Enter the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game.
Somethin' tells me that the only dragon the illustrator had ever seen before was named "Puff", ifyouknowwhatImsayin'.
Along with a slew of amazing D&D manuals and modules, Prudence Goodwyf also recovered this particular relic for me. Released in 1980, just six years after D&D's first appearance, its mere existence goes to show just how much of an all-encompassing phenomenon the game truly was at the time.
So what's the down-and-dirty on this potential chunk of landfill? Whelp, here's the excitable blurb right from the back of the weathered game box:
A GAME OF STRATEGY: Play alone or against a rival warrior and the dragon computer. Two skill levels.
A GAME OF SKILL: Find your way through the labyrinth on a touch-sensitive electronic board. Electronic sounds help you locate labyrinth walls. Walls shift with each new game.
A GAME OF ADVENTURE: Watch out! Electronic sounds tell you the dragon is after you. Find and steal the treasure before the dragon gets you, and you win!
- 4 diecast metal playing pieces -- 2 warrior figures approx 1.5" (3.7 cm) tall, 1 dragon figure 2.3" (5.8 cm) tall, and 1 treasure piece 1.2" (3.1 cm) by .68" (1.7 cm) by .7" (1.8 cm).
- 3 plastic markers -- 2 for secret rooms, 1 for treasure room.
- 50 plastic wall pieces to mark walls.
- Storage dungeon for game pieces and instructions.
- Playing instructions.
I decided to tackle the game at "Beginner" Level since it eschews the added complication of "Doors" which can randomly close off previously-clear hallways.
Here's how my adventures panned out:
The first thing I did was pick my Secret Room. In order to win the game I'd have to locate the Treasure and then make it all the way back to this particular square.
On my very first move I ran into a wall. Then I successfully moved north one space and tested my path to the right, which turned out to be blocked as well. Then I decided to loop all the way around, trying to map out every possible route back to my Secret Room. If I found the Treasure I certainly didn't want to plow into an unrevealed wall while I was sprinting back to my safe house, especially if the Dragon was right on my ass.
Then, while I was mapping out the south-west corner of the maze, I suddenly heard the ominous tones of the Dragon stirring! Even though I didn't know exactly where he was, I did know that he was only three spaces away from me and had the ability to fly over freakin' the walls. Not good.
I took a wild stab at where the Dragon might be and then marked this space with the appropriately-intimidating matching figure. Tentatively, I forged on.
Unfortunately, on my very next move, I bumped into another previously-unseen wall, which meant that ol' Smaug got to move one space closer to me! Eeeeek!
Since I still had eight movement points compared to the Dragon's one, I decided to haul ass back to the other side of the catacombs. Needless to say, in order for this to work, you really need to have most of the maze mapped out already. Unfortunately, I strayed into uncharted territory and came up against another wall, which allowed the beastie to wing one space closer. Cripes, this was getting tense!
This wasn't quite as bad as it looked. Indeed, by luring the Dragon closer to me, I had a pretty good shot at using all eight of my movement points to outflank him and locate the Treasure.
Eventually I found myself in a completely unexplored section of the labyrinth and the odds of hitting a dead end started to escalate. And that's exactly what happened when I tried to move north on my very next turn. Frozen in place with the Dragon swooping closer, I could feel the evil serpent's breath down the back of my leather jerkin!
Along the eastern wall I managed to hit a long, uninterrupted corridor. I then had to make a tough choice: backtrack south along a semi-explored route or try to reveal the northwest corner of the maze. Both routes would take me uncomfortably close to the Dragon but only one offered a completely new path.
After concluding that "fortune favors the bold" I decided to keep trekking in a north-westerly direction. I ended up going a lot further then I thought I would!
Three moves later I came up against another wall. About around then I was totally convinced that the Dragon was literally right behind me. Where the hell was that freakin' Treasure?
Another three moves, another wall. Had the Dragon finally cornered me?
As I gingerly inched out from behind that alcove a sense of sweet relief started to come over me. That big, scaly, sumbitch wasn't standing right next to me after all! Even though I hadn't bounced off of his crotch, I knew that he was still somewhere very, very close! One more move down South and I finally heard that joyful tune I'd been waiting for: I'd finally found the Treasure Room!
Unfortunately not two seconds later I heard the Dragon move followed by the mournful dirge of defeat!
"What the frak happened?!" I raged.
At first I thought that the game had malfunctioned. But then I noticed this little chestnut in the rulebook:
"When you have the treasure, you are particularly vulnerable. If the Dragon attacks you now, you are immediately out of the game!"
Really?!? Damn, that's cold, playa.
Determined to do better, I immediately racked things up for a re-match.
Since my first dude got devoured like a freshly-boiled lobster, I decided to go with "sword-wieldy guy" this time out. I then designated the north-west corner of the maze as my Secret Room.
