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Bon Voyage!




Isn't that a pretty Überlay? Well, I think so, too.


Sorry, this is a long one! I originally wrote it for a post at Digital Press which had only 49 views and 1 reply before I let it slip in to the oblivion of the archives. *sniff*. I learned my lesson: Forums are for conversation, not essays. Blogs are for long babbling kook-talk and that's the way I like it!


There are two games described by the manual for Interplanetary Voyage. The second game in the manual is called "University of the Solar System" and could be considered "edutainment". The first game, which seems to be the one actually called "Interplanetary Voyage" is what my son, my wife and I played. I was very shocked that my wife played, but that's a rant for a different blog.


The Interplanetary Voyage game pack comes with card #12 and is the only game which uses that card which generates only the two player spots (no ball, no center line). The first spot is generally sationary throughout the game, posing either as the sun or as a force field around a planet. The second spot represents a player's spaceship and disappears when it comes into contact with the first spot. This disappearance, as you may guess, represents the annihilation of the ship! The interesting twist in the control of the second spot, is that the it lags behind the input you give it, giving it the effect of a spaceship coasting through space after a quick fuel burn. The game revolves around a player using rocket "blasts" to propel their ship to a waypoint or destination. A blast consists of the pilot putting one hand on the horizontal control and one hand on the vertical control. When ready, the pilot spins each control a little bit in a desired direction and then immediately removes their hands. If they give the vertical knob a little twist, the ship moves up or down for a little bit before slowly coming to a stop. It moves right or left for a twist of the horizontal knob and some version of diagonal if both knobs are twisted.


Each player starts the game with eight roulette, er, power chips and a ship token on the game board on their home space station (Alpha or Beta). Players take turns piloting their ship. On their turn, the Pilot draws a Mission card which directs them to one of the planets (ie "Deliver wives to the colonists on Venus"). The pilot has three "rocket blasts" to project their "ship" to the destination. For us, at the beginning of our game, this meant either barely moving the ship or sending it kareening into the outer regions of the solar system. In the latter situation (an off-screen ship), a "lost" ship must spend a power chip for a "navigational beacon" before it can blast again. A pilot who successfully completes the mission by lighting up the correct planet keeps the Mission card. To win the game, a player must reach the goal of collecting a required number of Mission cards: 15 for a two player game, 12 for a three player game and 8 for a four player game.


Another way a player may acquire a card is to act against the current Pilot by erecting a "force field" around the planet which they think is the intended destination. To do this, they spend a power chip and move the spot being used for the sun to the suspected planet. Instant Force Field! If the active Pilot's rocket blast sends the ship into the force field, the ship is destroyed and the player who erected the field earns a previously completed Mission card from the murdered Pilot. If that Pilot has no previously completed Mission cards left then the Pilot loses two chips to the saboteur. Isn't that something? Rewarding a simulated murder! :)


The third way to get a card is if the pilot happens to complete the mission to a planet and that same planet is the goal of the mission currently sitting on the top of the discard pile. The current pilot gets their mission card and the previously discarded mission card. Kind of like "hey, I just brought wives for the Venusian colonists, but while I'm here I'll set up a pressure dome for them, too, since the last guy couldn't do it."


Pilots keep track of their last known position by using the off-screen game board on which they place their little ship tokens. In the second game, this board also cleverly serves as an answer decoder for the Knowledge questions. In this first game no action takes place on the board other than helping your remember where your ship is and for holding the Mission cards.


Because of our poor piloting skills, we lost ourselves in the uncharted regions of the solar system far too often. As a result, over the course of 10 minutes we lowered our "cards to win" requirement from 12 cards down to three. We also found ourselves considering any type of contact with a target planet as a bonefied landing. "Okay, so you barely grazed the planet and shot beyond it, into the cold reaches of unknown space. Since you did technically touch the planet, or at least its upper atomosphere, we'll count it as a landing."


If my family and I were playing this in 1973, and there weren't 200 games for us to play on one of the nine more recent systems in the next room, I think we could've made a very pleasant evening out of Interplanetary Voyage - once, maybe even twice. Hell if my son was as geeky as I try to be we might've played it once a month for the whole year. But not forever. We would tire of it and eventually, we proabably would've put it away and played Clue, Monopoly or Risk until the home version of PONG came out in 1975.


I guess what's impossible to know, is how enchanted we would've been with the idea of playing a game on our TV and how well would IpV, or any other game on the Odyssey, would've sustained that enchantment. I think Interplanetary Voyage takes a better shot than other games for the system because it lets one pretend to be a spaceship pilot in a recognizable solar system instead of playing a "ported" version of an existing game (like "Football" or "Roulette"). You, pilot the ship. You, get lost in space. You, shuttle a fresh wife supply to Venus. It's just feels more immersive (using that term pretty loosely) than some of the more abstract games for the system.


I whole heartedly give Interplanetary Voyage the point against Ultraman. I did enjoy it a lot more than my son did, however, so it wasn't shits and giggles all around. Maybe in a few years we'll try playing the University of the Solar System. The University variant contains 72 cards each with questions about the solar system (ie, name the planet that is in orbit 93 million miles from the sun and stuff like that). If this game wasn't so bloody rare, I think it would be neat to make an alternate card deck with questions about the Solar System as we know it to be now. (It's ain't just a neat collection of ellipses, that's for sure.). (EDIT: 2021, noticed I spelled the word ellipses incorrectly and had to fix it...)


Ultraman 11, Odyssey 13


I'll do Brain Wave next entry.



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What's that on the overlay? Is it... Pluto? Neil deGrasse Tyson wouldn't approve!

I suspect a few question cards are now wrong. :-)


This game is fun. Would have been a favorite of mine as well. There are two things I didn't get, though:

  • If a player fails a mission, where does his ship launch from for the next one? Is it the last planet he landed successfully?
  • Is the force field visible? If so, then why would a player collide with it? Shouldn't he just lose his turn (and mission card) if the destination planet is shielded?

(I wonder if someone will ever reply to my questions.)

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Hmm, the force field is not visible, it's just an abstract thing. If the ship collides with the other spot, it disappears. I think... again, too long since I played.


I actually still have this game (I had three of them at one point which is funny because this game is apparently very rare) I'll get it out and make a movie of it when I'm trying to find an Odyssey that works. I don't remember where a player launches from.

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On 9/30/2012 at 6:31 PM, Nelio said:

I think that for some time there must have been a shortage of Odyssey items on the market. :P

When I bought all of these (at one point, I did have a complete Odyssey collection) I felt like I'd sell things back to eBay as soon as I was done. But I was never "done". Now I still have almost ALL of my stuff. (I did sell a big chunk of the Odyssey stuff though) and I have a theory that it's past the nostalgia value that these things go through. I haven't been checking prices, but I imagine I'll never get back what I paid for anything in the 70s, except for maybe my RCA Studio II which is in pristine condition. Too bad the games are nightmares.


I need to do an overhaul of the Odysseys I do have and get them into working order if they're not. I did a bunch of card swapping out inside my Odysseys when I didn't know what I was doing. I worry I may have made alterations that I will regret.

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