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Escape From New York Movie Tie-In Board Game
Escape From New York game is based
on the movie with the same title released by Avco Embassy Pictures Corp. The
Movie features: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence,
Season Hubley, Harry Dean Stanton as Brain and Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie.
The year is 1997. The city of New York has become a walled maximum-security
prison for nearly three million criminals who have lost, but survived, a brutal
war against the United States Police Force.
While flying over New York City, the President's plane crashes. Aboard the plane
with the President are a set of papers and tapes crucial to the survival of the
United States. The master criminal, Snake Plissken is sent alone into this
terrifying city to recover them.
His mission: To find and return the missing President and the documents before
time runs out.
Escape From New York adventure boardgame recreates the intense action
found in the film. As Snake devised a strategy that would help him find and
rescue the President out of the New York jungle alive, so must the players of
this game find and rescue the President from New York City.
This adventure boardgame can be played by two to four players, ages ten and
older. Inside the game box, players will find a colorful map of New York where
the game action occurs. Also included are rules booklet, two sets of playing
cards, four playing pieces and a pair of dice.
TSR (Tactical Studies Rules)
Designer: Harold Johnson,
Playing Time: 45 Minutes
Category: Science Fiction, Fighting
Mechanics: Action Point, Allowance System
The only source the game designers and
developers had to get started with the game was the advance press kit for the
movie. The game's prototype design was a challenge since the production company
was very secretive about the plot, even in this press kit. The studio was
however very pleased with the finished game and even held a special screening of
the film for all the game designers, editors, developers and artist in a private
Board Game Review (Cinerati Blog) By Christian Lindke
1982 may well be the "Best
Geek Movie Year Ever," but 1981 was certainly the year I truly fell in love
with movies. In fact, it may deserve consideration as the "Best Geek Movie Year
Ever," and further consideration along those lines will have to be forthcoming.
The central question of any such analysis is the following, "Is Star
II: The Wrath of Kahn sufficiently great as a geek movie to displace the following:
Scanners, The Howling, Nighthawks, The Hand,
Outland, Dragonslayer, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Clash of
the Titans, Heavy Metal, An American Werewolf in London,
Enter the Ninja, Halloween II, Time Bandits, Ghost Story,
the American release of Inglorious Bastards, and not least of all
Escape From New York?" That's a pretty significant list to overcome, and it
doesn't include the fact that The Evil Dead was premiered in Detroit on October 15th of 1981 (it wasn't officially
released until 1983). Nor does it include the fact that 1981 is also the year a
number of my other favorite films were released, including: Excalibur,
Fort Apache the Bronx, The Dogs of War, Thief, Stripes,
Gallipoli, The Fox and the Hound, and Taps.
Most of these movies will pull the strings of anyone who is willing to give into
their Primal Screen, and quite a few stand the test of time as "plain old"
excellent movies or have like
The Fox and the Hound
been the fertile soil that many talented film
makers grew from. 1981 was a great year to fall in love with movie theaters, and
a cheap $1.00 theater in Sparks, NV that didn't care when a 10 year-old was
buying a ticket to see Excalibur was a great place for a life
time love affair to begin. It was also a great year to become a John Carpenter
fan, while 1996 was a good year to ask oneself "Why do I like John Carpenter
again?." Those moments of doubt, which usually come after watching Escape
From L.A., are usually best cured by Escape From New York. Both
feature similar casts and similar stories, but
Escape From New York presents its subject matter as an
actual possibility while
Escape From L.A. treats its subject as a joke.
Escape From New York cost around $6 million to make, and raked in approximately
$25.2 million in the box office. But in a year where the average movie ticket
(compared to today's $7.08), that's the equivalent of about $65 million today
for a $14.5 million cost.
Given the film's relative popularity, especially among "geek" audiences, it is
no surprise that TSR (at that time a growing gaming company in the United States
and the creators of Dungeons and Dragons) would take the plunge and acquire a
license to produce a board game based on the film. TSR eventually manufactured a
role-playing game based on the Indiana Jones franchise.
Gamers have had a long history of railing against licensed games, particularly
games based upon a film property. From E.T. for the Atari 2600 to the
poorly implemented Dr. Who role-playing game by FASA, every gamer has his
nightmare licensed game story. While it is true that gamers have been the
victims of many a bad licensed product, they have also been blessed with some
excellent games based on licenses. From West End Games' Star Wars
role-playing game to the various Conan based table top role-playing games, gamers haven't always suffered
when a license was involved.
So where does the
Escape From New York
board game fall in the spectrum of
license based games?
The first thing that strikes a potential player of the game is the sub-par
graphic on the box cover (above). One appreciates that TSR did more than simply
reuse imagery from the press kit when designing the cover, but the cover doesn't
really do much to invite game play. The palette of colors selected is
uninspiring and the accuracy of the anatomy of the characters portrayed on the
cover leaves something to be desired. If one where to merely judge a game by its
cover, the verdict would no be a friendly one to the
Escape From New York board
game. That said, production values of most games were often low at the time,
especially when the game wasn't being produced by one of the major board game
manufacturers like Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers.
