Fantasy board games
December 3, 2012 7:59 AM   Subscribe

So much of my childhood in one place. I'll be dragging some of these out of my parents' attic this Christmas, and introducing them to my three year old son. I can't believe this is the first I'm hearing of a Dark Crystal board game.
posted by love is a murderer at 8:10 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

There was also Dungeon. That was a fun game.
posted by Nomyte at 8:10 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good nerdstalgia, but needs Talisman!
posted by justkevin at 8:11 AM on December 3, 2012 [18 favorites]

Fun FPP about Dragon Strike
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:13 AM on December 3, 2012

HeroQuest was one of my favorite games growing up, loved playing that thing. Oddly, I never got together the same friends often enough to play past the first couple of levels, but still, it was grand.

Oddly, after moving halfway across the world, I discovered that there were different versions of the base set, that had slightly different monster stats. My new friend's copy has significantly weaker enemies. Don't know if was based on where it was printed, or just different editions.
posted by themadthinker at 8:13 AM on December 3, 2012

Yay! He mentioned Dark Tower. That was the first thing I started looking for. We spent so, so much time playing that game... the tower basically acted as an arbiter as you moved your pieces around. It did a bunch of bookkeeping for you, knowing how many soldiers you had, and tracking your food, and some other stuff. The presentation was very cool, too, for the era:

The tower from Dark Tower doing its thing

All the little beeps actually carried a fair bit of information, and then there were three lit panels in each vertical stripe, with a two-digit LED above them. It would spin an inner ring around to get the right picture to show for what was going on. That's the whirring you hear -- the cylinder spinning to get to the right pictures. It didn't have a screen; those would have been impossibly expensive. It just had pre-drawn transparent slides, with lights behind them. It was a pretty clever solution, actually, for the tech of the era. And the tower was really reliable; ours worked for hundreds of hours with nary a glitch. I don't know what happened to it, but if it hasn't been thrown out, it's probably working even now.

It was so much fun. I dunno if I'd like the game as an adult, but that was my favorite boardgame as a kid.
posted by Malor at 8:14 AM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I didn't play Space Hulk until late high school. Let's just say those of us who played were an odd group. He had marathon weekend sessions of Space Hulk,with the actual board and pieces, and Warhammer 40k with empty bases and cut out templates instead of miniatures.

Oddly, I still own crossbows and catapults, although by now the box is long gone and I use the pieces as "scenery" for whenever I set up my tyco slot cars, which admittedly hasn't been in over 10 years.

Guess I got my plans for tonight, slot cars crashing into castles.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:19 AM on December 3, 2012

God, this is awesome. It's everything I stared at longingly every Saturday afternoon at the hobby store, but never could afford. I was convinced that my life would be complete and happy if I could only afford the original DungeonQuest. (Now that I can afford it, I totally am going to seek out a copy.)

Thanks for this post!
posted by jbickers at 8:28 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

There was an Elf Quest pack for Hero Quest? And it featured elves and wolves? Curious.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:31 AM on December 3, 2012

Needs Talisman and Warhammer Quest.

I debate the inclusion of Warhammer Fantasy. Even Necromunda and Mordheim are more probably considered miniature skirmishing games.
posted by vuron at 8:36 AM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Good nerdstalgia, but needs Talisman!

This just reminded me that Talisman is gathering dust in my closet. And, upon Googling, I see a developer is bringing it into the modern era.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:52 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

themadthinker: Oddly, after moving halfway across the world, I discovered that there were different versions of the base set

I'm spotting a few differences from the UK edition I'm familiar with: I don't recognise some of those magic item cards, the baddie wizard was called Morcar, and there were no Chaos spells that let him summon monsters. That would've swung a few games in my favour.

Expected to see Legend of Heroes on this site there somewhere. It was a fun short-playing deal (possible to run solo, an essential feature for the young foreveralone) in which you'd assemble your colour-coordinated adventurer squad and crawl through a load of card-based variable linking encounters. To this day I'm still finding cards around the place telling me I've 'discovered a healing fountain! But from the shadows springs a deadly [draw monster card)'
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:53 AM on December 3, 2012

Yes! Crossbows and Catapults was my favorite game ever growing up! I had no idea there were so many add-ons!

