Sunday, February 10, 2013

Game 87: Wilderness Campaign (1979)

I feel like we've seen this before...
Wilderness Campaign
United States
Synergistic Software (developer and publisher)
Released in 1979 for Apple II
Date Started: 9 February 2013
Date Ended: 9 February 2013
Total Hours: 5
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Final Rating: 24
Ranking at Game 388: 162/388 (42%)
A few weeks ago, I fired up an Apple II emulator and delved into the brief world of Dungeon Campaign, a 1978 offering from Robert Clardy that was one of the earliest CRPGs. Wilderness Campaign was his follow-up from 1979, and what a difference a year made. While the first game was a low-res dungeon crawler with a primitive interface, the second game is close to something that we might call a proper RPG, although it clearly shows its Dungeon Campaign heritage.

The game takes place on a single map full of castles, tombs, towns, temples, and ruins, the locations of which are randomly generated for each game. As with Dungeon Campaign, you lead not a single character but a large party, starting with 10 fighters. You can hire both mercenaries and bearers in towns, but you periodically have to pay them for their services, and they'll abandon you if you run out of money.

The Wilderness Campaign world on payday.

You start with a generous supply of gold, and an early goal is to get to the nearest town and stock up on food and supplies. Equipment like weapons and armor is simply shared among your men and contribute to your overall combat and defense prowess. Other equipment--including shovels, grapples, rope ladders, inflatable boats, planks, and lanterns--provide solutions to the many mini-encounters that you face in the wilds.

Half the game is preparing for any contingency.

Still other items, such as particular types of weapons, holy water, silver arrows, and crosses, provide bonuses against certain enemies. Different towns sell different items, so you have to visit two or three before you have a good stock of gear for adventuring.

I had all three of these bonuses but was still slaughtered.

You start with attributes of speed, strength, dexterity, and charisma that are fixed and apply to the entire party. The numbers are generated randomly, and it's possible to start out with a party that is extremely difficult to play because of low figures. (With a low strength, it's hard to survive the first combats, and with a low dexterity, it's hard to get out of the way of traps that deplete the party.) Throughout the game, you can find "magic lamps" that increase dexterity or charisma and "magic rings" that increase speed, strength, or dexterity.

This party is going to avoid every trap but probably won't win many combats.

As you wander through the wilderness, you have random encounters with wandering monsters; traps such as earthquakes, quicksand, and avalanches, against which you have to roll a saving throw; and minor inventory puzzles, such as chasms that you need a plank to cross, or dense jungle that you need a machete to cut through. You also deplete food, slowly or quickly depending on the size of the party and your speed attribute.

Since you can't lie, I don't know why the game bothers to ask.

This is still the early era of computer games, so when you finally find your way to a ruin, temple, castle, or tomb, you don't get to explore it on a separate map or anything. Instead, you get the simple option to search or leave, and searching might produce treasure, combat, or traps.
Arriving at a ruin.
There are special encounters at castles, where the lord might look favorably on your campaign and supply you with fighters, equipment, or gold. No matter what happens in any structure you visit, it seals behind you when you leave, so you can only visit once.

This was really nice, but now I have more mouths to feed.

It's combat that has advanced most significantly from Dungeon Campaign, and the idea that your respective parties are actually armies creates a combat dynamic that might be unique among CRPGs.
Encountering a party of ogres.

Combat uses a variety of statistics to determine the effectiveness of attacks and defenses. These include:
  • A "personal score" based on the party's strength attribute plus the amount of experience divided by 10.
  • "Bonus points" based on any special items the party carries that do extra damage against that particular enemy.
  • Further bonus points obtained by spending a round getting into an advantageous position.
  • Further bonus points caused by the casting of an offensive or defensive spell.
  • A weapon class total based on the number of weapons you own, their relative levels, and the number of fighters you have.
  • An armor class total based on the number of suits of armor you own, their levels, and the number of fighters you have.
  • A luck factor based on a random role of  (I think) 3 to 18. As in Dungeon Campaign, you watch numbers flash by on the screen and you hit SPACE to "freeze" one for your roll. They go too fast to try to time it for a favorable roll, and it would have been better if the game had cut out the manual part.
In each round, the party ("campaigners") and the enemies trade attacks, and for each attack the game evaluates the totals above. If the attacker's attack score (weapon class total + personal score + bonus points + luck factor) outweighs the defender's defend score (armor class total + personal score + bonus points + luck factor), it causes one or more "casualties" among the party. The number of casualties seems to be about the difference in the scores x 5, but you can never kill more than half of the enemies plus one in a single round.