Looking inside the rulebook one finds the graphics of the product increasing
with Erol Otis presenting
his version of the Crazies. Otis' work is always a little weird, but his
stylings work well for these horrific sewer dwellers -- adding a layer of the
Complementing the bizarre is a workmanlike illustration by
Bill Willingham. Willingham, like
Otis, is a fan favorite artist for those D&D players who cut their teeth on the
legendary "red box" edition of the game, but Willingham's work here is merely
serviceable. It provides a semblance of the tone the game should hope to convey
in it's play, and its representation of perspective doesn't push the viewer out
of the illustration, but one sees little of Willingham's sizable talent in this
piece. One can witness the development of his talent in his 1984 series
Graphic presentation is an important component of game presentation, but it is
only one factor of game design and often has little to no influence over game
play. One receives few if any hints as to actual game play from the art on a box
cover or within the rule book. The same cannot be said of the game board itself.
While the art on a game board may, or may not, influence the actual mechanics of
game play, staring at an image for an hour or so can affect whether you are
willing to reopen a game and revisit the content. Good rules, and play, can
overcome a bad board, but game board design should be a central consideration
for board game design. The board doesn't have to be anything flashy, but it
should be presentable. When it comes to illustration, presentable is what
Escape From New York
offers, but it is the game design elements that begin to hint that this game
might be bringing more to the table than the merely passable graphics would have
hinted. Notice that there are areas of different colors on the game map. The
isle of Manhattan has been divided into areas of different colors. Sometimes
such differences are only for show, but in the case of Escape these
elements signify how the areas affect gameplay.
Map of New York City
Escape From New York
falls into the category of "Adventure Board Game." More specifically, it falls
into the category of "Early Adventure Board Game." These are games that fall
somewhere between traditional track movement board games like Chutes and
Ladders and more complex table top gaming like Avalon Hill's
Blitzkrieg. Adventure board games combine traditional board gaming elements with wargame concepts and overlay an additional role playing component. The first of
these games is, arguably, TSR's
Dungeon board game. Like a track movement game, adventure board games tend
to use some form of randomization for movement on a map. Like traditional
wargames, players can specifically target the opponents pieces and attack them.
Unlike either of the above, adventure board games players also have encounters
with non-player obstacles which must be individually overcome as distinct
narrative elements. In other words, the game attacks the player's pieces, or
provides narrative moments, which the players must overcome and interact with in
order to complete the game. Additionally, players of an adventure board game
take on the "role" of the character their piece represents. In the case of
Dungeon, the players take on the roles of fighters, wizards, and elves exploring
a dungeon in the quest for gold. In the case of
Escape From New York, the
players all take on the role of Snake Plisskin -- with only one player
representing the "real Snake." That player being the one who finishes the game.
The goal of each player in the game is the same as Snake's mission in the movie.
The players are all attempting to find the President and get him off of the
criminal infested prison island of Manhattan. Failing that, they are to bring
the tape the President was carrying. Failing that...you die, they die, everybody
To find either the President or the Tape, the players must acquire clue cards
which contain information as to the possible location of one or the other. They
do this my moving around the isle of Manhattan to the various orange colored
locations -- places like the Lincoln Center. Movement is determined by two
factors. First, the role of two die determines how many "movement points" the
player has this turn. Second, each space costs a different number of movement
points to pass through. Red spaces, which likely signify dangerous areas where
one must move slowly, cost 3 points of movement. Orange spaces, which signify
places where one can find clues and/or the President/Tape, cost two spaces of
movement. Green and White spaces, which are relatively safe areas, cost only one
space of movement to pass through.
If the player ends their turn in an orange location, they find a clue. If they
find enough clues, they can find the President or Tape at a location. Regardless
of the color of location the character lands upon, and before any clues can be
discovered, the player must draw an encounter card, like the Romero card below.
Encounter cards contain information about the areas where the encounter must be
engaged. Romero must be engaged no matter which location you are on, but the
Cabbie card is only encountered in Orange, White, and Green locations. If you
are not on a space where the encounter can happen, you do not encounter that
card and can move on about your business of finding the President or Tape.
Sometimes it's good to miss encounters, and sometimes it's not so good.
Players don't tend to want to encounter Romero, but they do tend to desire a
chat with Cabbie. This brings us to the next component of game play. Once a
player has determined that he must engage with an encounter, that player has
three options (listed on both the Romero and Cabbie cards). The player can try
to avoid the encounter, befriend the encounter, or enter combat with the
encounter. If the player succeeds at avoiding the encounter, nothing more
happens. If they befriend the encounter, they get to keep the card and use any
benefits conferred. If they fail at either of these tasks, they must fight the
card but the fight will be more difficult than if they merely chose to fight in
the first place. All of these tasks are resolved by rolling a single die and
adding any modifiers for weapons and allies. If you lose a combat, you loose a
card in your hand. If you have no cards in your hand...you're dead.
Gameplay is simple and fast paced. Figuring out how and where to move is the
most complex task of gameplay and adds some interesting strategic decisions. Do
you know where the President is, but want to mislead the other players before
you grab him and make a run for it? Okay, but you might meet up with Romero or
The Duke who are very difficult encounters. Do you risk red areas after you have
the President in order to take a more direct route out of New York? Did you roll
enough movement points to enter an orange space, and thus be able to attain a
I was surprised at how deep the game play was on this simple adventure board
game. More recent games in the genre are more complex and have better graphic
representation, but this game is surprisingly fun. It maintains the tone and
feel of the subject it is based on, while still being a playable game. It's rare
enough that one finds that to be true in licensed games, that one should
treasure the moments when one finds a game that accomplishes that small task.
RATING: B- Playable and fun, but not a spectacular addition to a game
collection. If you like the movie, and can find the game for under $15.00, snap