You can still probably find long lost Crossbows and Catapults discs lodged under various pieces of furniture or appliances in my parents' house.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 9:00 AM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have Space Hulk but as Space Quest and to be fair we spent less time playing the game as a game and more time doing Warhammer 40K battles on the bedroom carpet...
posted by MartinWisse at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2012

Good nerdstalgia, but needs Talisman!

Nobody needs Talisman. Talisman is not so much a game as something you inflict on the unwary.
posted by mightygodking at 9:02 AM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I really wanted Crossbows and Catapults when I was a kid, but my Dad didn't want me immediately losing all the bits in strategic locations where he could step on them like my Lego collection. So instead he bought me one of these Bandit crossbows with instructions to shoot at Lego castles, saying I'd get bored of the game in a week anyways.

It was funny how he was right. I got bored of shooting at castles in a week.

But shooting at my little sister? That never got old.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:03 AM on December 3, 2012

No Dragonmaster. Shame. It was kind of an interesting game, a trick-based card game, but with some plastic "jewels" for point scoring and some lovely artwork.
posted by adipocere at 9:04 AM on December 3, 2012

There was also Dungeon. That was a fun game.

Yeah, I'm genuinely surprised it was omitted, with so many other TSR games represented.
posted by Gelatin at 9:04 AM on December 3, 2012

I played a few games of Talisman with all of the expansions (including Timescape, Dungeon, City, Dragon) and goddamn could those games take forever to finish.

Not quite as bad as Diplomacy which is basically something I'm only willing to play by post anymore but it was definitely something that could nuke an evening, which made it a perfect game for college.
posted by vuron at 9:12 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I received Fantasy Forest as a gift from my aunt but only played it a few times. My mother was a big epic fantasy fan but she hated the game. I didn't have much fun when I played it with my aunt which makes me wonder if it was just a bad game to play. I see lots of people on the internet saying they owned the game but not many saying if it was any fun.
posted by Electric Elf at 9:14 AM on December 3, 2012

This is missing Wiz-War so much. Wiz-War. Wiz-War! (recently republished)
posted by oulipian at 9:15 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for "Dungeon!" Played the hell out of that one.

Also, there used to be an online/flash version of Dark Tower around, but it seems to have disappeared.
posted by TonyRobots at 9:40 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My favourite was the Mythology boardgame by Yaquinto. You played one of the gods and each round you had points to spend. You could either spend them on making your hero go after a treasure, or take over a monster and ruin someone else's quest. Great, great fun.
posted by ciderwoman at 10:08 AM on December 3, 2012

Chiming in to point out Talisman's omission.

This was a game my brothers and I used to play with our parents in the 80's. A lot. It got to the point we would create our own characters and make our own character cards for them. We would then have them approved by the rest of the family and playtest them for balance. One of my creations I was particularly fond of was Dwarf Attorney.
posted by sourwookie at 10:17 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Dwarf Attorney" FTW. Talisman is the Calvinball of board games.

Talisman even beat out D&D in my gaming circle for a couple of years. The insanity/genius of the game, especially as you added expansion packs, was that every game — hell, every MOVE in every game — became a protracted battle of gaming legalism. The rules overlapped and were *just barely* vague enough that even rolling the dice became a questionable proposition.

Most of my gaming circle were college debaters...
posted by axoplasm at 10:28 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

FWOAR just seeing the box art for Fantasy Forest brought back such a rush, I must've played that game to bits when I was 5-9 or so. Haven't thought of it in at least 20 years or so... the game with the vinyl mat and the hex modifier cards is strongly reminiscent of a play set I had as well, that must have dated back to 1980-83 or so - a big vinyl landscape field (probably like 3'x3', but seemed huge at the time) and a huge pile of plastic army-man style figures. However the two armies were on one side, silver and gold-ish barbarians and fighting fellows (maybe some vikings?), and the other side was all demons and devils in red and black, and possibly some greyish ogres or something. And a dragon! If it was more of a game and not just a big playset, I can't recall, but I do know I wrote my OWN set of rules for fantasy warfare on school paper.

