Games I Own: Atmosfear The Video Board Game

Posted on 18th May 2009 at 10:29 by Joe Martin with 17 comments

Joe Martin
The usual joke computer game journalists make about board games is that it’s good to have a few around in case there’s a power cut and your handheld is out of battery, but other than that why bother? It’s a joke I’ve made before when the topic has come up, but the reality is that I love board games. It isn’t cool to say so, but board games are cool.

Board games were a huge part of my childhood. I come from a family of seven and my mum worked nights, which meant we often had to be quiet during the day; of course board games were a significant part of my childhood. My dad would even make up little alternate reality games where we’d run around in the woods, solve ancient riddles and search for ‘hidden’ things, with the final ‘treasure’ usually being a board game for us all.

I can still remember fighting my brother, who was wearing a huge papier machie helmet to make him look like a centaur, with a wooden broadsword over a ‘treasure chest’ containing The Legend of Zagor boardgame. That particular ARG went on throughout all the summer holidays…but now I’m getting off track.

The point is: one of my favourite board games growing up was Atmosfear: The Video Board Game. It was a horror-themed game for up to six people where players had to go round a graveyard collecting keys as fast as possible. The game came with an accompanying VHS video, so you played in front of a TV which had a clock counting down on it and you’d collect Time cards that told you to do certain things at certain times. You had one hour to get six keys and escape the cemetery or the Gatekeeper would claim your soul.

Games I Own: Atmosfear The Video Board Game
The new version of Atmosfear isn't as good as the old one

The Gatekeeper was, I suppose, the main attraction of the game – basically a man who looked like Meatloaf who would appear on the video at certain points. His schtick was insulting players by calling them maggots and handing out punishments and challenges to whosever turn it was next. As the hour crept by he’d get slowly more decrepit and disgusting and the best challenge he had was inviting a player to stare at the screen without blinking until he disappeared. Often we’d take it upon ourselves to peel onions or blow into the eyes of the victim as they held their lids open. We were mischievous children.

My favourite board game experience ever involves Atmosfear. I was playing a quick two-player game with my brother when I was about sixteen and he was a year younger. The house was empty and the now-familiar game was going as planned. Though I couldn’t see it then, my brother was eyeing a Time card he had collected which said “At 30:19 look at the player opposite you and yell ‘Feel my fury!’ and take a free go if you can make them jump.”

Sure enough, the time came around and my brother (who always had a sense for the theatrical) dived over the board and pounced on me, pinning me down. His eyes were inches from mine before I could blink and he was screaming at me “Feel my furries!.” Obviously, I jumped – but I felt a lot better when I realised it was his dyslexia behind the outburst, not inappropriate lust. Yuck.

Games I Own: Atmosfear The Video Board Game
Dune was a tad complex, but another family favourite

Recently, with the VHS version no longer compatible with current technology (or in my possession), I’ve picked up the newer version of the game, which uses a DVD. There’s some cosmetic differences and the new Gatekeeper is less inventive and not nearly as scary, but it’s fundamentally the same game and I play it often.

In fact, for the last few months I’ve been endeavouring to put a group of friends together whenever possible for a night of boardgames and beers. I spend my weekends raiding charity shops looking for more of those old and now lost board games I used to love, like Heroes of the Maze and Escape from Colditz. Just a few weeks ago I found a copy of Key to the Kingdom, though it turned out to not be as good as I remembered. I also recently picked up a copy of Zombies!!!, which I’ve been told is the board-based equivalent of Left 4 Dead. I'm looking forward to that.

Although I joke about it, board games aren’t just good for when there’s a power cut. They’re often a really great gaming experience – one which highlights how shallow the supposed ‘social element’ of most multiplayer games and MMOs really are. There’s a lot to be said for creating a persistent character in an online world, forming a guild and creating long-term connections, but there’s a lot more to be said for getting five or six actual long-term friends screaming at each other excitedly over a dice roll. When you get into those final minutes of Atmosfear the game can get extremely tense.

I’m always looking for great new board games to play and the only thing I won’t touch (because it always leads to arguments) is Monopoly, so if you’ve got any suggestions for future games I can play then you can let me know in the forums – once you’ve rolled a six to continue, obviously.


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Blademrk 18th May 2009, 13:39 Quote
DungeonQuest (aka Talisman I think, published here by Games Workshop), was a great game when I was growing up. upto 4 players (Knight, Ranger, Barbarian and Dwarf) each start in a corner of the laberynth and have to get to the center and back with as much treasure as they can carry without waking the dragon or being stuck in the laberynth by the end of the day (sun counter that progresses along the sun track after each round).

The game board itself is blank with the treasure-room and starting points the only set rooms. At the start of the players turn a room tile is picked at random from the game box which then defines the path through the dungeon and the room types (normal, trap, cave-in, chasm, locked door, corridor (extra turn)) and room cards (monster, dead body, trap, potions, treasure, etc...) define events within each room.

Great fun.

looking through some of the out of print GW games The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (boardgame) looks interesting, I remember reading/playing the game book of that when I was little, dad bought it along with the spectrum version of the game. Think I've still got it (the book, not sure where the speccy tape has got to ) although there are pages falling out now - it's older than I am.)
Paradigm Shifter 18th May 2009, 13:55 Quote
Talisman was awesome. :) Later on, Warhammer Quest was pretty good as well. Except the party we had got maxed and got bored, so we ended up rewriting the level system up to 30, instead of the previous cap of 10.