This is my attack round. My attack score outweighed their defend score by 14, causing 2 casualties (they already had 3 casualties going into the round).

As you might expect when armies clash on the battlefield, the outcomes of the initial rounds are vital for the rest of the combat. Since the weapon class totals and armor class totals are a factor of the number of individuals in each party, too many casualties in the opening rounds can easily result in a situation in which combat is essentially unwinnable from that point forward. At that point, the best option is to run. Again, it makes sense in battle terms: if a squad of 20 Spartans meets a squad of 20 Persians and 8 of the Persians die in the first attack, the odds are suddenly 20 to 12, and it doesn't look good for the 12. But it also goes against the typical CRPG experience in which a small party can prevail against hordes of enemies.

The first few combats are also vitally important. Not only do they provide the experience that raises the "personal" score, but they provide the gold you need to hire more fighters and equip them properly. I started about 20 Wilderness Campaign games, and in 15 of them, I didn't survive the first few combats, but in the 5 that I did, I found the game became a lot easier from that point forward. To keep things from become too imbalanced, the game occasionally allows the enemies to cast an "evil spell" that mysteriously provides just enough of a bonus to raise their attack score to 1 point above your defense score, and thus causing you to lose one campaigner.

How, precisely, do sand serpents cast spells?

But for the most part, after you have a well-equipped, sizable party with some reasonable experience, the game starts to become more of a logistical effort of keeping the party size optimal (it's easy to run out of food and starve with too many characters), plotting your route across the map, and making sure you don't stray too far from the nearest town. When you hire mercenaries, you get to specify the pay, but fewer mercenaries will agree to sign on for small amounts of money. There are also logistics associated with item and treasure weight: everything has a weight factor and your characters can only carry 200 pounds each. But you can hire bearers and buy pack mules to handle some of the extra. Bargaining with merchants brings its own challenges. If you lowball them on an item, they get offended and won't sell it to you for any price.

Combat eventually gets tedious, but you find items like "crystal balls" that allow you to see enemies coming and avoid them.
I never found a manual for the game, so I didn't know what the main quest and plot were supposed to be, but I figured it had something to do with the big castle in the upper-left corner of the map. I was right. As you get near the castle, you're told that you're at the "evil necromancer's magic barrier" and given the option to attack. You have to have some kind of magic weapon to pierce it.

Eventually, as you explore the ruins, you encounter an "Oracle" who shows you a location on the map. Travel there, and you find yourself in the "Sanctuary of the Great Mage," who gives you the choice of two gifts.

As the screen indicates, either the Staff of Power or the Lightning Rod will destroy the necromancer's barrier. Once you do, you're assailed by an army of over 50 soldiers, so you need to have a pretty big army of your own by the time you arrive. This generally involves building up large reserves of gold, buying plenty of food, and hiring mercenaries in the towns.
We're about evenly matched.
When this battle is over, you get a message that the evil necromancer is dead, followed by a flashing screen that says "You Win!" and drops you to the prompt.


The game gets a little bit too easy after the first third. It's not hard to get lots of gold, keep your staffing levels high, and equip everyone very well. The monsters seem to scale with you in number, but not in power. Nonetheless, I had some legitimate fun playing this one and checking out its unique elements.

Original document and disk photo courtesy of Thorium.

You probably haven't noticed, but I've been doing a GIMLET on all of these early CRPGs within my "Game Rankings" Google spreadsheet, but I haven't been putting the scores into the postings, since they've almost all been 0s and 1s, and I think the reason for that is fairly obvious. For this one, I'll give a proper (if brief) GIMLET here in the posting.

