a freshman. But more importantly, it was a big year for my role-playing habits.
TSR’s sci-fi game Star Frontiers had been out for a year and was coming out with new products left and right. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was riding high with a ton of new modules, including the original Ravenloft module (the maps!), and even the D&D Basic Set was getting a slight reworking with a new boxed set. Then towards the end of the year there hints of something major coming from TSR in 1984, and eventually that would be known as Dragonlance.
So, 1983 had a lot happening in the worlds of D&D. But perhaps the most noticeable, at least for the 13-soon-14-year-old me was the Dungeons & Dragons animated TV series.
Saturday morning cartoons were a huge deal then, and TSR big shot Gary Gygax had pulled off the unthinkable when he traveled to Hollywood and got Marvel Productions (yes, of the comic book Marvel company) and Teoi Animation of Japan involved with this new animated show.
Blast from the Past: Mattel Electronics Handheld Games
You see a kid walking down the street. His eyes are glued to the game in his hands, so he barely notices when he strolls across a busy street, and he doesn’t hear tires squeal and horns blare. Could he be playing Pokemon Go? Or is he doing something else on his smart phone?
Of course not. The year is 1976, after all.
How can that be? Believe it or not, way back in the dinosaur ages we actually had electronic handheld games, and they were quite popular. Sports games were probably the most common, but plenty of others were available. Companies like Coleco and Sears (yes, that Sears) had plenty of games available, and it seemed more came out every year, especially at Christmas.
But of all the companies which sold such devices, by far the most popular had to be Mattel Electronics. This company kicked everything off with the very first all-digital electronic game, Auto Race, which came out in stores in 1976.
By today’s standards, Auto Race was a simple game with red LED (light-emitting diode) lights. The player controlled a bright red line one the bottom of the tiny screen. The goal was to steer your race car (that red line) from the bottom of the screen to the top of the screen four times before a time of 99 seconds ran out. If the player made it, then the player won the game. The hard part was avoiding all the other race cars (more red blips) which came at you at high speeds, and if one hit you, then your car was forced back to the bottom of the screen. The main control moved your car from left to right, but you could also change gears to speed up or slow down play.
Blast from the Past: Godzilla vs. Megalon
My dad put up with a lot from me when I was a kid in the ’70s. It’s not that I was a bad kid, but he was more of a Roy Rogers and Lone Ranger kind of guy while I kept wanting Star Trek and Star Wars toys between dragging him to science fiction and horror movies.
In the summer of 1976, when I turned seven, I made him take me to yet another film I’m sure he did not want to see. We parked downtown and walked the distance to the only local theater that showed foreign films.
I don’t remember what it was that drew me to his movie. Perhaps I had heard of the main character, or maybe I had been mesmerized by the newspaper advertisement artwork which showed two giant monsters battling it out atop the World Trade Center towers (a scene which is nowhere to be found in the movie).
I’m talking about the epic Godzilla vs. Megalon, originally released in Japan in 1973 though it didn’t make it to the U.S. until 1976.
This is not everyone’s favorite Godzilla movie. In fact, it tends to be one of the lower rated of the big guy’s series of films, but for the seven-year-old me, it was simply awesome. See, this was my first Godzilla experience, and I would be something of a fan for the rest of my life.
And what wasn’t to like? First off, you’ve got the big guy himself, Godzilla, leading a monster-packed story with the likes of Gigan, a beaked and hooked horror; Jet Jaguar, a robot who can perform martial arts and change size (and looking vaguely like a later generation’s Power Rangers); and the other star of the title, Megalon, a giant bug-like monster with a star-shaped spike sticking out of its head and some kind of earth-digging drills in place of hands or claws. Even Anguirus makes an appearance, a somewhat rare site, with his dinosaur-like body with armored plates and spikes sticking out everywhere, along with Rodan, a flying, dragon-like beast.
[caption id="attachment_11850" align="aligncenter" width="656"] Jack Burton, center, has plenty of pals backing him up as he prepares to face down the evils of Lo Pan. And remember, if they're not back by dawn, call the president.[/caption] This month 30 years ago, a movie decades ahead of...
