The Harbingers

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The Harbingers
The Harbingers.jpg
The Harbingers game board.
Designer(s) Brett Clements
Phillip Tanner
Illustrator(s) Richard McKenna
Carmen Delprat
Daniel Burns
Actor(s) Wenanty Nosul as The Gatekeeper
Publisher(s) Mattel
Publication date 1995[1]
Genre(s) Horror and terror
Players 3–6
Age range 12+
Playing time Up to 60 minutes
Skill(s) required Dice rolling and Strategy

The Harbingers is an Australian[2][3] video board game designed by Brett Clements and Phillip Tanner and published by Mattel as a major update to the Atmosfear series. The object of the game is to collect six different coloured "Keystones", face player's worst fear and thus beat the "Gatekeeper". Each player adopts the persona of one of the "Harbingers", otherwise must play as a "Soul Ranger". The game is set in a place known as "The Other Side". The Gatekeeper is to ensure the other characters do not "escape" from The Other Side. The game board is made up of a central hub and six two-sided interchangeable "Provinces" which fit together, creating a hexagon. A videotape is included with the game, and acts as a game clock. The videotape stars Wenanty Nosul as The Gatekeeper.

Gameplay[edit]

Game rules[edit]

To really experience this game, spend some time creating the perfect atmosphere. Turn the lights down and volume up and welcome to the other side.

—Voice-over, during the opening of the rules presentation.[4]

When they are ready, players roll the dice in turn, the one who rolls highest becoming the "Chosen One" who assembles the game board by connecting the Provinces to the central hub, creating a hexagon shape.[5] The players write down their greatest fear on a slip of paper which is placed in the "well of fears" by the Chosen One.[6] The Gatekeeper then starts the game, and the players, using their Numb Skulls, race to become a Harbinger by landing on the Harbinger's headstone located in each province.[7] If a player fails to make it to a headstone within ten minutes, they become Soul Rangers for the rest of the game.[8] They must remain in the sewers until either they are released by the Gatekeeper,[9] or collect the Keystone which allows them to release themselves.[10]

Players who become Harbingers start collecting Keystones either by landing on them on the game board,[11] or by taking them from other players by dueling.[12] Soul Rangers cannot collect Keystones by landing on them; instead, they chase down other players and steal their Keystones.[13] Players must collect the six Keystones of different colours to win.[14] Although players only need one keystone per colour, players can collect more than one which can prevent other players from completing the game.[11] Each Keystone gives players different powers, depending on which Harbinger they are, the list of powers being described on the back of the character's card.[15] When players have collected the Keystones, they can win the game by returning home to the central hub. Then they must roll a six on the dice; a fear is picked from the well of fears, and if it does not correspond to the player's earlier expressed "greatest fear", that player wins the game. Otherwise, players must return to their headstone and try again.[16] If none of players is able to win the game within sixty minutes, the Gatekeeper is the winner.[17]

Characters[edit]

The six Harbingers in the game are: Gevaudan the werewolf; Hellin the poltergeist; Khufu the mummy; Baron Samedi the zombie; Anne de Chantraine the witch, and Elizabeth Bathory the vampire.[7] Each of the Harbingers is based on either a real person or a myth, except for Hellin. Hellin is the only Harbinger entirely created by Brett Clements. Hellin is an evil infant trouble-maker who gets very angry when things don't go her way.[18] Baron Samedi got his name from the ancient Arawak Indian God of the Dead.[19] Anne de Chantraine is based on the first "official" witch who was burned at the stake.[20] Elizabeth Bathory is based on a serial killer who is believed to have murdered and drunk the blood of about six hundred and fifty virgin girls.[21] Khufu is based on an Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh.[22] Gevaudan is based around a man who was hunted by armies of people for supposedly carrying the sickness of lycanthropy.[23]

Soul Rangers, players who have failed to become Harbingers, are described as miserable, skeletal scavengers, the scourge of The Other Side.[24][25] Soul Rangers hunt down other players and steal their keystones.[13] Soul Rangers were created during the game's development. Brett Clements wanted to introduce characters that players did not want to become,[26] but he later found that players enjoyed the anarchic role of the Soul Ranger.[27] The final character in the game is the Gatekeeper, whose job is to make sure the other characters cannot escape from The Other Side to the real world.[28] The Gatekeeper's character is based on the old cemetery gatekeepers, whose job was to guard cemeteries from grave robbers.[29]

Layout[edit]

The game board is made up of the Central Hub and six two-sided Provinces which fit together creating a hexagon.[30] The Central Hub is made up of the Well of Fears, the home positions and the Ring Road. The Well of Fears is a cup with a lid that fits inside the hole in the middle of the Central Hub.[31] Located around the Well of Fears are six numbered grooves, called "Home"; players must start from and return to Home.[32] The Home positions are connected to the Ring Road, a path that runs around the Central Hub. The Ring Road give players access to all the Provinces.[33]

Each Province is a two-sided interchangeable board, on one side of which is a Harbinger's province while on the other are the sewers. The Provinces can be assembled in any order, which can allow different game experiences when the Provinces are changed. Each Province has its own headstone and is in the Harbinger's colours. Both sides of the Province board have paths used by the players to move around the board. Located along the paths are the six Keystones for that colour Province, and three different game symbols: the black holes, the lighting bolts and the compasses.