The game world and story presents a typical kill-the-wizard motif, but it's interesting in the way that it organizes the terrain (plains have earthquakes and chasms, swamps have quicksand and dense foliage, mountains have precipices, and so on), and it even offers a persistent world in its limited way, with previously-visited locations closing behind you (2).

The character system in this game is fairly unique in that you have no named characters nor permanent PCs, but constructing a party of volunteers and hirelings is interesting, and you do see development in both attributes and experience scores. Attribute scores are used to escape from pits, fight battles, attract hirelings, and bargain with shopkeepers. I can think of a lot of modern games that do it worse (3). The brief oracle and wizard aren't really enough to count as proper "NPCs" (0), but there are otherwise interesting encounters throughout the game involving enemies and inventory puzzles (3).

Magic and combat are very interesting statistically, but most of the "tactics" take place pre-combat; you don't really have many options in combat except to run or seek better ground. The incessant button-mashing to roll statistics and such would have been better automated (2). There's a large variety of equipment in the game necessary to fight and solve puzzles, and I liked how my fighters automatically grabbed the best stuff from the pool instead of making me distribute it (3). The economy is very important to the game, for both hirelings and equipment, though it's a little too easy to find heaps of gold (3).

There is a main quest, although not a very compelling one, and no real side quests on the way (2). The graphics are serviceable enough for the era, but the sound (including a post-battle victory tune) is annoying, and I turned it off. We had a discussion in the Dungeon Campaign forum about the slightly nonintuitive interface, which involves the (N)orth, (S)outh, (E)ast, and (W)est commands instead of arrows. A big problem with the interface is that if you get a little too enthusiastic about pressing the keys during movement or combat, the game caches the commands and applies them to the next decision you have to make. When faced with a "Yes/No" question such as whether you want to fight monsters, it regards anything other than "N" as "Yes"--the same is true for whether you want to continue searching a dungeon--so I often found myself doing things I didn't want to do (1).

It's always nice to find treasure, though sometimes the rewards are a little imbalanced.

Overall gameplay is brisk, as you would expect from a game that doesn't allow saving, so you can easily win it in an hour or two. Though it tends on the easy side, it has a certain pleasingly-compact quality that made it a nice diversion on a snowy afternoon while taking  a break from Chaos Strikes Back (5). The final rating of 24 puts it in the realm of something that you might actually want to check out.

I talked about the developer, Robert Clardy, in my posting on Dungeon Campaign, and he was nice enough to comment in detail there. In 1980, he updated and repackaged both Dungeon Campaign and Wilderness Campaign as Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure. I look forward to playing that version coming up. As for influences on other games, call me crazy, but doesn't this game sound a little like an early version of Warlords?


Further Reading: The rest of the "Campaign" series: Dungeon Campaign (1978), Wilderness Campaign (1979), Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure (1980), and Apventure to Atlantis (1982).


  1. Good call on the similarities to Warlords. That wouldn't have occurred to me, and of course Warlords added all sorts of complexity: multiple heroes, castles, more RPG elements, and so forth. But the skeleton of the game is similar.

    Extrapolating from that skeleton metaphor, I see what you're doing as archaeological and sociocultural anthropology for computer games. (

    You are telling the story of the evolution of CRPGs through examining the "fossil record." Adding to the fun is your ability to experience each fossil on your own, rather than simply relying on ancient accounts of others' experiences.

  2. Sounds like an interesting if fairly shallow time killer. I wouldn't have minded playing it when it came out, but I probably won't look back to it now. Still, I love it when you bring up old games like this.

    For the random events where you need a specific inventory item to pass (ie, the ladder over a chasm), what happens if you don't have it? Do you need to find another route, and is that encounter still there when you come back?

    1. The game does remember the location of the encounter, and sometimes it will have identical encounters in adjacent spaces (e.g., a chasm three spaces north to south). But with patience you can usually find a way around it. The one exception is with exploring ruins, where you can't progress if you don't have a lamp or a torch.

  3. Man, these two games (Dungeon and Wilderness) bring back memories I didn't know I had. Apparently I played these on the school computer Apple. I remember the Dwarf/Elf and the Chasm/Ruins so vividly now, but had utterly forgotten about them before reading about them again. Thanks again for recovering these fond memories of my childhood.

