Centipede: The Board Game

      By the early 80s, arcade games had become ridiculously popular. Led by titles such as Pac-Man, Frogger, and Donkey Kong, the video game industry was riding the crest of a wave of success that had no end in sight. And then people got greedy. Dozens upon dozens of gaming companies sprung up overnight, all hoping to grab a piece of the pie. The result? The market became flooded with games, many of which were incredibly shitty and derivative. This led to an industry-wide crash in North America towards the end of 1983, and many naysayers were quick to claim to that video games had just been a fad. The U.S. video game market would eventually begin to rebound in 1985 with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, but for a while it really seemed as though video games might suffer the same fate as disco, the pet rock, and Charo. In fact, video games had taken on a rather faddish quality prior to the crash. And as such, video game properties were whored out like nobody's business. In 1983, you could buy Q*Bert figurines, Donkey Kong dolls, and just about any useless piece of crap you can imagine with Pac-Man on it. Hell, there was even a Pac-Man telephone. There was also a Saturday morning cartoon, cleverly titled Saturday Supercade. But I am not here to talk about any of those marketing abortions; instead, I am going to tell you about Milton Bradley's Centipede board game from 1983. Behold:

 

      In case you're some sort of complete fucking retard who is unawares that video games existed before Final Fantasy VII and Madden NFL 2000, Centipede was a video game released by Atari in 1980. It's one of the greatest games of that era, and it's probably one of best fucking games of all-time. Seriously, if you haven't heard of this shit, you really don't deserve to hold a video game controller in your hand. If you think you've seen it before, but you're not quite sure, let me refresh your memory:

 

       The premise is this: you are trapped in a deadly mushroom field filled with scorpions, fleas, spiders, and of course, the centipede. Your objective in the game is to completely destroy the centipede before it reaches the bottom of the screen and kills you. The centipede travels back and forth across the screen descending toward you. If it bumps into a mushroom or the edge of the screen, it changes direction and drops down one row. If you destroy one its body segments, the centipede will break into two smaller centipedes, each with its own head. Killing a head segment will fertilize the field, causing a new mushroom to immediately spring up where the head was killed. In addition to the centipede, you have three other types of vermin to deal with. First, there are spiders which jump around erratically towards the bottom of the screen. The good news is that they destroy any mushrooms that they touch, the bad news is that they will also kill you if they land on you. Next, there are fleas. If there are too few mushrooms in player's movement field, a flea appears and drops straight down the screen, leaving a trail of mushrooms as it goes. Finally, there are the scorpions. Scorpions travel horizontally across the screen poisoning mushrooms as they go. If the centipede touches a poison mushroom, it will plummet towards the bottom of the screen. The game gets pretty fast-paced as the levels progress. Not only do the spider and scorpion attacks become more frequent, but as more and more mushrooms accumulate, the centipedes descend faster and become harder to hit. The game is damn fun and addictive as hell. But now we come to the obvious question: how the fuck can an action-oriented one-player video game be converted into a turn-based two-player board game?

 

      Actually, it works a lot better than you might expect. Milton Bradley's Centipede game is one of strategy and cunning. Look at that fancy ass diagram of the board, it's got more arrows in it than General Custer's corpse. If you're expecting me to elaborate on how the game works, too bad. I had no intention of writing an actual article on this board game; I merely wanted to bring it to your attention that exists. This article is over. Pay no attention to the scrollbar to your right that indicates otherwise. That scrollbar is a lying whore.

 

      Fine, I'll tell you about the fucking game. Each player is given two pieces to maneuver, a centipede and a blaster. The goal is simple: move your centipede towards your opponent's base while holding your opponent's centipede at bay with your gun. If you're the first player to move your centipede into your enemy's base, you win. This is an interesting juxtaposition of sorts. Whereas the centipede is your primary opponent in the video game, it is your primary piece in the board game.

 

      In keeping with its namesake's mushroom field motif, the board game is absolutely riddled with fungus. Just like in video game, there are two types of mushrooms: normal ones and poison ones. However, there are a few differences in the way they work. Whereas the blaster can destroy both types of mushrooms in the video game, it can only destroy poison mushrooms in the board game. In the Milton Bradley game, the regular mushrooms act as indestructible barriers that protect the centipedes from gunfire. Poison mushrooms can still be blasted away though.

 

      The flea got shafted, but Centipede's scorpion and spider both make an appearance in the board game as well. Just like its pixelated brother, the scorpion is used to drop a poison mushroom on one of ten specially designated squares, thus creating a shortcut. The spider can be used to remove poison mushrooms, as well as to temporarily disable your opponent's gun. These pieces have great abilities, but they are hard to use either effectively because they take two turns to complete a task. In order to successfully deploy a poison mushroom, the scorpion must move onto the space it wants to poison and then move off of it. The same holds true for the spider. Since both players can move one of these pieces, your opponent can potentially move the spider away from his or her blaster before you can attack it. That, or they could just shoot it.

 

      What you do with your turn is determined by the spinner. If you land on the gun space, you move your cannon and shoot. If you land on the spider/scorpion space, you may move either one of those pieces. If you land on the gigantic CENTIPEDE space, you move your centipede forward one space for each segment on it that is still alive. Finally, if you land on FREE CHOICE, you get to have an abortion. That, or you get your pick of the other three actions on the spinner. But I'm pretty sure it's the abortion thing. I did find a wire coat hanger in the game box.

 

      As I mentioned in the last paragraph, when your centipede moves, it moves forward one space for each live segment it has. One of life's cruelest lessons is that everything dies, and plastic centipede segments are no exception. If a centipede segment is hit by gunfire, it becomes a dead segment and it gets flipped over. If the head is killed, the centipede cannot move at all. Luckily, there are two ways to reactivate centipede segments. If you hit your opponent's centipede with your gun, you may flip over any one dead segment on your own centipede. Subsequently, if the head is dead, you may resurrect it by landing on CENTIPEDE on the spinner. You do this in lieu of moving the centipede and you cannot revive body segments in this way.

 

      You know what's really awkward? Lots of things. But imagine this situation: you and your buddy are double-teaming some girl. She's riding you and your buddy slips in her backdoor. Both of you are giving it to her pretty hard, and your balls accidentally touch. That's pretty much the grossest thing ever. Suddenly your good clean heterosexual fun is tainted by gayness. Don't you wish there was a way to avoid that? Well, Milton Bradley's got you covered. In Centipede, the two centipedes cannot ever touch. If your centipede would touch your opponent's, instead you get to put yours directly behind it. If someone could figure out a way to apply this concept to three-way sexual intercourse, that person would become my personal hero. Until that happens, I refuse to participate in any ménage à trois that doesn't involve two chicks.

 

Well, that's pretty much it. You probably learned more about coat hanger abortions and banging two chicks at once than you did about the Centipede board game, but that's not really my problem. Let's face it, you were never going to get the full experience of playing this board game from reading a 1500-word essay on it. If you truly want to experience this game for yourself, you'll just have to kill me and take my copy of it. That, or go to a fucking yard sale. Or check eBay. In any case, I'm done. Go away.

 

Posted by: Syd Lexia
08/17/06

 

 

DANGER LURKS AT EVERY TURN IN THE DEADLY MUSHROOM FIELD.