[caption id="attachment_11744" align="aligncenter" width="776"] My original Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn books and maps.[/caption] A little history [caption id="attachment_11746" align="alignright" width="320"] The original Star Frontiers Referee's Screen.[/caption] In the early 1980s, the world seemed suddenly crazed for everything science fiction, especially space opera. Star Wars had been around for...
[caption id="attachment_11564" align="aligncenter" width="596"] The Transformers in all their heroic glory. Oh, how soon the mighty would fall.[/caption] With the live-action Transformers movies of the last decade, it can be easy for some fans to forget the franchise was originally a cartoon series back in the...
[caption id="attachment_11297" align="aligncenter" width="563"] They're looking a little rough around the edges, but I've had these Marvel Comics Pocket Books nearly 40 years.[/caption] Long before Civil Wars, Spider-Man clones, Infinity Gauntlets, Secret Wars and movie franchises, Marvel Comics drew in readers with what today would be...
Imagine you are in charge of an alien race that must expand across the galaxy. You send out spaceships to find new planets, then you have to rework those planets so they can support your species. Along the way you strive to increase population levels and to raise funds to keep expansion rolling. Then the worst happens and you run smack into another alien race doing the same as you. It’s war! And intergalactic war at that. All with ships that look like flying sharks, planets that wear cowboy hats, and special events that happen on holidays.
I’m talking about Spaceward Ho!, a computer video game that was first released in 1990 by Delta Tao Software. Originally created for Macintosh computers, this strategy game has earned its fair share of praise and a number of awards, and it was inducted into the MacWorld Game Hall of Fame. The game proved so popular it was reviewed not once, but twice in Dragon magazine, in issues 196 and 202. Even Wil Wheaton back in 2013 tweeted about his excitement when Spaceward Ho! became available for Android through GooglePlay.
Spaceward Ho! alive and kicking
[caption id="attachment_10572" align="alignright" width="434"] Space Glider, one of the original Micronauts, came with a removable helmet and a jet pack with wings that sprang open.[/caption] In 1976, just in time for the science fiction craze which would be kicked off by Star Wars, the Mego toy...
TSR will always be remembered as the company that created Dungeons & Dragons and kicked off role playing games, but it’s sometimes forgotten as the publisher of other types of games besides D&D, such as Revolt on Antares.
For a period in the early 1980s, microgames (also known as minigames) were all the rage, no doubt started by the success of Steve Jackson Games’ Car Wars and Ogre. What were microgames? Smaller, relatively simple games that usually came packaged with all necessaries, such as dice and maps. Usually these games were not role playing games, but war games or some other tabletop board game.
Jumping on the bandwagon, TSR released a number of its own microgames, such as Vampyre, They’ve Invaded Pleasantville!, Saga and more. Revolt on Antares is one of these games.
Revolt on Antares, the game
Released in 1981, Revolt on Antares is a simple war game for two to four players that takes place on Imirrhos (also known as Antares 9), the ninth planet of the Antares solar system. Three scenarios are available for play, the main one allowing a player to act as leader of a rebel force against another player who is the leader of the Terran empire. The other two scenarios involve fighting back against an alien invasion, or a war between multiple royal houses of Imirrhos.
For some while I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing a Nerdarchy series about games and toys from my childhood and early teens years, which were the 1970s and early ’80s. Board games, action figures, early role playing games, and other of my youthful pastimes would be the subject matter, hopefully raising some nostalgia for older readers and maybe a few chuckles from younger ones who get to see our old-fashioned playthings.
This is the first of the series, which will be fore-titled “Blast from the Past.” Not every Nerdarchy article I write will be part of this series, but enough will that it makes some sense to note the difference. Also, these “Blast from the Past” articles might delve into different subjects, possibly movies and other nerdy things from my younger days, but the focus will be upon games and toys.
This week I take a look at the board games I played the most. I hope you enjoy.