The game includes six boomerang-shaped slabs which allow players to store their character card, Numb Skull and collected Keystones.[34] The character card has a photograph of the character on the front, and on the back a list of powers each keystone gives to the player.[15] To move around the game board, players use their own character's playing pieces:[35] a vampire bat for Elizabeth Bathory, a cobra for Khufu, a top hat for Baron Samedi, an "H" building block for Hellin,a fang for Gevaudan, a cauldron for Anne de Chantraine and a Numb Skull for Soul Rangers. The Numb Skull is also used at the beginning of the game, before players become Harbingers.

Videotape[edit]

An image of the video videotape with the Gatekeeper on screen talking to players with the game clock in the right-hand corner and the CGI storm in the background.

A VHS videotape is included with The Harbingers which is played during the game.[35] The videotape begins with The Gatekeeper – played by Wenanty Nosul[36] – starting the game with "On your marks...Get ready...Get set...Go!".[37] As the game begins the game clock appears in the right-hand corner of the screen, counting down from sixty minutes;[37] unless the game is won by a player within one hour the Gatekeeper is declared the winner.[17][35] During the sixty minutes the Gatekeeper will appear on screen, to give players instructions or a choice between receiving a prize or imposing a penalty on an opponent.[35][38] Players must carry out all instructions given by the Gatekeeper. When the Gatekeeper appears he demands that players stop and listen to him.[14] He will not hold back from insulting players[39][40] and is reluctant to reward or help players.[35][41] During the game a computer-generated storm can be seen in the background; sometimes the storm partly covers the game clock.[8] Along with the storm, spooky sounds and sometimes the Gatekeeper's laughter can be heard.

During development there was a concern that the game might initially seem too complicated. At the end of the videotape there is a special fifteen-minute presentation called the rules presentation in which a voice-over along with the Gatekeeper explains the game, the characters and how to play.[42] The rules presentation was created to help explain the game to new players.[43] The videotape can be forwarded to the start of the instructions.[44] During the rules presentation a game is played by actors who are dressed as three Harbingers – Baron Samedi,[45] Anne de Chantraine[46] and Elizabeth Bathory[47] – and three Soul Rangers. The demonstration game is used throughout the rules presentation to help explain how to play the game.

Development[edit]

With the feedback received from players after the release of Nightmare, Brett Clements and Phillip Tanner started work on the major update to the series.[48] They struck a deal with J. W. Spear & Sons,[49] to use publishing experience and market research with Nightmare to help create the new game. The deal allowed J. W. Spear & Sons to have input into how the game was developed, which was not the case with Nightmare.[50] Village Roadshow was also involved with the game's development and with its release in the United States.[51] The development ended six years after it started, with about six million dollars invested in the development of the game.[52]

Reception[edit]

The Harbingers sold above the industry's sales predictions in Australia and became one of the top ten best selling games in the United States and the United Kingdom, within months of its release.[53] On the game's release, Mattel launched a marketing campaign with a spot on MTV, cross-promotions with soft drinks and a website for the game.[54]

Expansions[edit]

Booster tapes[edit]

Two booster tapes were released following the success of The Harbingers.[1] The tapes provide a challenging experience to The Harbingers for experienced players. The booster tapes run for forty-five minutes instead of the sixty minutes of the original, and come with a new rule to limit the number of Keystones added to each province based on the number of players. Other than this limit the normal rules apply.[55]

The Soul Rangers[edit]

