Sunday, November 1, 2009

Microgames: Transylvania by Mayfair Games

In preparing for Halloween, I wanted to take one of our horror microgames for a spin. Of course, there are only a handful of "horror" microgames from the early 1980's. TSR published Vampyre. Task Force Games published Intruder, an "Aliens" knock-off. Steve Jackson Games published Undead. And Mayfair Games published Transylvania.

Transylvania simulates the conflict between a vampire, holed up in his Transylvanian castle, and the terrorized village below. The background to the game is that the villagers have gathered enough courage, and a sufficently large force, to confront the Vampire, and have decided they must either defeat the Vampire or die in the attempt. The villagers have knights, men-at-arms, clerics and angry peasants at their disposal (the blue units). Arrayed against them is the Vampire and his minions: skeletons, wolves, bats and rats (the red and black units).

My children and I took the opportunity to play this game the day prior to Halloween. They played the Vampire and his minions while I played the villagers. My clock was cleaned each time we played.

Though on the surface the game appears to be a rather straight-forward "attrition of forces" game, the Vampire has the special ability of bypassing the villager's forces and flying directly to the village each night. If the Vampire eliminates the forces defending the village, he wins the game, notwithstanding that the villagers still have units "in the field." I lost every game, due to the Vampire's successful attack on my village. The difficulty for the villagers is that the only way (for them) to win the game is to occupy the castle, and it takes many turns travelling by foot to reach it, while the Vampire can attack the village each night without passing through the intervening territories. For the villager player, there is tension between fully defending the village, and sending a sufficiently large force to fight its way through the Vampire's minions.

Transylvania was a lot of fun to play, despite (or perhaps because of?) my repeated losses. The rules fit on two pages, so this game is easy to learn and teach -- in my mind, a requirement for any successful microgame. Each game took about 15 minutes, although the games would have been longer, had I done a better job of balancing my forces between the defence of the village and the attack on the castle.

The children had great fun beating their dad. We'll be retrieving this game from storage again next Halloween.


ze bulette said...

Funny, I just won the Steve Jackson Undead minigame on eBay recently and had been thinking of Transylvania too... Slowly rebuilding my old collection. :-)

Aaron E. Steele said...

The ebay prices for most old microgames are actually quite reasonable (other than for Ogre, the dwarfstar games, and I have to say, I don't think the dwarfstar games are worth the premium being asked for, from a game-play perspective).

Incidentally, several of the dwarfstar games are available as free downloads.