May 1977 saw the release of a movie that changed the world forever. Nobody could have predicted the impact that Star Wars was to have on children and future generations and when it came to Christmas 1977 the demand for product was high. Kenner could not have possibly had action figures ready by the time the agreements were made so what could they put out there that was quick and cheap to make? Well, board games ticked both boxes. Along with the Early Bird Certificate, art products, jigsaws and other established items Kenner released a board game called Escape from the Death Star.
This board game must have sold in vast quantities as they are easy to find on the secondary market for less than $20 today. There are many sealed versions available too.
The purpose of the game is to initially escape from the trash compactor before ultimately escaping the Death Star and finding the Rebel Base. Kenner, having no experience in game making (see this article) decided to produce their own and reaped the rewards with a fun game that my children enjoyed playing before they decided it wasn’t cool anymore.
The game begins by choosing a colour (red, green, blue or yellow) and placing his two tokens in the trash compactor. The tokens are made up of Han/Chewbacca and Luke/Leia.
Spinning the wheel advances one token in any direction. Notice the WIN / LOSE options on the inner ring? They come into play later.
Landing on a blue Force Card circle requires the player to select a card from the pile which will inform you that the force is either with or against you.
This may require them to retreat back to the Detention Centre or the Detention Block, or win duels with Darth Vader to move ahead spaces.
The first objective of the game is to complete a special mission requiring the player to collect a Tractor Beam card and a Death Star blueprint card. These were achieved by landing in the two specially marked zones on the board. When both players tokens were then safely on the Falcon the second objective begins.
Objective two is played out in the top corner of the board and requires the player to escape the Death Star and avoid the dogfights which would occur by landing on a Tie Fighter. Again, the spinner is used to determine if you destroy the Tie Fighter or retreat. To prolong the suspense, or agony, you could only reach the Rebel Base with an exact score spin.
I’m sure you’d agree that the artwork on this game is stunning and I bet many children used this board with their 3 3/4″ action figures released a few months later.
The game was released in multiple different countries under different licensees and some are a huge surprise. I really like the differences on each. (Many thanks to Duncan Jenkins for showing most of these shots on theswca.com and Le Guerres Des Etoiles facebook page.)
Kenner USA – one of the first licensed products to hit the shelves
Kenner Canada – this was released under the Parker Brothers branding unlike the US version.
Palitoy in the UK
Editrice Giochi (EG) in Italy
Parker in Germany
Clipper in Netherlands
Takara in Japan (which deserves to be a larger image as the Japanese are awesome at it.
Capaipa in France – I like this shot as it really highlights the differences in contents
Toltoys in Australia
Borras in Spain
Representaciones Ziade in Venezuela
Estrela in Brazil
And an awesome bootleg version from Borras in Greece which is tough to track down. This one at first glance only has similarities with the race track around the outside but once you peak inside, it’s a whole different level of copyright infringement!
And finally, an awesome collage of all known boxes from Duncan!
If you find yourself tired of the current prices of action figure related items you could certainly do worse than tracking some of these board games down.
Photos (c) Richard Hutchinson, Duncan Jenkins, theswca, Alisdair Mac starwarsforumuk, boardgamegeek.com, Jason Smith