  4. Huh, I really enjoy these old postings. Do you have plans to do a lot of these?

    1. Vague ones. I don't want to spend more than a single posting on any game, but I do want to catch up on my non-DOS CRPG history with the most important games that I missed on my first pass. I figure I'll do them in between other games, or when I get sick of playing my primary game.

  5. I would like to know what makes this game an RPG where something like Hero's of Might and Magic is not?

    1. Actually, MobyGames lists HoMM as an RPG, and it's on my list to play.

      My three core elements for an RPG are listed on the side-bar: 1) character development; 2) non puzzle-based inventory; and 3) combat based on attributes rather than action. As far as I'm concerned, strategy games that include these elements are "RPG enough" for me to play.

      But to some purists, neither HoMM or this game would be proper RPGs, since they take place on a campaign map and don't have named PCs.

    2. Sweet, I can tell you all about those. I own all of them except VI, though I haven't played 4, and I only played I a little. Heck, I might even play that a bit with you.

    3. I didn't realize it was on your list. I had thought I read on one of your vary early posts that you wouldn't get to play them. Glad to hear you will. (Or the first one anyway)

    4. Xcom: UFO Defense fits your criteria, if it's not already on your list!

    5. Put me down for a game with you and Canageek if you want to see the multiplayer in action. Fair warning though big games on big maps can take a long time.

    6. If my schedule permits, I'd definitely be willing to throw down as well. I'm not terribly good at multiplayer, but its more about having fun for me.

    7. I was completely addicted to HoMM 2 and 3 when they came out - frequently played until 4 a.m. When you play them, definitely choose one of the Campaigns rather than the individual scenarios. They are generally well balanced, and the modest amount of story text really adds to the game IMO.

      I'm currently working with Todd Hendrix, one of the programmers on HoMM and some of the M&M games. According to Todd, HoMM1 is a "sort of sequel" to King's Bounty. KB is moderately fun, but has bad game balance compared to HoMM 1.

    8. For HoMM 2 and 3 the best individual scenarios are use made ones. Some of them feel more like CRPGs than Strategy.

    9. Although there was one very good map in the original HoMM 3 that had a Greek Mythology theme.

  6. I also like that the weights of items have been carefully considered, in keeping with D&D's "medieval history nerd" roots. Chainmail, a shield and axe and you ain't carrying anything else.

    Warlords was a great game. But it was pretty much a straight-up wargame. What we would call a strategy game today. Even the heroes were just military units intended to lead armies. The questing for ruins was the most fun part of the game. But honestly, all it accomplished was to pump your heroes up with bonuses. When you got to +3 command bonus it was time to arrange a rendezvous with a stack of army units and start burning down castles. Even the overview from the Warlords manual agrees:

    "Warlords is a strategic war game, fought out by eight different players, for the domination of the Kingdom of Illuria."

    "Your objectives in Warlords are brutally simple: to eliminate all organized opposition to your rule."

    1. When I wrote that, I was seeing similarities in the campaign map being visible all at once, the exploration of ruins, and the control of a variably-sized army rather than a single PC or party of PCs. I agree that the games have different goals and aren't THAT similar, though.

  7. After your last posting, I dug out a copy of Odyssey and tried it on the emulator, and I actually ended up having a good time with it. I've sent the link to this article along to my friend again, so it's possible Robert Clardy might stop by again and add some thoughts.

    1. Thanks for the invite, Josh. I do enjoy revisting these early games where game play was all you had to work on because art, sound, music, and embedded movies just were not possible. It did not mean that they were any better than games with higher production values, just that the game play stood out because that was all there was.

      Wilderness Campaign was an early example of what I always tried to do with my own game design efforts - break genres. The earliest games that I liked the best were adventures, war games, strategy games, and role-playing games. I always wanted to merge all of those into elements into every game I worked on. With the limits of memory, resolution, sound, and controls, the game playing experience never lived up to my hopes, but it was a blast to try. Especially since I still found game design and development to be the most entertaining part of gaming. The early Apple was so easy to develop on. You write a few lines of code and run it and the game has changed. No need to spend months developing the proper 3-D animations and maps to render the vision and see if it would come to life. An afternoon of coding and the game had changed. That was the best gaming experience of my life.

