Wednesday, March 21, 2007

God's Game

These days the name "Ragnarok" is in the world of computer gamers associated with an MMORPG from Asia. When I started playing computer games, one of the first games I played was "Ragnarok", but it wasn't this MMORPG from Asia.

Originally the word "Ragnarok" is associated with Norse mythology. It meant nothing more or less than the Norse variety of the apocalypse. When "Ragnarok" came, the stories said, the gods would start to fight among themselves, the monsters (like Loki's son Fenrir and his daughter Jormungand) would seek their revenge and almost all gods would die. As the Norse gods were not necessarily nice, they would destroy each other during this 'final battle'.

But this 'final battle' wasn't the game, either. Real time strategy games were still a couple of years in the future then and the round-based variety was created for a rather small group of fans who probably would not have responded nicely to using such an 'unrealistic' setting.

The 'original' game of "Ragnarok" was a board game, nicely animated and combined with a nice story about Odin, father of most of the gods, seeking a solution for the "Ragnarok" problem and therefore coming to earth - or Midgard, as it was called in the mythology - and playing this board game against mortals.

I can't remember many of the rules, but I can still recall the basics: a board of 13x13 tiles, black starting on the outer sides and white starting in the middle. White defending its 'King' (the playing piece called Odin) and black trying to take the white king (while not having a king itself). Odin had to make it to one of the corners to 'escape' and thus win. To win the game, the player had to win with both colours, once defending and once 'chasing' the king - in my experience, as far as I can remember, black was easier to play.

The game - still on floppy disk - has been missing from my collection for a long time (and even if I still had it, it wouldn't run on a modern machine). Sometimes, though, especially considering the games today, I wish I still had it … or at least a rulebook, so I could build my own board and pieces and play it in the real world.

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