(short bit of googling later) FOUND IT! "Forest of Doom" was the base set, and then a ton of these "Warriors of the Galaxy" guys got tossed into the mix, along with my formative and oddly-interpreted understanding of the rules for Chainmail. AWESOME now I want to pile all these figures around me and invent grand and ridiculous fantasy stories all over again.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:53 AM on December 3, 2012

I have an original TSR box set of Dungeon. That is all.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Never heard of Fantasy Forest or Quest for the Dungeon Master before. Some pretty bad games in there but ooooh the minis.

Guess I should put up my Heroquests on ebay for Christmas...

See also Space Crusade and Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel for more HeroQuest-y meets Warhammer/Space Hulk-y games.
posted by Windopaene at 11:12 AM on December 3, 2012


We played - tried to play - Talisman once at a PDX mefi game day meetup.

After about three hours we still weren't finished, and our reserved time at the pub was up, so we gave up on it.

I oppose any mention of that monstrosity at future game days.
posted by curious nu at 11:22 AM on December 3, 2012

Several people have mentioned the omission of Dungeon. The FPP reads: Fantasy-themed board games from the early 80 to the early 90s. No matter how you slice it, 1975 does not fit into that span.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:26 AM on December 3, 2012

Oh yes, Dark Tower! Thanks for the video, Malor. It's funny how the 'music' takes me back and now I feel very old oh yes I do.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:34 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yay Talisman love! I had the base, and every expansion. The basic character/adventure/spell/twist-ending/no-new-board expansion, Timescape, Dungeon, City, and Dragons. Though by the time I had all those not many of my friends were too into it anymore, particularly since a single game could stretch from 6pm till sunrise. Then after FINALLY getting to the Crown Of Command space, you flip the Mystery Ending card over and it's the motherfucking Horrible Black Void. (First edition HBV card, it was a simple "You lose. Game Over. Everyone else gets to continue, but you're dead. Good day sir."
posted by mediocre at 11:42 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had fond memories of Talisman from playing it as a kid.. then I got a copy of it recently to satisfy my board game urges and found out that the game balance itself is MISERABLE. The beginning is an unrelenting asswhipping unless the nasty monsters are shuffled to the bottom of the deck, and the later half of the game is full of tons of 'fuck you, you lose' events that just arbitrarily obliterate a player with no recourse.

Modern adventure games have come a long way tho - for a very 'Talisman'-esque experience of individual characters with advancement and treasure and questing and such, check out Runebound. Still a grand and magical adventure, but without the whole 'you landed on the wrong space sucka, say goodbye to four hours of work' deal.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:04 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Crossbows and Catapults! Yes! My brother and I had three or four sets and used to combine all the pieces to make monstrously huge forts, which we'd then spend the next couple of hours contentedly destroying.

Did anyone else strengthen the force of the crossbow by pulling the arm right out of its slot, as far as the rubber band would stretch? Worked amazingly well, but one time in fifty or so you'd misjudge it. The tip would catch on the edge of the hole as it shot forward, causing it to pivot and slam with great force onto your knuckles. Brought up some astonishing welts.
I can only assume our parents never watched us playing.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:25 PM on December 3, 2012

Also wanted to mention that this FPP is my first introduction to the RetroJunk website ... which is a rabbit hole that I have just totally fallen into. What a fun site. I've got a date with some Richie Rich comics tonight when I get home from work, I think.
posted by jbickers at 1:34 PM on December 3, 2012

Ah, Talisman. It may have been the first game to be completely ruined by ridiculously unbalanced expansions that it was painfully obvious no one had ever bothered to playtest.

(Thereby setting the tone for the two decades or so that followed.)
posted by kyrademon at 2:04 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hadn't realized how many expansions Crossbows and Catapults got. Nifty!

There used to be a flash version of Dark Tower on the web, but it seems to have disappeared. At least there's now an Android version.
posted by jiawen at 2:11 PM on December 3, 2012

Did anyone else strengthen the force of the crossbow by pulling the arm right out of its slot, as far as the rubber band would stretch?

Kinda. My brother and I were rubber band connoisseurs. We would get extra stout ones doubled-over for the crossbows. We learned that accuracy was your friend with the catapults and the power came from gravity. To that end we bought unusually weak rubber bands to get spot-on control of the ballistics.

