Archon: The light and the dark
“Ichi-go Ichi-e” literally means “A span of time, a meeting.”
This Japanese expression was born in the context of the traditional tea ceremony to express the solemnity of the moment and the importance of the commitment in meeting with the other, since each meeting is unique in life and we may not have another opportunity to meet again. Remembering to live every moment as if it were unrepeatable helps us to appreciate a gesture which, although it may seem repeated and always the same, as in the tea ritual, is actually a unique moment of encounter to be lived intensely: it will never be repeated. more and in that instant it represents our whole life. This is why every meeting is a treasure.
But let’s take a step back…
In the late 1970s Anne Westfall is a divorced mother who takes care of her two children, her ranch and her vineyards in Sonoma, California: she just turned 30 and decided to enroll at Santa Rosa Junior College. After trying different courses she is fascinated by a computer programming class in BASIC. Before long, she became good enough to be hired by a civil engineering company as a programmer on the TRS-80.
Now he has a career, and in 1980, during the West Coast Computer Fair, your company’s booth is right next to that of Jon Freeman, co-founder and designer ofAutomated Simulations,the company that in the future will become the Epyx of Summer Games and Impossible Mission, and that at that moment he had just published the fabulous Temple of Apshai as well as numerous other strategy games. Between Jon and Anne an understanding immediately springs up, a creative and even romantic spark: five months later they get married and he convinces her to quit her job to program video games at Automated Simulations.
A year later Freeman himself following a dispute with his partner Jim Conneley decides to leave the Automated Simulations: Conneley insisted on continuing the development of graphic engines in BASIC because they guaranteed operation on any computer with at least 16k of memory, while Freeman, thanks to his wife’s talent, wanted to move towards more recent machines such as the Atari 800 and Commodore 64, abandon BASIC and rewrite everything from scratch in Assembly language.
The Free Fall Associates was born. The intentions of the spouses was the idea of developing games that could be a combination of strategy and action, fast and graphically pleasing but articulated and with a certain depth, in short, never banal! This news did not go unnoticed by Trip Hawkins of Electronic Arts who has always been looking for new ideas in the software field. Jon and Anne proposed to Hawkins a game of strategy vaguely similar to chess that would explode into a “one against the other” action game mode when two pieces met on the board. Hawkins was thrilled! Jon also decided to call another person for the project, Paul Reiche III, who would help him with the design: Archon: The light and the darkness was about to be born.
At first glance Archoncould appear as a variant of the game of chess as it re-proposes the classic square table divided into squares (alternately light and dark in color) on whose opposite sides the players arrange the pieces that they will have to face in the game.
Except this premise Archondoesn’t have much else in common with the game of chess, indeed in reality the chessboard in Archon is bigger (9×9 instead of 8×8) and consequently requires 2 more pieces for each player.
In Archon the movement of the pieces is totally different: while in chess each piece has its own characteristic movement in Archon the pieces are divided into two categories: Earth(which can only move horizontally or vertically and cannot jump over other pieces) e Air(which can also move diagonally and jump the other pieces) and especially in Archon when a piece moves onto a square occupied by the opponent, it does not result in the immediate annihilation of the latter but the two pieces are arranged in a “combat arena” in full screen where they will have to fight in action mode, managed by the players, to determine who will win the box. The stronger usually defeats the weaker, but not always, and a fight can also lead to the elimination of both pieces. This simple but ingenious alternation of strategy and action is Archon’sflagship!
The two opposing forces are not mirror images of each other like in chess. In the game, which is subtitled “The light and the dark”, the light side (probably good) has different pieces with different abilities, weapons, speed and stamina than the dark side (presumably evil). Weapons vary in range, speed, and power. Some units are melee combat; others shoot missiles or fireballs; the pawn (represented by the knights on the “light” side and by the goblins on the “dark” side) is fast but has very little strength; his weapon, a sword or mace, has limited range and power. The dragon is stronger and can attack from afar, while a golem moves slowly and fires a slow but powerful boulder, still others, such as the banshee, have a forcefield attack that expands towards the opponent.
During the combat phase, it is possible to check the health of the two challengers, a valuable information for the strategy of both players in the next battle round. Both sides have a spellcaster unit (the wizard or sorceress) that can cast seven different spells only once per game. Some pieces have special abilities: The phoenix can transform into a fireball, damaging the enemy and protecting itself from its attacks. The shapeshifter takes on the shape and capabilities of whatever piece is against it. The power of a piece is affected by the square in which the battle takes place, with each player having an advantage over the squares of their color.
Among the squares on the board, 25 are always light and 25 are always dark. However, the remaining 31, including the three core strengths, are constantly switching from light to dark and vice versa. This is a crucial aspect of planning a strategy in Archon, because white units gain a great advantage when fighting on white squares and vice versa. Thus the astute player plans his attacks and retreats, in an ever-changing chessboard.
The goal of the game is generally to destroy all opposing pieces or to occupy all five strengths. More rarely, a side can also win by imprisoning the last remaining piece of its opponent. If each side has only one piece and the two pieces destroy each other in combat, the game ends in a draw.
Archonfor me really means “Ichi-go Ichi-e”: as the great Luciano de Crescenzo would have said, it is “an encounter with thoughts, an appointment with the imagination!” At the age of eight, just after finishing my homework, I could meet at my house with Golems, Trolls, Archers, Polymorphs, Manticores, Unicorns, Basilisks, Dragons, Knights and Wizards: I could fly with the wings of fantasy in a fantastic world populated by creatures mythological stories I had never heard of before. It was also an opportunity to invite some friends to my house and play together! How many happy hours of fun and how much lightheartedness in those afternoons of leisure. Archonfrom the beginning is Anne’s meeting with programming, it is the meeting of Anne and Jon at the West Coast Computer Fair and their artistic and sentimental partnership, it is the meeting with Trip Hawkins and finally with Paul Reiche III.
It continues to be an opportunity to meet with you too, who are now reading this review …
As if you were now Bastian, the child protagonist of “The Neverending Story“, and took part in the story that continues to be written by the meeting with Archon: The light and the darkness!