Thursday, September 01, 2011

Battle at Sarlacc's Pit

This time the random game selected for me write about from my collection is a real oddity.  Being almost 30 years old, Battle at Sarlacc's Pit is a board game loosely based on the fight among the sail barges at the end of the first part of the movie Return of the Jedi.  The defining feature of this game is the 3D gameboard, allowing you to dump defeated enemies into the Sarlacc's pit.  I was a child when this game was released, but I remembered seeing it in stores and thinking it looked pretty sweet.  I swore that I would one day own the game.  During  the mid-90s, when I was at University, I found someone selling the game in a Usenet auction and was able to snag it.  I fulfilled my oath and now owned the game.

The game proceeded to sit on a shelf for, oh, fifteen years or so.  Seriously.  This is what it looked like when I pulled it down to finally do something with it.

Yes, you are seeing that right; the box has been wrapped in saran wrap for ~15 years.  I didn't even know if the game was complete or not, though as it turned out I had nothing to worry about on that front as the game had never even been played before.  See, the figures hadn't even been separated from the sprues!

This is the first game I have ever seen that actually makes use of the game box itself.  The box provides the base for everything as you build a cardboard Sarlaac's pit and then mount the cardboard sand skiff on top of it.  The player characters (Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, and Chewbacca are the options) start on one end, Jabba the Hutt sits on the other, and a bunch of Gamorreans stand between the two.  Players score points by knocking Gamorreans into the pit and advancing towards Jabba.  Boba Fett and some other dude whose name I forget are also in the game, as guards worth an extra victory point.  The game continues until someone defeats Jabba directly using a "Force" card, at which point the game ends and you count up your points for defeated enemies.  Thus, it is possible for one player to defeat Jabba but someone to win.  Since Jabba is worth a lot of points, though, that isn't likely to happen.

At the start of the game each player starts with four "Jedi" cards.  These cards will either contain a number, Jabba, the Force, or some text allowing for a special action.  During a player's turn, he plays a card to take an action.  A number card lets you move your character that many spaces on the board.  A Force card lets you move anywhere from one to six spaces (and lets you beat Jabba at the climax of the game, and move when Jabba is "in your lane").  If you end your turn next to a guard, you draw another card to fight.  If it is a number, you knock the guard into the pit and claim a points card for them.  Otherwise, you are defeated, the guard stays put, and you go back to the start.

After playing this game, I must admit that it feels very luck dependent.  There is not much strategy to the game, as you just move up to the next enemy and hope that you draw a card that lets you beat them and score points.  You can't improve your odds of winning a combat by hand management or any other skill; it is all luck.  The only redeeming feature of the game is the somewhat impressive 3D gameboard, which really is kind of a kick to play on.  Knocking guards off the skiff and into the pit is entertaining, but I'm not sure that it would continue to be very entertaining after a few plays in a row.  So, in the end this is a gimmicky game that may never actually get played again.  With the right group, though, at the right time, it might see some time on the table.  Probably not, though.


Christopher said...

Time capsule in a box. It's a shame the gameplay wasn't a little more nuanced, but I'm just impressed the plastic figures weren't all single-colored pieces of plastic. I remember seeing that game in stores myself.

Aaron W. Thorne said...

Yeah, while the figures do look pretty bad, they could have looked a LOT worse considering the age of the game.