From 1978 to 1985, Kenner sold over 300 million Star Wars related toys. This series of toys is known among fans as the vintage line. In The Vintage Vault, we take a closer look at some of the most iconic original Star Wars toys that have delighted fans across the globe.
Although Kenner is well-known for producing action figures and toys, they also released a fair share of Star Wars board games, some which were also produced by Parker Brothers. This company had been part of the same General Mills group as Kenner. Most of the vintage board games are fairly elementary variations of the classic game of goose but utilize a spinning game wheel instead of dice. Let’s revisit the vintage Star Wars board games!
1. Escape from the Death Star (1977)
Escape from the Death Star was one of the earliest bits of Star Wars merchandising released by Kenner (October 1977). In this game, the heroes need to escape from the Death Star’s trash compactor and reach the Rebel base on Yavin 4. The board is pretty cool, featuring photos from the movie, and it has a lot of spaces for the tokens. It’s a quick game with a spinning wheel and cards that give the players certain benefits and penalties. The game was released in many countries and can be found in a lot of different languages, going from Japanese (with another box) to Dutch. Check out the game’s original commercial.
2. Adventures of R2-D2 (1977)
This is another board game that was released very early and just like Escape from the Death Star, it was sold in many countries. In this game, the players need to complete A New Hope through the eye of R2-D2, starting aboard the Tantive IV and finishing at the ceremony on Yavin 4. This is a very easy game that can be also played by young children. The board itself has beautiful artwork. No dice are required since this game also features a spinning wheel.
3. Destroy the Death Star (1977)
This game focuses on the Battle of Yavin and you have to try and destroy the Death Star with your X-wing starfighters. It’s also directed by a spinning wheel, but it’s more complicated despite the fact that the original advertisement stated it was meant for ages 7 and up. The actual board has a rotating Death Star that needs to be moved during play. The large box (the board itself isn’t pliable) shows an upside-down Death Star and close-ups of Luke and Vader. Another game called Destroy the Death Star was a battery-powered game produced by Palitoy in the UK.
4. Hoth Ice Planet Adventure (1980)
This was the first game to appear after the release of The Empire Strikes Back. The goal is to escape from the Empire on Hoth with your Millennium Falcon token while gathering enough Force cards to defeat enemies such as a snowtrooper, a probot, an AT-AT walker, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader. Advancement, victory, and defeat are decided by a spinner. The board features very colorful artwork. It was also released in other countries, including Italy. Check out the game’s original commercial!
5. Yoda the Jedi Master (1981)
This game challenges the players to become the first fully-trained Jedi Knight on Dagobah. In this game a spinning wheel and different cards enable players to gather Force merits during their quest on Dagobah under the tutelage of Yoda. The box features unique art and so does the board itself, which is also decorated by a few photos from the movie. The path on Dagobah first looks pretty straight-forward, but at the end, the players have to face their Jedi Trails which can become quite tricky in order to finish the game.
6. The Ultimate Space Adventure Game (Parker Brothers, 1982)
Although a second Star Wars movie had been released and the third one was nearing completion, Parker Brothers released a more generic game based on Star Wars in 1982. This is another game with a spinner and this time you’re a Rebel Alliance commander who has to reach Dantooine as quickly as possible. First you’ll have to leave Hoth’s orbit and travel through hyperspace while dealing with dangerous issues such as asteroid fields and Darth Vader, who’s in hot pursuit. The box shows nice art of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, while the board itself isn’t really decorated by any photos or artwork from the movie.
7. Battle at Sarlacc’s Pit (Parker Brothers, 1983)
Battle at Sarlacc’s Pit was Kenner’s first Star Wars board game that didn’t include a traditional board. This game’s background and board have to be constructed and will allow you to tip enemies into a pop-up Pit of Carkoon. In this game Luke, Chewie, Leia, and Han have to defeat Jabba and his henchmen, including Boba Fett, Vedain (Nikto guard), and 10 Gamorreans. By defeating them, you’ll be able to gather Jedi Points you need to defeat more powerful opponents. The box is very beautiful and shows magnificent artwork of the Sarlacc Battle from Return of the Jedi. The plastic figures can easily be repainted. For more info, take a look at StarWars.com’s detailed article.
8. Wicket the Ewok (Parker Brothers, 1983)
Taking place on Endor, Wicket the Ewok features illustrated tokens of Wicket and his friends Kneesaa, Paploo, and Latara from the animated series Star Wars: Ewoks. The complete title of the game is Wicket the Ewok and Friends in a Food-Gathering Adventure Game and that’s exactly what you have to do as quickly as possible. You can sometimes speed up your harvest by riding a bordok, a cart, or a glider. This game comes with a lot of small fruit tokens, so beware when you buy one that has been opened before.
9. Ewoks Save the Trees! (Parker Brothers, 1984)
Released in the same style as the previous Ewok-game, this game has a beautiful and colorful pop-up 3D board with an Ewok hut, stairs, and pull-out traps. The tokens are brightly colored plastic renditions of Wicket. The story: a bunch of phlogs that are rampaging around the village, hoping to chop down some of the Ewoks’ precious trees. The first player to reach the top of the hut can warn the Ewok elders of the impending attack and he or she saves the trees. This game has become rather difficult to find. Have a look at the Ewoks Save the Trees! game. Photo courtesy The Star Wars Collectors Archive.
While the success of Star Wars was fading away in most countries, it continued to linger on in Spain where Star Wars: Ewoks and Star Wars: Droids were popular, resulting in a lot of unique Spanish merchandising. Droids las aventuras de R2-D2 y C-3PO (1986) from Didacta is a board game about the Droids animated series. Another Spanish release was La gran aventura de los intrépidos Ewoks y Droids (1986). This game has artwork from both cartoons on its box and it includes several smaller maps to expand the central board. It features adventures and tokens from both shows, even from bad guys such as Admiral Screed, Boba Fett, King Gorneesh, and Zut, a male phlog. Didacta also released El juego de los intrépidos Ewoks (1986), seemingly comparable to the one about Droids.
Tsukada Hobby released three games based on the classic movies in Japan: Star Wars: Death Star (1982), Star Wars: Hoth (1983), and Star Wars: Endor (1983). Those games were more complicated and were hex-and-counter-war games instead of the more traditional board games, meant for kids. The boxes of the Tsukada Hoth and Endor games have stunning artwork.
The rather simple vintage board games from Kenner and Parker Brothers would pave the way for more complicated board games such as the ones from West End Games in the late eighties and nineties.
Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) from Belgium is president and co founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars fan club. He has contributed to Star Wars Insider, to the Build the Millennium Falcon magazine and has created character names and back stories for What’s the Story? and Rogues Gallery.