Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Rucht Hour: Bearing the Torch - Crossbows and Catapults

Crossbows and Catapults is an old game. BoardGame Geek dates it back to 1983. I remember his game fondly from elementary school of all things. Back in 2nd grade, we were allowed to bring board games to school to play after our lunch break. For about a month or so, Crossbows and Catapults is the game that dominated board game time.

Apparently, it was popular, because vintage editions of this game go for $200 to $300 dollars on eBay.

Since its inception, this game has seen numerous iterations. The latest edition is known as Battleground: Crossbows and Catapults. I believe this game is out of print (someone correct me if this is not the case), because it retails on Amazon for over two-hundred dollars. I guess people have a serious hard-on for this game!
The original, in all of its glory. 

The newer version - they added castles with battle damage and cannons. 

Anyhow, I got this game for my kids a while back and for a long time, they played it just like we did in 2nd grade. And that is to say - we all simply used it as a playset for toy soldier wars. My kids, just like me, didn't use rules. They just shot at each other's castles and got into fights. However, my dim memory of those ancient years remember the 2nd grade owner of the original edition of Crossbows and Catapults. Jeremy always complained that no one wanted to play by the rules...

So, I looked at the directions in the box and was surprised to see a robust little minis game hiding in this product. The rules are simple. You set up your castle. Then, you set up your toy soldiers (knights or orcs). Obviously, you want to set up your soldiers behind cover. Each model can stand alone or stand on a power disc. If they stand alone and that mini is hit with a projectile, they are out of the game. If they stand on a power disc, they can be hit once with a projectile and lose their disc. Thereafter, they must stand alone.

Each side has a king mini. If a king is hit, the side possessing the king loses a turn. The king can be finally killed if the king is the last minis to go down. We added a house rule that hitting a king twice in a row was disallowed, so you couldn't lose two turns in a row.

Each mini can move (with their power discs) at a rate of 6 inches. The king can move 12 inches. If a mini is within 2" of a weapon, they can activate it and get it to shoot a projectile.

Each turn, a player gets two actions. With an action you can:

  • Move a mini 6 inches.
  • Move a siege weapon 6 inches.
  • Fire a siege weapon.
  • Move the king 12 inches.

You cannot fire the same weapon twice in the same round. If the king is hit before all of his army is gone, that army loses a turn. We house ruled that you cannot lose two turns in a row.

There is also a flag mechanic. Knock down all four of the opponent's flags and you can bring back a deceased warrior from the field. Knock down three flags in the same action, and you can bring back a warrior AND the opposing side loses a turn.

What made this game a minis game for us was the simple stipulation of having to move 6 or 12 inches. Because there was that difference, we get out the tape measure each time we play the game. It makes the kids feel like they are playing one of "daddy's games". Totally awesome.

Playing on the carpet! But totally viable on the table top as well. 

The new minis and weapons received an update from the original version. 


  1. He He I always wanted this game as a kid but my parents wouldn't buy it me. They did let me get heroquest and space crusade though!

  2. I had both versions. The first I played. When the second came out, I bought for my son and I to play. (OK I bought it for me) What great fun.

  3. We had the original game plus some of the expansions. We used to play by the rules sometimes but we also like to over load the crossbows with like 4 rubberbands and they would break. I think my mom kept it a long time because I am pretty sure we took it out about 10 years ago for some retro fun over the holidays but now it is gone.

    I saw the new edition when it came out and was tempted but did not get it.

  4. I had the old one, and bought the new one and some of the expansion pieces for my kids. Both play the same, I let my kids make up thier own rules most of the time. Maybe its nostalgia, but I like the vikings and the barbarians better than the knights and orcs.

  5. People keep mentioning the expansions. I never knew this game had expansions. What were/are they?

  6. I got mine on Christmas of '83 and played the hell out of it. I also eventually got the battering ram, dragon and trojan horse. I never got the minotaur and cyclops but always wanted them.

  7. Boardgame Geek has the expansions listed:

    Mainly they were an new weapon and a couple of more blocks and figures, I remember having the Dragon, Outposts, and Trojan Horse.

  8. Cool to see a new version of this game for kids today. And it being very close to the classic version. I have my original game from the 80's, and that and Fireball Island are my nostalgia laden gems. Much fun has been had with the set.

  9. I was looking at the expansions and came across the Trojan Horse and Battle Shield. How cool!