I still have my set.
posted by sourwookie at 2:43 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're going to stretch fantasy to include Space Hulk and board game enough to include Warhammer FB then surely Adeptus Titanicus and Dark Future need a mention?
posted by cromagnon at 2:52 PM on December 3, 2012

According to Wikipedia, the original plot of Talisman was a race to become prefect of a boy's school and it later got it's fantasy "skin" to aid its popularity.

What? I don't even.
posted by sourwookie at 2:56 PM on December 3, 2012

LOL at mediocre for the Void card. Our friend Kevin used to get this repeatedly. One time, at his insistance, we agreed to play without the Void card, and after finally getting to the Crown of Command, Kevin drew the final card and it was... the Void!

Turns out after taking it out of the deck and putting it aside someone had dropped the cards on the floor, when he picked them up he forgot about the no-Void rule and re-included the Void card in the deck. Man, the look on his face was priceless, we were all rolling on the floor laughing. Ah, good times!

Also, some very important misses here:
Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game - I loved this one!
and the completely broken, yet hilarious Dragonlance game.
posted by Vindaloo at 3:12 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

According to Wikipedia, the original plot of Talisman was a race to become prefect of a boy's school and it later got it's fantasy "skin" to aid its popularity.

Well that explains its cruel, capricious, brutal nature, doesn't it?
posted by curious nu at 4:13 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Shadowlord! and Fantasy Forest were two favorites of mine... Haven't even thought of Fantasy Forest in forever, happy memories.

Shadowlord! was fantastic too, better than the blogger gives it credit for though yeah, the art on the box is not entirely representative of the game.
posted by davros42 at 4:32 PM on December 3, 2012

Man, I have 3 (Heroqust, Dragonstrike and Darkworld) of those and no one to try them out with.
posted by Canageek at 4:55 PM on December 3, 2012

No-one else seems to have had this problem, but I emailed my wife a link to this article and it rerouted her to a porn site.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:08 PM on December 3, 2012

Next question; are any of those three games actually worth playing?
posted by Canageek at 6:47 PM on December 3, 2012

Thanks for the heads up, Card Cheat, I was about to email my husband the link with the comment "which of these do you want for Christmas?"
posted by Catch at 7:10 PM on December 3, 2012

If no one else has reported a re-direct it's probably a virus on the computer in question, not the site.
posted by curious nu at 7:19 PM on December 3, 2012


That game was my first introduction to RPGs, long before I played Hero Quest or any pencil-and-paper RPGs. Must remember to dig it out of my parents' basement at Christmas.
posted by sheprime at 7:23 PM on December 3, 2012

Ah, HeroQuest. Loved that game. Actually I think I liked all the pieces more than the game, and I only remember ever playing it with my brother, who wasn't into D&D or anything, but I have very fond memories of it I bet it's still in my parents' attic, in fact. Looking at the artwork on those spell cards really brought back some memories.

And Crossbows and Catapults! I played the hell out of that in my friend's kitchen. It was the only room with enough space. I have no idea how his mom let us get away with that. There were probably pieces all over the place for weeks afterwards...

And and the D&D Labyrinth game! Yes! I loved it but now I don't remember the rules or the gameplay, other than deliberately pressing the pieces down on their squares, and fearing the sound of the dragon (was it a dragon? I think it was a dragon) landing. The heft of the pieces is a really strong memory for me.

Thanks for the post.
posted by m0nm0n at 7:35 PM on December 3, 2012

Space Hulk is worth playing. Beyond that, other than the nostalgia factor, not so much.
posted by Windopaene at 7:56 PM on December 3, 2012

I was a fucking pimp at Crossbows and Catapults.

Just sayin'.
posted by bardic at 10:10 PM on December 3, 2012

Malor, i wonder if you have all the sound effects for Dark Tower burned into your brain like I do. Like the creek of the opening doors or the rhythm of the battle sounds. I don't have to watch the video to hear those things perfectly.

(or when you had the sword when you ran into the dragon! ha ha suck it, chump!)
posted by neuromodulator at 10:51 PM on December 3, 2012

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