My Favorite Board Games

Monopoly? Chess? Backgammon?

Naw, my taste in games borders more on ones which have
interesting characters, and take place in fantasy, science fiction and horror genres. 

(Chieftan/A Couple of Cowboys, 1992)

This is an interactive video board game. You insert a VHS tape into your VCR and press play. The on-screen host of the game directs much of the play, but events are also determined by which cards players are holding, where the players are on the board, which personas the characters are assuming, and also who is currently winning. The combinations of what can happen in a game are astounding! One thing is for certain: someone must win the game before the 60 minute video tape has reached its end - or the on-screen host wins the game. Sequel tapes were released, featuring different hosts, as well as different decks of cards. It is recommended that the game is played with the lights turned down and the television sound system turned up. It can get quite exciting during the final moments of the game.

I wish they had finished all the sequel tapes...

(Chieftan/A Couple of Cowboys, 1995)

The Nightmare games apparently lost popularity, so a new game called Atmosfear was created. It was also an interactive video board game, featuring all of the characters from the Nightmare games, plus new creatures called the Soul Rangers. The board is made of six wedges, which fit together to form a huge hexagon. The wedges can be assembled in any order, making the combination of layouts amazing. The object of the game is very similar to Nightmare - collect all of the keys and bring them to the finish before the video tape is finished. The gatkeeper is once again the on-screen host.

The variety of events which are possible within a single game are incredible. The rules are very complicated at first, which is why an on-tape tutorial is included. Atmosfear is more fun than Nightmare. Every single game is entirely different. It's quite an experience to play this game. I would rate it as the best game of all time.

An expansion "booster" set came out, which has a new video tape and playing pieces. It's called "Atmosfear: The Soul Rangers". All of the Harbingers from the original Atmosfear game have been destroyed, and in their place are a group of six Skeletal Soul Rangers (first introduced in the original Atmosfear game). It's like a game of "reverse Atmosfear". You start with all of the keys, and the object is to get rid of all of the keys before the timer runs out. Your onscreen host is a reggae/dentist/skeleton/executioner who offers an upbeat party-atmosfear. The first Soul Ranger to get rid of all his keys must make it back to the center of the board and correctly pick his worst fear (a reverse of the situation in the original Atmosfear!). The hosts and the other players can inflict key punishments at given points of the game. It's a lot of fun, and a good variation.

A computer version has been released, but good luck if you can find it, because it's only available in the UK, and has already been discontinued. I managed to track down a copy by mail-order, but it doesn't work with my particular system. Until I upgrade my video card, I'll have to play it on my friends' machines. Get it if you can -- it's incredible! There's also an Atmosfear duelling card game available, but I haven't found it yet.

Shadowlord !
(Parker Brothers, 1984)

"The Ultimate Struggle For The Ultimate Prize!"

You can play one of the elemental masters, either Air, Fire, Water or Earth, in an attempt to rule the entire universe. You gather warriors, merchants and diplomats from different star systems to strengthen your forces. Lurking in the center of the universe is the Shadow Fortress, where the Shadowlord and his minions live. The fortress must be taken over before time runs out, or the Shadowlords win the game. Interstellar combat is won by laying down higher cards from one's hand. This game has many pieces and takes awhile to learn, which is why it never caught on very well. The artwork of all the pieces is incredibly beautiful.



A Nightmare on Elm Street - the board game
(Victory Games Inc., 1987)

Freddy Krueger Wants to Play... And You're Invited!

You start the game in the depth of a nightmare. The object is to escape the nightmare and wake up. But Freddy is prowling the dreamscape, and can get you from many different directions. On your turn, you can either move yourself, or Freddy against the other players by playing different cards from your hand. If you're caught by Freddy, you'll be sent to the boiler room or the dream house. I think it's a well-designed game which is a lot of fun. It's similar to the third Nightmare on Elm Street film, but uses much of the imagery from the first film.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
(Game Designer's Workshop, 1986)

Based on the Fighting Fantasy Game Book of the same name, you must enter Firetop Mountain and be the first to find the Warlock's treasure. Monster Cards and Treasure Cards are distributed in the rooms differently every game. The maze also changes every time you play. Similar to a role playing game, you generate your character and keep track of statistics such as Stamina. Luck and Skill.

Combat with monsters is simplistic yet powerful - and uses the same rules as the Fighting Fantasy Books. The artwork of the board and cards is very well done. It's a fun game to play, a cross between role-playing and a board game. You also cannot win the game until you get the correct combination of keys to open the Warlock's chest. You can fight the other players and steal whatever items they have -- that's how to get the keys you need. It has enough variety to keep the game interesting. Average play time is an hour and a half.



