Usually, the back of a game's packaging presents selling points for the game: component descriptions, flavor text, endorsements, etc. Cyborg, published in 1978 by Excalibre Games, has crudely drawn comic panels (shown above). Still, these panels give the prospective purchaser a very good idea of what he (or she) is getting. The setting is post-apocalyptic. The king is dead and the favored heir is Gloriana, a garment-challenged princess. She must travel to the Holy City for her coronation; however, the king's evil sister, Aemulatio, wants the throne for herself. In order to reach the Holy City, Gloriana and her allies must avoid Aemulatio and her minions.
Cyborg has the subtitle “The Ultimate Adventure” and describes itself as “Game Class – Sci Fi Character to Character Adventure Wargame.” Even if we define 'adventure' as “pursuing a goal while fighting things,” Cyborg falls somewhat short of 'ultimate'. Also, while some of the units are individuals, most represent multiple entities; as such, the phrase 'character to character' does not seem entirely accurate. The cover boasts that the game has a “new design style.” Units are represented by counters and have movement factors; this is not new. When one unit attacks another, a die is rolled and a combat results table is consulted; this is also not new. Perhaps the design style is new in that it was rushed and evidently incomplete.
Among the possibilities that the CRT discloses, there is “Defender Slain, Remove Defender Unit from Board.” There is also “Defender Eaten,” “Defender Melted,” and “Defender Disintegrated” – all of which are no different than “Defender Slain” in game terms. Also listed among the results is “Defender Blasted, Unit Hit by Exploding Bullets and Is Removed from Board,” but the actual CRT never yields this result. Roads are indicated on the board, but they have no effect upon movement. Several rivers are displayed; however, all but one have no game effect.
Although post-apocalyptic, the setting includes magic. For instance, The Guardians of the Holy City can cast spells; so can Aemulatio's necromancers, Nootrac and Kcud. (Read backwards for alleged humor.) Casting a spell entails selecting a target unit and rolling on the appropriate chart for a random spell result. The Guardians might disintegrate a unit or teleport a unit to the snake pits of Lacnar. The necromancers might gain control over a unit or cause it to be “fooled by illusions.”
We learn that killing Gloriana isn't enough for Aemulatio. Ideally, Aemulatio wants to sacrifice Gloriana “into the the volcano of IMMOLARE” (shown below). According to the rules, “The game ends when the Princess is sacrificed or safely reaches the Holy City.” Yet, “Should the Princess be sacrificed, Aemulatio may begin casting spells every turn...” I guess this starts on the first turn after the game ends. One might think that the game would end if Gloriana otherwise dies or if Aemulatio perishes. One would be wrong. It is unclear why Gloriana's protectors would proceed once her coronation was no longer possible. It is equally unclear why Aemulatio's followers would continue after her demise given their entire motivation was to place her on the throne.
The game's unidentified designer is a student of Latin. Aemulatio means “rivalry” and immolare translates as “sacrifice.” The 'Spells' section of the rules states, “To add quality to your spell we suggest you utter some Latin before rolling.” It's nice that a dead language is remembered after the apocalypse.
Despite its mechanical failings, it is possible to appreciate Cyborg for its outlandishness. It is not difficult to get a Thundarr the Barbarian vibe from the game, even though Cyborg pre-dates that series by two years. With better art, well thought out rules, less Latin, and multiple scenarios, perhaps Cyborg wouldn't languish in obscurity. Perhaps more than providing inspiration itself, Cyborg is instructive in how it incorporates inspiration. Among Aemulatio's cohorts, there are Gargoyles. According to the rules, “Once every half millenium (sic) the Gargoyles hatch” and they strive to “protect the secret of their breeding grounds...” This derives undoubtedly from the 1972 made for TV movie, Gargoyles. The premise of the film is that every five hundred or six hundred years, gargoyles appear and attempt to conquer the world of men. Obviously, they have been unsuccessful so far. Since the gargoyles' last appearance, humanity has dismissed their existence. Humans have to counter the gargoyle threat before the gargoyles grow into an invincible force. Indeed, a gargoyles-versus-humans tactical scenario might have made for a better game than Cyborg.
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