“Darth Vader as game master?” : You must have forgotten these revolutionary games!

Game news “Darth Vader as game master?” : You must have forgotten these revolutionary games!

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The 1990s were known for their unlikely appearance, rowdy eurodance, boy band mania and the spread of microcomputers. They also witnessed an original phenomenon: the hybridization of board games and video games using cassettes to be inserted into a video recorder. Put under the spotlight thanks to Atmosfear, this funny concept flew through the stars until it tickled Darth Vader. “Student, it’s time to test your power… take a dice and roll it”.


  • Fear is the road to the dark side
  • A dice does not equal a good laser gun

Fear is the road to the dark side

Live your worst nightmare!“. With this interpellation printed on the back of its game box Atmosfear (Nightmare in the United States) tried to sell its daring concept in the early 1990s.. Three to six players were actually invited to gather around a game board with their eyes glued to the television, which was unusual at the time. With a VHS cassette pre-inserted into a video recorder (the ancestor of the DVD/BR player if the youngsters come across it), a lonely game master – The Lord of the Keys – amuses himself by -insulting the contestants while putting obstacles in their way. . The concept of a board game using a video cassette is not new, Cluedo did it in 1985, but it was one of the first times this technique was used to present an antagonist pulling the strings, shortly after the unknown Skull & Crossbones from 1988.

The rules are pretty simple. Based on the proven ideas of the goose game, Atmosfear asks players to roll dice to move from space to space to recover six keys thanks to the board, Chance/Time/Destiny cards or sometimes thanks to goodness of the Lord of the Keys. Once a player has collected the precious keys, they must go to the central coffin, roll a six, and read a Nightmare card. If the nightmare entered at the beginning of the game is not included in the end, the mission is over and the Lord of the Keys is defeated. Players only have 60 minutes (the length of a VHS) to complete their objective.

As such, it’s a race against time based on the timeless quirks of a voluble game master that Atmosfear offers. The Lord of Keys does not hesitate to insult players with “vermin“, of “old lips“or even”wood louse”, without him directly sending them to the common grave, namely the prison of the game. Of course, the originality of Atmosfear was balanced by the extreme linearity of the parts: the cassette scenario remained identical in parts. However, in an effort to provide variety and replayability, Brett Clements and Phillip Tanner’s game relied heavily on pick-up cards capable of influencing the course of development.. Extensions featuring other diabolical game masters (as well as new cards and sometimes new rules) were released between 1992 and 1994 including Baron Samedi the Zombie, Anne de Chantraine the Witch and Élisabeth Bathory the Vampire. Atmosfear – The Emissaries will arrive in 1995 and will offer to face the Lord of the Keys again with a new video, a new board and new rules. Definitely, “the interactive video board game” – as he calls himself – rose in the early 1990s.

A dice does not equal a good laser gun

While Atmosfear haunts the nights of horror fans by drawing inspiration from the classic monsters of popular culture (ghosts, witches, vampires), it is one of the most famous villains in cinema history who married his turn to the fusion of board game and video. game. Star Wars, the interactive game” landed on planet Earth in 1996 with a game board on board as well as a VHS featuring the ruthless Darth Vader as the game master. Participants include the rebels of the D’rinba system who must unite to prevent the destruction of their planet by the Death Star, the famous space combat station equipped with incredible firepower. The goal is to destroy the structure by placing six explosives in a precise order, with the only weapon being a dice, all in under 55 minutes. Like Atmosfear, the gamemaster Darth Vader regularly drops in to slow players down in their quest. It can stop a participant (and their R2D2), close doors, disable explosives, and even convert a player to the dark side of the Force. As a student, his mission is to annoy his former classmates.

Parker’s new attempt at an interactive video board game has the great idea of ​​putting Darth Vader in real settings worthy of the movies, unlike Atmosfear’s black backgrounds. Other characters, such as Stormtroopers, are also present in the video. Better yet, excerpts from episode IV punctuated the progress, while John Williams’ official music explained the progress.. However, there are some issues raised by fans of the legend. The first comes from the character of Darth Vader, whose lines don’t really fit the idea we have of the character. The lack of rhythm of the games despite the race against the clock is also pointed out, while the important events of the video (Darth Vader choosing the student) are no longer very impressive once the first game is over. A year earlier, Atmosfear – The Emissaries succeeded greatly in incorporating players becoming antagonists, by separating this change of role from the video’s script. As you can understand, this Star Wars is reserved for fans of the legend who agree to play it for just one night before finally putting it away in the closet.

If Atmosfear regularly tried to rekindle the fire with DVD (2004) and mobile (2019) episodes, the basic concept was ultimately less popular with franchises already in place despite DragonStrike attempts , Star Wars, Star Trek or 24 Hour Chrono . Board games that use video are released, sometimes based on popular licenses such as X-Files, Wayne’s World or The Office, but the latter are usually content to be just quizzes. As for Star Wars, the legend has continued to exist in the realm of the board game, and even had the rights to an edition of Trivial Pursuit… with a DVD supplied inside containing extracts from the films.

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