Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nostalgia Thursday - Search for the Emperor's Treasure (1981)

One of the great things about moving to Lake Geneva has been getting the chance to regularly play games with legendary game Designer Tom Wham.  One of the bonuses is getting to play games he has designed or even games that are in development.  Then, sometimes, something happens that seems to top all of that.  Tom gathered a few of the Friday faithful at Culver's for a little boardgaming last week to show off a copy of Search for the Emperor's Treasure (1981) that a fan had sent him.  But it wasn't a copy to sign and return, which happens from time to time, but something rather more special.  A fan who loved the game, since finding it years ago, had wanted to teach it to his kids, to instill a love of gaming in them.  He did so but wanted to make sure they had something more, so he made a copy of the game in a sort of deluxe version but also made a third copy for Tom.

In case you aren't familiar, here is the description of the game from Board Game Geek here:
Originally published in issue #51 (July 1981) of Dragon Magazine. Republished as part of the The Best of Dragon Magazine Games boxed set in 1990.
A tongue-in-cheek version of "classic" Dungeons & Dragons (some even say Mertwig's Maze is a similar treatment of Advanced D&D). As such, players become a warrior, elf, cleric, or magician, then wander around the board collecting treasure and resolving encounters. The Emperor's six magic artifacts are both high-powered magic items and a countdown clock, as when enough have been found, the game ends. (Exactly how many depends on number of players.)
Treasure, encounters and equipment are all randomized with chits in three cups. Characters obtain them by fighting monsters or lucky die rolls on result charts associated with various board locations (e.g., castles, villages, The Wizard's Tower, The Pirate Lair, etc.). Not all encounters are monsters -- some are travelers who will bestow treasure upon completion of quests, others are annoyances, and there's even Imperial Guard patrols looking to confiscate the Emperor's Treasure.
Terrain types are a key strategy feature, as a player whose current location's terrain doesn't match the encounter drawn can bestow it on someone else who does. So a character in rugged forest or mountains can get stuck fighting several monsters in succession during other players' turns.
A surprising amount of flavor is included for a magazine game. There's an assortment of magic spells, ranged and close combat, magical weapons & armor, damsels in distress, evil wizards, a volcanic demon, even a wandering elephant.
The boxed version changes the encounter mix around, adds a deck of treasure clue cards, and expands the character selection with a dwarf and a "hairfoot." Counters are die-cut, but monochrome rather than full color. The nice Darlene Pekul map painting is traded in for a hexmap with generic terrain symbols that Wham suggests you mount to cardboard and cut apart, thus creating a new map each game a la Kings & Things. The cards force characters to move a lot more, and most encounters can no longer be given away, so this edition plays quite differently.

He put together two rules booklets and included some Tom Wham artwork from other sources to fancy it up a bit.  The Darlene map is included both in the original form as as the hex version.  He even made draw bags of Dice (and wounds), Encounters, Weapons, and Treasures.  It's a wonderful set and lovingly handcrafted.  More photos of the game can be found in my Facebook albums here and on my Google Photo albums here.  Quite the tribute!

Focusing on the roots of current tabletop gaming
with an eye toward the last century and before.
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