Gingerly I began to map out my immediate surroundings, eventually exploring the entirety of the south-western quadrant.
I then sussed out the whole north-east section of the dungeon, perturbed that I'd yet to locate either the Treasure or the Dragon. I was starting to get nervous.
For good reason. The very next turn, that fire-breathing fuck's alarm clock went off.
Undaunted, I boldly plunged right into the heart of the Dragon's lair. After a quick fake-out I doubled back and finally found the Treasure Room!
I had to get outta Dodge and quick! Now burdened by all the phat lootz, my movement would be halved for the rest of the game. Silently I prayed that my anal-retentive mapping thus far would pay off.
All I needed was for just one unchecked wall space to be clear. But nope, on my very next move I charged head-first into a barrier of brick masonry, knocking me out cold. Seconds later, the Dragon swooped in, toasted me to about a medium rare, broke out the can opener and then made a meal outta the rich, creamy filling.
In case you weren't keeping score, the rich, creamy filling was me.
This time I thought I'd try the power of magic! In addition to using a wizard from my own personal pewter figurine collection, I chose to place my Secret Room off to the north-east:
After thoroughly exploring the 'hood, I inadvertently woke up the Dragon as I made my way out west.
As soon as I caught sight of him I ran screaming in the opposite direction but after bouncing off several walls the scaly creep caught up to me. He inflicted a wound, sending me back to my Secret Room and limiting my movement to six!
I tried another shuck n' jive, heading as far west as I possibly could. But since this was unknown territory, I did a face-plant into a few unexpected walls, allowing the Dragon to creep closer and closer. Noting his proximity, I decided to head back to more familiar environs.
I got as far as the southwest corner of the board before the Dragon got a little too close for comfort again. I took a gamble and tried to venture into the unexplored center of the board but promptly sucked brick, giving that pewter prick a second chance to wound me!
Again I was sent packing back to my Secret Room. This time my movement was reduced to four points and I still had no friggin' clue where the damned Treasure was! Verily, it looked as if I might be completely and thoroughly boned.
Once again I boldly cut in towards the unknown dark heart of the board. This time my bravery was soundly rewarded and I stumbled across the Treasure chamber! But now I was faced with the nigh-impossible task of getting back to my Secret Room with my entrails intact. This would require a deft touch.
My dangerous path brought me perilously close to the Dragon's fangs!
But with the north half of the maze reasonably-well plotted, I confidently strode forward, finally reaching my destination and winning a game! Huzzah!
- They don't make' em like this anymore, kids! Be tween the blood-red wall segments, freaky-looking pewter figurines, and a Dark Tower-style game board riddled with weird etchings makes this thing looks like a Jack Chick wet dream.
- The maze changes every time it's reset, lending the game a surprising amount of re-playability.
- Since the game features both a "dungeon" as well as a "dragon", it technically delivers on that promise at least.
- Although finding your way through the maze is essentially an exercise in trial-and-error there are a few emergent strategies concerning Secret Room placement and the value of mapping your immediate surrounding thoroughly before you give the Dragon a wet willy.
- Adding a second player really amps up the strategy. It's fun to gank your opponent after they were so kind as to recover the Treasure for you. Good times.
- As if the Beginner game isn't challenging enough you can add "Doors" to the mix. With Doors, a previously-clear corridor can become temporarily blocked. This presents an interesting quandry, do you find another way around or keep hurling yourself at the Door until you break through? Needless to say this decision becomes pretty tense when the Dragon is flying right at your helm. And if that's not hard enough for ya, true masochists can play without using the red wall pieces! Cripes, that's some crazy Mensa shit right there...
- For someone like me, who's first few "video games" involved a heavy reliance on LED lights for graphics, the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game is more fun then it should be. Having said that, the game's appeal for folks under the age of thirty will probably be very, very limited.
- Aside from a maze, a Treasure chest, some Doors and a Dragon, it's not very D&D. Both heroes are identical, there are no traps and only one monster. But, hey, whattaya expect for a thirty-four year old electronic game?
Sorry, but this thing just amuses the crap right outta me. I'd love to see it turned into an analog board game featuring a Dragon player pitted against two or more Adventurers. Hmmmm...let the record show that I thought of that first!
Now, I can hear some of you saying that this museum piece bears about as much resemblance to D&D as "Bound 2" does to music, but I don't buy that. At least it has a sense of exploration, which is more then I can say about the first edition of Descent. Sorry, but battling wave after wave of monsters Gauntlet-style doesn't feel very much like D&D to me either.
Besides, the Dragon still scares the poop outta me.
Imma gonna give the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game four pips outta six with a tilt up towards that giant bat-like behemoth screaming down at you and trying to melt yer face off!
Wanna get caught playing with yourself in a dungeon? Wow, that sounded bad.
Anyway, click on the following link to pick up a used copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game and throw a few copper pieces towards this brave l'il blog!