A year later, an add-on called The Soul Rangers was released. The add-on allows players to play only as The Soul Rangers and is hosted by a Soul Ranger calling himself Dr. Mastiff. The add-on was released because the creators found out that players enjoy causing damage as The Soul Rangers.[1][27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Horrible History". Official website for Atmosfear DVD. Flying Bark Productions. Retrieved 22 May 2010. "By 1995 a new master game was launched through Mattel world-wide, ATMOSFEAR – THE HARBINGERS. This was followed by a sequel ATMOSFEAR – THE SOUL RANGERS along with two booster tapes." 
  2. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. 
  3. ^ Nicklin, Lenore (12 April 1994). "Game boys". The Bulletin (Sydney, Australia: Australian Consolidated Press) 116 (5915): 36. ISSN 0007-4039. 
  4. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:01:23. 
  5. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:01:50. "Voice-over: The game begins with everybody taking it in turns to roll both dice, to determine who will become the chosen one. Whoever rolls the highest wins. The chosen one is a creature of destiny for it alone gets to choose the shape of things to come, by assembling the provinces. The six section of the game board lock together around the central hub, each one fits over a raised tab which forms one square of the track, the provinces can be assembled in any order." 
  6. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:04:08. "Voice-over: Each player must then write their greatest fear on a slip of paper, roll it up, and give it to the chosen one to be placed in the well of fears." 
  7. ^ a b The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:05:34. "Voice-over: Everybody starts out as a Soul Ranger, a Numb Skull, with a common aim to become a Harbinger, one of the six creature who presides over the Provinces on the other side. The Gatekeeper: Gevaudan the werewolf, Hellin the poltergeist, Khufu the mummy, Baron Samedi the zombie, Anne de Chantraine the witch, Elizabeth Bathory the vampire. Voice-over: To become one of isthese characters you must land exactly one of their six headstones." 
  8. ^ a b The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 10:33. "The Gatekeeper: Anybody who failed to make it to a headstone, is never going to make it for now they are Soul Rangers." 
  9. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 14:07. "The Gatekeeper: Time for some anarchy, any Soul Ranger is released from the sewers to browse the Provinces, chase the Harbingers, run them down." 
  10. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:14:07. "Voice-over: Unless [a Soul Ranger] have the keystone which frees them [from the sewers]." 
  11. ^ a b The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:08:22. "Voice-over: To win a keystone you must land exactly on a square holding one. You can collect as many Keystone as you want, the more Keystones you collect the harder it is for your opponent to win." 
  12. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:09:37. "Voice-over: [After a duel] the winner picks one keystone from the loser." 
  13. ^ a b The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:13:28. "Voice-over: [Soul] Rangers cannot win keystones by landing on them instead they must prey on Harbingers, lying and wait in the sewers, then chasing them down and trying to lay on the same square. If a Rangers lands on the same square occupied by any other opponent, it can steal a keystone from that character." 
  14. ^ a b The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:04:47. "Voice-over: Atmosfear is a race against time and the Gatekeeper, he rules this game. To beat him you'll have to collect all six different coloured Keystones and then return home to face your worst fear, but it gets worse – he is only going to give you sixty minutes to play and he likes to play rough, his the Gatekeeper. Whenever he appear you must. The Gatekeeper: STOP! Voice-over: Whatever you was doing and listen everything he has to say." 
  15. ^ a b The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:07:25. "Voice-over: [After becoming a Harbinger] take your character's card and place it in the slab with the keystone index facing you. This index out lines all the powers of the Keystones you need to collect in order to win the game." 
  16. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:14:49. "Voice-over: Once you have collected all different coloured Keystones you can start making your way home, leaving the Provinces and entering the ring road that leads to your own numbered groove. To make it home you have land exactly on your numbered groove, once home you must wait and try and roll a six, the instant you roll a six request a opponent to remove the well, shake out a fear and read it out loud, if it's not your fear say not and press stop on the VCR, stopping the clock and beating the Gatekeeper. But if it is your worst nightmare the fear must be return to the well and you must return to your headstone and try again." 
  17. ^ a b The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 59:57. "The Gatekeeper: Its over you idiots. You have lost, and you only have your selfs to blame. So good riddance. *laughs*" 
  18. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. "Hellin, the Poltergeist, is another character entirely created by Brett Clements. Brett's original idea was that she would embody the whole idea of evil, an infant trouble-maker who gets very angry when things don't go her way." 
  19. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. "Baron Samedi, the zombie, is named after the ancient Arawak Indian God of the Dead." 
  20. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. "Anne de Chantraine, the witch, is based on a 17-year old French girl who was one of the first 'official' witches ... burned at the stake." 
  21. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. "The Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the vampire, was a Hungarian noblewoman ... who is believed to have murdered and drunk the blood of ... [about] six hundred and fifty virgin girls." 
  22. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. "Khufu, the mummy, is based on an actual Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh." 
  23. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 17. "Gevaudan, the werewolf, is based around as actyal Frenchman who was literally hunted by armies of people for supposedly carrying the sickness of lycanthropy." 
  24. ^ The Harbingers [Game booklet]. Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. "The Soul Rangers are the scourge of The Other Side – miserable scavengers who failed to 'become' Harbingers. They play by their own set of rules." 
