Wednesday, September 28, 2011
You'll see that the cover proclaims that the game is "For 2 to 4 Adults, Ages 10 and Up," but, as you may recall, that's a marketing ploy intended to appeal to kids who want to feel older. Here, you're talking about selling a game whose target audience would most likely never have seen the movie on which it was based. I know I didn't see the film until it was released on video cassette when I was a teenager and I doubt I was alone in this regard. Perhaps there were lots of adults who, after seeing the movie, longed for a boardgame based on it, but that seems unlikely to me. Instead, EFNY looks to be an example of a company thinking that the mere fact of licensing a Hollywood property is enough to justify the time and effort put into it. I find myself reminded of Kenner's 18-inch alien action figure, which, unsurprisingly, sold poorly, since almost no kids had seen 1979's Alien.
What's unfortunate is that EFNY is actually a pretty fun little game. I acquired a copy many, many years later when a local toy store was going out of business and was selling off its remaining stock. One of the items they had on sale for next to nothing was an old, unopened copy of this game and I bought it both as a curiosity and because I adored the movie. The mirrors the film broadly in that the goal of the players, each of whom takes on the role of an agent sent by the US government into the Manhattan Island maximum security prison, is to find the missing president or the audio tape he was carrying and to escape alive. Each player begins the game with several equipment cards -- weapons, homing devices, a glider, and a flare gun -- that can be used as aids in their quest. Likewise, the cards pull double duty as hit points of a sort. Whenever a player loses a fight with enemies encountered in the city, he loses a random piece of equipment. When all the cards are gone, the character is killed and the player eliminated.
One of the more interesting aspects of the game were its movement rules. The game map was divided up into areas of different color. Each color represented a movement cost to pass through it. Each turn, a player rolled 2D6 to determine how many movement points he had and then planned his movement accordingly. As the character moved throughout the city, he ran into potential allies or enemies, in addition to acquiring clues that pointed to the location of the president or the audio tape. Each clue card has several possible locations and, once a player acquired two cards that listed the same location, he could make his way there to claim his prize. Of course, other players could do the same and the "true" location of these prizes was determined by whatever player got to where his cards directed him first. To add a further wrinkle to gameplay, characters could ambush one another and steal their possessions.
Escape from New York is a neat little game and enjoyed playing it with my friends. I haven't played it in years, though, so it's possible my memories of its virtues are mistaken. I'm still baffled as to why it was ever made, though. Of all the tie-ins TSR could have been producing in 1981, why this one?