East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

I Suck at Games: Archon

I'm trying to play every good video game ever, and I might as well blog it. So you might hear a lot from me about NES games for the next year or two.

Atari 8-bit, 1983; NES version 1989
Designed by Jon Freeman, Anne Westfall and Paul Reiche III

Those against mixed mythologies should be appalled, as Golems and Valkyries take on Banshees and Orcs, as the Light and the Dark battle on a 9x9 grid. I told Yz it was Zoroastrian, she said it was more Manichean. (In Archon II, Order battles Chaos: if Chaos wins, doesn't it lose?) The cute feature is that Light and Dark pieces do better on squares of their own shade, and furthermore, a large subset of the squares lightens and darkens with the progression of time (which Yz pointed out was Taoist. That the Dark side is better: not so Taoist.) The basic strategy is simple -- keep your piece on squares of their own shade, and pick off opposing pieces when the ground shifts from under them. It's complicated by a second way of winning: instead of wiping out all your opponent's forces, you can occupy five squares designated as Power Points.

The combat part is intiated when a piece moves on to a square occupied by an opponent; you then cut to an obstacle-filled battlefield, on which the two of you shoot it out. If you're decent at combat, your force's leader can defend its home Power Point, and you're safe from all but the flukiest of wins. It would seem that at a high level of play, withut too much difference in the players' combat abilities, you'd draw most of the time. If, however, you suck at combat, there's a lot of fun to be had in strategising ways to overcome your ineptitude.

Time until boredom: six hours.


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