The Gauntlett
How to Play James Bond Without Getting Your Tuxedo Dirty

Adam Gauntlett | 5 Feb 2015 16:00
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James Bond 007 Villains

The major switch-up is the complete absence of SPECTRE. Rights to that entity belonged neither to Danjaq nor Glidrose, so Victory invented an entirely new organization: TAROT, or Technological Accession, Revenge and Organized Terrorism. Headed by Karl Ferenc Skorpios, this organization uses blackmail, terror attacks, assassination, robbery and extortion to build a shadow empire, with former carny and knife-thrower Skorpios at its head.

James Bond 007 took the gaming world by storm, with sales easily outpacing TSR's own Top Secret, at that time the preeminent spy game. Sourcebooks and adventures followed rapidly, even sequels. Dive into You Only Live Twice, then tackle You Only Live Twice II: Back of Beyond. Need new adversaries? Take a look at Villains and face off against techno-wizard Cartesia, psychopathic Bond-a-like Parkhurst, money man Buonvisi, or the rejuvenated Soviet spy-hunting organization SMERSH. Want the latest gadgets? Pick up the Q Manual, complete with a list of every toy, car or weapon Bond ever used, up to 1983.

Up to 1983. There's a problem with nostalgia; you forget the rough edges and only remember the good bits. I'm as big a fan of Connery and Moore as anyone - I even like Lazenby - but there's been three more Bonds since then, and the older stuff starts showing its age after a while. Having GPS in your car was technological wizardry in 1964, when Goldfinger came out; now the toys in the Q Manual seem almost quaint. I don't think I could bring myself to play this game again. It looks great, and I remember the good times, but I'm not someone who idolizes his childhood. It was fun, and now it's done. There are other good things in store.

It doesn't help that the game died before its time. Most RPG titles, when they finally perish, it's because there's no market for their product and they can't afford to keep a struggling game alive. These days that tends to mean even a cash-strapped indie with a following of a few hundred devoted souls can last forever, but this was Bond. Everybody loved Victory Games' superspy title. It was pretty much the only spy game anyone played, in the 1980s. Then, in 1987, it was gone.

James Bond 007 Locations

Nobody really seems to know why, or at least, if they do, they're not prepared to admit it. Avalon Hill claims that the film Bond people, Danjaq, wanted a larger share of the royalties money, and it couldn't afford to keep the license under those terms. For its part, Danjaq says Avalon Hill was the one to pull the plug. Danjaq thought everything was going great. The folks at Victory were working on the latest scenario, Diamonds are Forever, when the rights lapsed. Any remaining inventory could be sold, but that was it for the James Bond 007 RPG.

It was also pretty much the end of Victory Games. The studio had other titles - mostly hardcore strategy, though its lineup does include a Nightmare on Elm Street boardgame - but nothing that had James Bond's appeal, or market share. When people started leaving Victory, no effort was made to replace them, and Avalon's subsidiary disbanded in 1989, two years after losing the Bond rights.

Should you seek this out? If you're a sucker for nostalgia or a hardcore Bond buff, sure. Mechanically the game holds up well, and can be understood quickly even by novice gamers, making it a good fit for most groups. It's not that difficult to find on the second hand market, though if you want a complete collection it may take a while. If all you want is a knockabout spy game, the Basic rulebook is really all you need. Were I to pick two other supplements worth purchasing, I'd go for the Q Manual and Thrilling Locations, but again, these aren't must-haves.

You can't have my books. I may not be a nostalgia guy, but I'm not crazy. Those are staying on my shelf. They still have a use. I'll pull them down every once in a while, read them to remind me of the days when I was a kid.

Dreaming of being Bond.

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