Clue Master Detective
(Parker Brothers, 1986)

A sequel to the Parker Brothers classic. More rooms, more weapons and more suspects make this game more challenging. Set in a completely different larger mansion, you must be the first detective to deduce the exact circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Boddy. I like the clear green dice which come with this game.

In Clue Master Detective, I most often play as Professor Plum, but Mr. Green, Sgt. Grey and Miss Scarlett are cool too. The artwork has been improved. The appearance of the characters has changed slightly from the original Clue game. I find that Parker Brothers changes the artwork of its Clue game every couple of years, which keeps it somewhat fresh, but destroys any continuity. The characters also looked different on the Clue movie, the SNES/Genesis Clue, the Clue VCR game, the new Clue CD-Rom game, and the Clue CD-I games -- how confusing!

The people I play this game with generally use the same strategy as I do (writing every move down), so it's only a matter of luck to winning. Sometimes we have a rule where nobody is allowed to write anything down, except for the Clues, of course; this can make for a longer game.

Omega Virus
(Milton Bradley, 1995)

This game talks! Find and destroy the computer virus before time runs out! You move your man through the rooms of a space station, searching for the weapons which will kill the hidden virus. The computer's voice warns you that time is running out. Enter the code number of each room to find out what is inside. The computer threatens you as you get closer to destroying it. A lot of excitement. I'd recommend playing the basic game (30 minutes) first. Get it if you can.

Computer Labyrinth Game
(Mattel, 1980)

You move metallic warriors on a pressure-sensitve grid in search of a chest of treasure. The labyrinth reveals itself as you make your moves. Try not to wake up the sleeping dragon. If it does wake up, you must make it home with the treasure. The maze changes with every time new game. Events are announced with computerized beeps and musical tunes. I enjoy the solo version of this game more than the two player version. There are two skill versions available. The harder variation has doors which open and close. It's a cool strategy game.

TV Wars
(Avalon Hill, 1987)



You and your friends control competing television networks, trying to get the best prime time ratings. You buy programs in anticipation for the next ratings war, which could happen at any time. When a war does happen, each network chief must decide which shows to put in the evening line-up. Whichever shows have the lowest ratings are cancelled. The game ends when the first network has lost all of its programming, unable to compete in another TV War.



The Game of Time & Space

(1980, Games Workshop)

Based on the British Science Fiction TV show, this game has you taking on the role of one of the four Doctors, searching the universe for all the pieces of the Key to Chronos and bring them back to Gallifrey. There are planets to be explored, monsters to be fought, and companions to be picked up. It's a lot of fun, all created in the late Tom Baker period of Doctor Who. It's fairly hard to find this game nowadays. It's definitely a collectable for Doctor Who fans. 

Masterpiece - The Art Auction Game

(1970, Parker Brothers)

All of the players are at an art auction, and bid on paintings, not knowing the actual worth of the pieces. What's cool about this game is the miniature paintings that you actually bid on. Randomly placed hidden value cards are attached to the back of the artwork. You may pay a lot of money for a forgery, or buy a million dollar original treasure for only a few thousand. Paintings can be resold to other players or the bank. When the last painting is sold, whichever player has the most money is the winner! A new version of Masterpiece came out, just in time for Christmas 1997. The characters, board and art has been updated for the 90's. But I love the then-fashionable 60's/70's characters of the original, which are rather humourous by today's styles. 



(Parker Brothers, 1986)

Based on the feuding spies from the Mad Magazine comic strip. This game has players, as spies, building tunnels underground to get to bombs. They must bring the bombs back home without them exploding. Explosions are determined by rolling the bomb dice. One of the faces of the six-sided die has an explosion symbol. You don't want to roll that! Tunnels are built by laying down connecting tiles (much like Scrabble) on the grid. 



The Haunted Mansion

(Disney, 1975)

A game celebrating the Haunted Mansion ride attraction at Disneyland. The first person to escape from the mansion wins the game. This is a large boardgame, with incredible artwork, and a very colorful stand-up cardboard backdrop. The playfield has a crank that turns interlocking "gears", which the players' "Doom Buggies" must move over. Attached to the gears are standup spooks, which can possibly knock the players pieces off the path, and into the Crypt. Many of the featured ghosts and monsters from the game are encountered. It's a great game, which I unfortunately no longer own. I was young at the time, and didn't take very good care of it. Now the game is being sold on the Internet for $100 - $200.


This page was last played around with on Sunday, November 26, 2000