      Which, leads me to a digression regarding the best game I never wrote. There were many great games I did not write, but only one that I spent months and years working with, developing scenarios, maps, characters, story-lines, plots, rule-systems, and experimenting with playability elements over and over again, all without ever publishing any of it. Did someone mention Warlords?

    2. There is a preumption that Warlords was either a war game or a strategy game, and Warlords I was certainly both of those. Warlords II added more scenarios and depth of play. Warlords III added a bunch of extraneous stuff that complicated what had been a clean and elegant system into something I did not like as much.

      It was Warlords II Deluxe, though, that was the best game ever written. At least for me. It included several nearly unique elements that I have never seen together in any other game. Of course, the first question is about whether or not it can be discussed in a CRPG forum. Oops. My bad....

      I checked with Wiki about the proper definition of CRPG and got this line to support my violation here: "games involve developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion." The one bit of this that my own CRPG efforts always violated was the definition of character development. Rather than single characters, I always went for groups. To beat the game I write, you have to assemble an ideal group that includes all of the latent skill possibilities needed to solve the quest. Then, you needed to equip and train your group to develop the skills and resources needed. Really, that's CRPG, isn't it?

      All assume you agree or at least will put up with my thesis here and get back to why Warlords did it better than any other game I have seen....

    3. At its core, Warlords was a turn-based strategy game. Not many of those now days. Real time strategy games are exciting and immersive and a ton of fun. But, turn based games can permit the thoughtful analysis of possibilties, optimization of strategy, and mobilization of resources that might not be needed until some time in the future. To win in chess, you have to not only position your forces for strategic advantage, you have to be able to analyze and overcome all the possible moves of your opponent, looking turns ahead for what they might do and how you would conter it.

      Warlords did that, but in Warlords, you had many more pieces, multiple armies, possibly 7 opponents, and it was possible to devise strategies that would take 20 turns or more to complete and still pull them off. But, to do that, you had to sit and think a bit. Stare at the board. Guess what your opponents were up to. Count the time it would take to muster your forces, move them, avoid defeat while launching an attack, and mix and match the elements of your armies so that each included all of the bunuses needed to accomplish its intended mission. Some were to take cities. Some were to kill troops. And, some stacks were for hunting heroes. Each stack needed the right mix of attributes to accomplish that mission and figuring them out took time. That time was an irritant to co-players that had to sit and wait on you to get on with it.

      Which brings up the first key feature that made Warlords work so well. It included play by email. I could take an hour to do my turn and nobody bugged me about hurrying up. I played. I emailed it. I went and did other things. Later in the day, if a game was back, I got another turn. I spent months playing email games with distant friends, never sitting at the computer at the same time, but thoroughly enjoying the long distance contest, played at my own preferred pace.

    4. But, turn-based strategy does not make CRPG. For that, we had to wait for Warlords II Deluxe. That edition included a bunch of editors that allowed the "player" to make new maps (big woop), new army sets (that's better), add new art (way harder to do now days), change every place and person name in the game (model the game after favorite stories), create new items with different abilities and bonuses, and finally, change the rules. Now, that last one was not really in the editors they provided, but rather on the fact that a Warlords game ended when all other human players were dead. Now that particular play goal has never been my fave as all but one has to lose and if they lose early enough, the game becomes a real drag to live through while the others continue to have fun. The best games for me are the ones where all play, all have fun, and nobody knows the winner until it is over and you count points up. So, the win conditions have to be easy to measure, but hard to see in advance. Warlords provided that possiblity with various dialogs that showed you and you only just how many kills you had of each other force in the game. So, with the first simple rule change of "no attacking other human forces", the game could become many other things. The simplest and longest lasting was the NPC extermination with twists. 3 human players permitted 5 NPC forces. Our games would end when all NPCs were gone. Then, we could tally up which of us killed the most heroes and most troops of each enemy type and award points based on that. We also tried points based on gold accumulated, quests completed, total forces amassed, or whatever. Another variant was having final city count provide negative points, so you had to build cities early on, get forces from them, then lose them during the end game, keeping just enough to keep forces alive to finish the final NPC extermination. That was tricky enough to add another year of game play.

