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

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

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The 1990s were known for improbable performances, rowdy eurodancing, 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 video recorders. Highlighted thanks to Atmosfear, this hilarious concept flew to the stars to tickle Darth Vader. “Students, it’s time to test your strength… take the dice and throw it”.


  • Fear is the path to the dark side
  • Dice don’t compare to a good laser gun

Fear is the path to the dark side

Live your worst nightmare!“. Through the interpellation printed on the back of the game box, Atmosfear (Nightmare in the United States) tries to sell its bold concept in the early 1990s.. Three to six players were actually invited to gather around the game board with their eyes glued to the television, which was uncommon at the time. Via a VHS tape pre-loaded into the video recorder (the ancestor of the DVD/BR player if young people pass by here), a somber game master – The Lord of the Keys – amuses himself by insulting the participants while blocking their way. . The concept of a board game using videotapes is not new, Cluedo had done it in 1985, but it is the first time the technique has been used to show an antagonist pulling strings, shortly after the obscure Skull & Crossbones from 1988.

The rules are quite simple. Based on the proven goose game idea, Atmosfear asks players to roll dice to move from one room to another to recover six keys thanks to the board, Chance/Time/Destiny cards or sometimes thanks to the kindness of the Lord of the Keys. Once a player has collected the prized key, they must go to the central casket, roll a six, and read the Nightmare card. If the latter does not include the nightmare that was entered at the start of the game, then the mission is completed and the Lord of the Keys is defeated. Players only have 60 minutes (VHS length) to complete their objective.

It’s therefore a race against time punctuated by the untimely quotes of the eloquent game masters that Atmosfear has to offer. The Lord of Keys has no qualms about insulting players”pest“, from “old debris” or maybe “woodlice“, when he doesn’t send them straight to the common grave, which is the game’s prison. Of course, Atmosfear’s originality is offset by the extreme linearity of its parts: the tape scenario remains identical in its parts. However, in an effort to provide variety and replayability, Brett Clements and Phillip Tanner’s games rely heavily on pick-up cards that can influence the course of development.. Extensions featuring other evil game masters (as well as new cards and sometimes new rules) would be released between 1992 and 1994 with Baron Samedi the Zombie, Anne de Chantraine the Witch, and Élisabeth Bathory the Vampire. Atmosfear – The messenger will land in 1995 and will offer to face the Lord of the Keys once again through new videos, new boards and new rules. Definitively,”interactive video board game” – as he called himself – was on the rise in the early 1990s.

Dice don’t compare to a good laser gun

While Atmosfear haunts horror fans’ nights at night by taking inspiration from classic popular culture monsters (ghosts, witches, vampires), it is one of the most notorious villains in cinema history that married a fusion twist between board games and video games. Star Wars, interactive game” landed on planet Earth in 1996 with a board game as well as a VHS featuring the ruthless Darth Vader as game master. Participants embody the rebels of the D’rinba system who must band together to prevent the destruction of their planet by the Death Star, a famous space battle station equipped with extraordinary firepower. The goal is to destroy the structure by placing six explosives in the right order, with the only weapon being the dice, all in less than 55 minutes. Like Atmosfear, gamemaster Darth Vader regularly steps in to slow players down on their quest. It can stop participants (and their R2D2), close doors, deactivate explosives, and even turn players to the dark side of the Force. As a student, his mission would then be to annoy his former classmate.

Parker’s new attempt at interactive video board games has the wonderful idea of ​​placing Darth Vader in a real setting worthy of the film, as opposed to the black backdrop of Atmosfear. Other characters, such as Stormtroopers, are also present during the video. Better still, excerpts from episode IV mark the progress, while official music by John Williams illuminates the progress.. However, there are a few issues that fans of the saga have raised. The first comes from the Darth Vader character, whose lines don’t really fit with the ideas we have of the character. The game’s lack of rhythm despite the race against time was also pointed out, whereas the key events in the video (Darth Vader selecting students) are no longer impressive after the first game is over. A year earlier, Atmosfear – The Emissaries did well in integrating player-turned-opponents, by separating this role change from the video script. As you will understand, this Star Wars is reserved for fans of the saga who agree to play it for just one night before placing it firmly in the cupboard.

While Atmosfear regularly tried to reignite the fire with DVD (2004) and mobile (2019) episodes, the basic concept ultimately didn’t catch on with the established franchises despite attempts by DragonStrike, Star Wars, Star Trek or 24 Hour Chrono. Board games using video have been released, sometimes under well-known licenses such as X-Files, Wayne’s World or The Office, but the latter are often just quizzes. As for Star Wars, the saga continues to exist in the board game realm, and is even entitled to a Trivial Pursuit edition… with a DVD included inside containing extracts from the films.

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