Atari’s Centipede by IDW Games Review



Publisher: IDW Games


Game Type: dice rolling, grid movement


Designer: Anthony Amato, Jonathan Gilmour, Nicole Kline


Initial Year of Release: 2017


Artist: Jamie Keddie

Theme and What is it?

This is a tabletop emulation of Atari’s classic arcade video game, Centipede. In a two player game, one player plays the role of the Gnome, gathering mushrooms, and the other plays the role of the Centipede, while also controlling an army of fleas and spiders. Gnomes beware, for the Centipede and his buggy little friends are out to get you!

Gameplay Mechanics

Game setup requires players to first take turns placing three mushroom tokens on each column.

The Gnome player then chooses which side of the board he would like to play on and rolls the dice. Each die represents a different series of actions that the Gnome can take during a turn. The Gnome is free to choose any of the dice. When only one die is remaining, the Gnome rolls all six and play resumes.

The Centipede player begins play by selecting which of her two spawn points she wishes to start from, and then moves her full-length centipede six spaces. The Centipede generally moves left to right, goes down one space when it hits an object (mushroom, edge of game board) and then proceeds in the opposite direction.

The game is over when the Gnome kills all sections of the Centipede by firing his wand, when the Centipede enters the Gnome movement area, or when the Gnome is directly in front of a flea or spider.

Initial Impressions

I never had the opportunity to play on an Atari arcade system when I was a kid (or an adult for that matter!) so the game didn’t flood me with nostalgia. I do enjoy retro video games in general, though, so I very much looked forward to playing this.

Game Build Quality

I love the construction of the pieces. Retro pixelated playing pieces made of painted wood; nice, heavy dice; sturdy box. This will definitely hold up under repeated use. The fleas and spiders are especially fun pieces.

Artistic Direction

The game’s artist, Jamie Keddie, had some great material to work with. Old posters advertising the video game depict an angry, open-mouthed centipede. The original 80’s materials use more cartoonish depictions of the centipede. Keddie chose to make the board game’s art more realistic and ferocious. I also love the Gnome pictured on the box, with his big boots. All in all, a well done update.

Fun Factor

Fans of Atari and retro video games will get a kick out of this tabletop version. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it.

Age Range & Weight

It’s a fairly lightweight game. My 9 year old was able to play, but I think the game would be best enjoyed by adults who remember the days when Atari ruled.

Conclusions

There are a few things that I find problematic about this game.

First, the player representing the Centipede doesn’t have a lot of choices in the game. The Centipede moves fairly mechanically and it’s not as interactive an experience as I like.

Second, moving the Centipede is cumbersome and confusing. You have to somehow keep track of which direction the Centipede is supposed to move — which is not as easy as it sounds. We ran into instances where obstacles had the Centipede move directly toward the Gnome several spaces, then a turn would pass, and we’d have to backtrack all the way to the spawn point to figure out if it should move left or right next. Plus you’re trailing up to five segments behind you, manually.

Third, the instructions leave a few key points unclear. What happens when two Centipedes collide? When you play the Berserk card (allows the Centipede to move two spaces towards the Gnome) what exactly happens when there are obstacles in the way? The rules stipulate “normal movement”, but an example here would have been helpful.

Fourth, we found that less is more when it comes to the mushrooms. There were just so many that it just compounded Centipede movement difficulties.

I think this game might work better as a solo endeavor, and I think a few rule clarifications could go a long way. I’d really like to see a reworked 2.0, but until then, I think I’ll leave it for the Atari fans out there.