      Over a period of 10 years, I built dozens of scenarios, army sets, game rule variations, characters, and storylines using this elegant game engine. Play by email, great game editors, flexible win conditions - this was not just a good game, it was the best game a game designer could want to play with. And, I do believe it met the definition of CRPG as well. I could be wrong....

    5. Robert, I appreciate the depth of your analysis here. There is doubtless much crossover between strategy games and CRPGs. What makes Wilderness Campaign incontestably a CRPG (in my opinion) is the character development and inventory. Even though both are done at the party level instead of the individual level, they both accomplish the CRPG purpose of making your party stronger.

      I've never played Warlords II, and your posting really makes me want to try it. I have played I and III. III featured persistent heroes that leveled up and could obtain useful weapons and powers, so I felt that it was CRPG "enough" to include on my list--and I loved the game so much I didn't want to pass up a chance to play it again when I got to the era. (I'm curious what it added that you didn't like.) WLI didn't have these things, so I think it's less defensibly even a hybrid CRPG. I also remember that the map in that game was unvarying and thus a little boring after a few sessions.

      Anyway, as I said, your posting makes me want to try II, so I'm going to add it to my list to check out in 1993.

      Before you go, could you verify what I said above about the "evil spell"? I'm guessing you included it to introduce some element of randomness so that a party couldn't become too overpowered and cocky.

    6. I had great fun with friends playing Warlords I back in high school, but it is a style that has not held up well when I revisited it. My guess is HOMM and MOM spoiled it for me by giving the added tactical screen and city options so I expect to be able to do more than you are able to with the engine. I never tried the Warlords II deluxe but I have tried some of the remakes like LordsAWar!.

      I do agree that I miss turn based strategy games due to the pacing allowing for careful plotting, planning, and the joy of a 20 turn long plan coming together. My problem with the real time options tend to be that those are really a who clicks faster game, and they have an entirely different feel, more frantic than thoughtful.

      What my friends and I would do is play hot seat games while listening to music, drinking, and general hanging out. This way no one was bored while waiting for their turn as we had other entertainment going on. Now that we are grown with careers, wives and children such things are no longer as possible.

      In short, here is to those simpler younger days, and may we all find a way to retire early to recapture that freedom.

    7. I missed the Warlords games when I was a kid, but when I recently tried the first one, I though it looked very good for its age, with nice and crisp graphics. But the huge number of individual units got boring real soon for me. It actually reminded me of the old Empire game.
      Playing chronologically I'll give the Warlords series another try maybe next year when I reach Warlords 2 Deluxe.

      As for the Wilderness Campaign, it looks like the oldest game I could see myself playing. Not being a great fan of Adventure games and Rogue-likes, I think WC would have been a natural start for me if I were to start my own chronological project from scratch.

    8. I know I could have fun with rogue if I was doing my own chronological walkabout, not sure about beneath apple manor and the like. Telengard is one I missed, so I am not sure about it. I like to think I would still have fun with wizardry/bt but I think I would get bored of grinding.

  8. That was fun! Then, I like games with logistics.

    Great Review!

  9. I was reading your post about the game and looking forward to stunning everyone with my valued insight by saying it sounds very much like warlords. Now I just feel silly thinking no one would notice it but me.

    1. If it makes you feel better, it didn't occur to me to think of Warlords until mentioned. I always played Battlecry more. I enjoyed Disciples and Heroes for my TBS games of this sort.

  10. I remember playing Wilderness Campaign a bit on my Apple II.

    I played (and almost finished) an RPG/adventure that Robert Clardy published in 1982 for the Apple II - Apventure to Atlantis (yes that is the correct spelling). This game mixes some adventure game type screens and graphics with quite a few RPG elements:

    You move from island to island during the game, and the last island is Atlantis. I remember getting stuck almost at the end of the game on Atlantis. I'm not sure if it was due to a bug in the store bought version of the game I had or whether I just couldn't figure out a puzzle.