Ah, good times...

Never played Atmosfear, the one time I played one of those video board games, it wasn't exactly amazing so I never bothered to buy any myself.
yakyb 18th May 2009, 14:05 Quote
i loved key to the kingdom

and also a pirate game that had luminous peices but i cant remember the name of now
CardJoe 18th May 2009, 14:11 Quote
Talisman sounds a little similar to Hero Quest. I bought a copy of that when I was about 10 and always wanted to play it, but nobody else ever wanted to so I just ended up fiddling with the different bits. It wasn't until about 10 years later they had found friends of sufficent geek-status to join in with me.
badders 18th May 2009, 14:19 Quote
Some of the more modern board games shouldn't be forgotten either.

Nobody will play Scene It with me and my other half, as our movie geekery knows no bounds (at least within our circle of friends/family). :(
Fod 18th May 2009, 14:22 Quote
oh, you like board games? hear my recommendation:

RISK: 2210.

do not confuse this for average, boring, classic RISK. no, this one is based in the future, with a bunch of added complexity. you have five general types, each one capable of playing specific command cards or attacking/invading specific areas of the map. there's also the small addition of sea territories. and the moon. and you can nuke earth from space. and i'm gushing, so i'll stop.

it's so good. 5 player only, 5 turns each. just be warned, because of the turn limit people can get a little too carried away with time. we've had a game run to 7 hours. but don't let that put you off - we mainly took so much time because we were arguing over the rules - you can knock a game out in 3 hours if you all know what you're doing. i strongly recommend it. strongly!

i loved atmosfear. i remember my friend had this, and the sequel with a character called 'the baron'. you had to turn the heating up just before you started playing so the room got hotter and hotter. fun times,
Rkiver 18th May 2009, 15:29 Quote
Hero Quest.

It's still knocking around my parents attic somewhere, along with all the expansions to it. That got me into Warhammer, which got me into Roleplaying, which got me my wife.
CardJoe 18th May 2009, 16:16 Quote
Disappointingly, a load of us got together at the weekend to play Zombies!!!: Second Edition and it wasn't as good as it could have been. It was fun and all, but the event cards weren't nearly as inventive or exciting as they could have been and the game felt far too serious because of it.
alpaca 18th May 2009, 17:10 Quote
settlers of catan, carcassonne. first one beautiful in it complexity (we invented rules to make it a lot more interesting, made lager boards by combining two games) the second in its simplicity.(but not too simple...) those are technically speaking no board games, but i think they fall in the same category

and for some mindless fun: jungle speed. but technically, that is not a board game either.
Sifter3000 18th May 2009, 18:06 Quote
Originally Posted by Rkiver
Hero Quest.

It's still knocking around my parents attic somewhere, along with all the expansions to it. That got me into Warhammer, which got me into Roleplaying, which got me my wife.

If that was a skill test, that must have been an awesome dice roll.

Cupboard 18th May 2009, 19:59 Quote
Settlers of Catan is epic, we have the original, an expansion and the sea version at home (Though I think the original is the best, I have never tried with more than one set).

One we have played a bit recently is Ticket to Ride, which is pretty good fun too, but no where near as epic as Settlers.
Red 5 18th May 2009, 21:04 Quote
Sorry, off topic, but I'm always reminded of this:
BradShort 19th May 2009, 12:46 Quote
Originally Posted by Rkiver
Hero Quest.

It's still knocking around my parents attic somewhere, along with all the expansions to it. That got me into Warhammer, which got me into Roleplaying, which got me my wife.

+1 Heroquest was awesome! 8 hr marathons were the norm thru the night with beers and smokes :P
hardflipman 19th May 2009, 13:32 Quote
the Starcraft boardgame is good. quite complex and strategic. i've got civilization as well but it's a VERY long game!
warhammer quest was good but good luck trying to get that for a reasonable price these days. i sold mine years ago and wish i hadn't! also on the games workshop theme is space hulk. only 2 players but quite quick and good fun
Blademrk 19th May 2009, 13:57 Quote
The space hulk (space crusade) game I had was 4 player - 3 marine (Red (Blood Angels) / Blue(Ultramarines) / Yellow (Imperial Fist)), 1 Dungeon Master (Xeno/Chaos Marine/Ork) player.
Bauul 19th May 2009, 15:16 Quote
Originally Posted by Blademrk
The space hulk (space crusade) game I had was 4 player - 3 marine (Red (Blood Angels) / Blue(Ultramarines) / Yellow (Imperial Fist)), 1 Dungeon Master (Xeno/Chaos Marine/Ork) player.

Careful, Space Hulk was Space Marines vs Genestealers aboard an infected ship.

Space Crusade was similar, but pitted Space Marines against Orcs, Gretchin, Choas, Genestealers AND Eldar if you bought the expansion pack. It even had a Dreadnaught. My earliest, and fondest, memories of board games often include Space Crusade, and it actually introduced me to GW as a whole and the subsequent obligitory 5 year interest in it.
Skutbag 27th May 2009, 01:31 Quote
+1 for Hero Quest

+1 for beers and smokes too!

-1 for not being a teenager anymore and not having the time or social circle to get away with marathon sessions anymore :(
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