    1. That's another one that MobyGames doesn't have. There really isn't a single comprehensive source out there, is there?

    2. Take a look at
      I did add quite some early CRPG's there, some time ago, including Apventure to Atlantis.

  11. Just found this blog last night and have been reading entries at random here.

    This game sounds interesting, very similar to a game I really wanted based on its description in ads that used to run in Compute! magazine: Quest by Aardvark Games (see I never did get it, and have never found a copy hanging out anywhere. This looks like a more developed game, though.

    Did this influence SSI's Sword of Aragon, I wonder...? I loved that one as a kid.

    1. Fascinating magazine page. MobyGames has no record of any of the games on that page except Dungeon of Death. I Googled around for "Quest" using some of the other keywords in the description (Alesia, Moorlock), but the only results are advertisements like this one from game magazines of the era. These games were either vaporware or examples of what might be hundreds of early CRPGs that sold so poorly no one remembers them or thought to preserve the files.

    2. I know they weren't vaporware as Aardvark advertised these games for years. I believe they were mail-order only, so that might account for the obscurity. I did find two links of interest relating to the game.

      On this page someone mentions finding a screenshot, but the link is dead; later someone says they found a copy for the VIC-20:

      Here's a picture of the manual and cassette and also mentions the similarity to Wilderness Campaign:

      Anyway, this is a digression, just found it curious. I'm really enjoying delving into your blog here, and it's bringing back a lot of memories.

    3. I knew I should have checked the MoCAGH first. I would say that the description sounds STARTLINGLY like Wilderness Campaign, even down to the keyboard commands. This is particularly relevant since I'm preparing a posting on Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure right now. It would be interesting to get Robert Clardy's take on it.

  12. Has anyone here played the Milton Bradley board game that came out a year or two after this called Dark Tower? Orson Welles did the t.v. advertisement! I haven't played Wilderness Campaign but it seems like Dark Tower was heavily influenced. Everything from the bazaar bartering and weight restrictions and beast of burden to the encounters and halved oppositional forces and site on map form of gameplay, it all seems very similar. The game is a classic in board games but I recall it had a Ip law suit problem at some point that contributed to its rarification. If you want to see how it works there is an android app called Droid Tower that simulates the game.

  13. This is great, I'm glad I finally stumbled over here from The Digital Antiquarian. So many excellent write-ups of games I'd all but forgotten about, bringing back memories and sparking new ideas. This one is extra cool for me though. I bought a cassette of Wilderness Campaign with my hard earned chore money in the early 80's, starved for something else to play on our new Apple ][+, needing a break from Zork (the first game I bought) and the breakout game that came with it. This style of campaign game was unlike anything I'd played before, being a die-hard D&D dungeon crawler up to this point, and it opened my horizons to strategy games in general.

    In the years since I'd occasionally poke around on Moby or Wikipedia looking for some information on this, one of my earliest favorite games, but as you mentioned it's all but invisible out there, until I unexpectedly saw it's name listed on the index here and was exited. I think your review and GIMLET score are spot on and brought back many fond memories. Thanks for this.

    I shouldn't be surprised that Robert Clardy is also responsible for one of my wife and I's addictions much later in life, Warlords. When we were traveling for trade shows with Berkeley Systems we'd play that game endlessly on a PowerBook 170. I still remember some of my favorite strategies for that fixed map on the first version. When we eventually upgraded to a windows laptop the 170 sat in the living room as nothing but a Warlords console for at least a year :)

    So thank you for giving this old game some of the recognition it deserves, and if Robert Clardy ever comes back through here, thanks for all the hours of entertainment you've given us!

    1. Welcome, Jeff. Glad to have you with us. To clarify: I don't think Clardy had anything to do with Warlords as you played it. I think he was saying that he himself was obsessed with the game and spent a lot of time on analysis and custom modules. Yet some of his comments are a bit confusing and I admit I'm not 100% sure in my take. He's not credited on the Warlords games, if that means anything.

  14. I just recently got into the Campaign-Adventure series. Your blog about these have really helped me out with info and context. Wilderness Campaign still holds up. Here's my playthrough


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