  25. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (17): 17. "[Soul Rangers are] skeletal ... soldiers." 
  26. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 17. "Brett Clements wanted to introduce some characters people did not want to be." 
  27. ^ a b Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 17. "What the Cowboys have since discovered, of cause, is that many players actually enjoy being Soul Rangers, simply because they can go around and do a lot of damage. In fact the next Atmosfear video board game will feature these gruesome boys and will be titled The Soul Rangers." 
  28. ^ "The Gatekeeper Sentinel of The Other Side". Official website for Khufu The Mummy. Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. Archived from the original on 13 February 2007. "The Gatekeeper’s duty was to play prison guard to a pack of unearthly creatures ... keeping them securely locked away from the real world." 
  29. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. "The Gatekeeper is entirely the creation of Brett Clements and is based around the cemetery gate-keepers of the 17th or 18th Century, people who literally used to guard the cemeteries from grave robbers and such." 
  30. ^ The Harbingers [Game booklet]. Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. "Take the six Provinces of The Other Side and assemble them. Each section of the hexagon board locks down around the Central Hub with the coloured sides face-up. The Provinces can be assembled in any order." 
  31. ^ The Harbingers [Game booklet]. Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. "Each player must write their greatest fear on a slip of paper, roll it up into a ball and give it to The Chosen One to place in the Well of Fears. (The cup which fits inside the Central Hub.) When all fears have been collected, the lid is snapped shut and the well inserted in the Central Hub." 
  32. ^ The Harbingers [Game booklet]. Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. "All players should then place their Numb Skulls in the corresponding numbered grooves in the Central Hub. These grooves are where players start and finish the game from. These grooves are called Home." 
  33. ^ The Harbingers [Game booklet]. Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. "The Ring Road is the track which runs around the Hub – providing access to any section of the board." 
  34. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:04:01. "Voice-over: This stub is used to hold your character card and any Keystones you collect." 
  35. ^ a b c d e WO application 9221414, A Couple 'A Cowboys, "Interactive board-video game", published 10 December 1992 
  36. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. "The Gatekeeper is played by Polish born actor Wenanty Nosul." 
  37. ^ a b The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 0:40. "The Gatekeeper: On your marks...Get ready...Get set...Go!" 
  38. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 2:57. "The Gatekeeper: STOP! Whose turn is it next? HANDS UP!...Give me your number...You can have that many free turns or you can point the finger at the maggot who you like to see return to the start." 
  39. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 22:03. "The Gatekeeper: STOP! Whose turn it is next? Hands up...Now, wave to me, precious, I am waving to you, I am waving you goodbye, You're banish. *laughs*" 
  40. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 43:57. "The Gatekeeper: STOP! Whose turn it is next? Hands up. Uh, I don't like the look of you, so you can forfeit your turn. So who's next? Hands up! You can forfeit your turn too. Now, who's next? Hands up! YOU! You're banish. *laughs* What goes around comes around, hey?" 
  41. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 6:44. "The Gatekeeper: Anybody who is in a black hole...is released. *sigh* I hate that." 
  42. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:01:43. 
  43. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. "The initial impression that Atmosfear is complicated is dispelled somewhat once you actually begin to play. Everything pretty much comes together after playing one game. To help overcome this impression and make it easier for beginners, there are video instructions on the game tape." 
  44. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 16. "When players unpack the game, they will find the video pre-forwarded ready to play the instructions, which are at the end of the tape so experienced players do not have to fast forward the tape every time they want to play." 
  45. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:07:10. 
  46. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:07:16. 
  47. ^ The Harbingers (VHS videotape). Australia: A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. Event occurs at 1:07:20. 
  48. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 15. "In fact Atmosfear gave the Cowboys the opportunity to build on everything they had learnt from doing the first game, and to take into account the research and feedback from players during design phase." 
  49. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 15. "This time around the Cowboys teamed up with a British company called JW Spear and Sons." 
  50. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 15–16. "Nightmare was such a major success for Spear, and they had done a lot of market research on it, that they wanted to have a say in how the next game was developed. For the Cowboys, it ment that they could take advantage of Spear's obvious game development skills, rather than having to build everything up from scratch themselves." 
  51. ^ Shoebridge, Neil (16 October 1995). Roadshow speeds on to the entertainment superhighway. Australia: Business Review Weekly. p. 81. "[Village] Roadshow is releasing Atmostfear ... this year ... in the US." 
  52. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 14. "[Atmosfear] was something like six years and six million dollars in production." 
  53. ^ Paulsen, Steven (1996). "Cowboys and Atmosfear". Bloodsongs (Australia: Bambada Press) (7): 14. "Here in Australia it is already selling above industry predictions, and within months of it release, it has become one of the top ten best selling games in America and is the only new game currently in the UK top ten." 
  54. ^ Elliott, Stuart (31 October 1995). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING Increasingly, companies are cashing in on Halloween's monsters and ghosts". The New York Times (New York City, United States: The New York Times Company). Business/Financial Desk. p. 8. "One particularly elaborate campaign is for Atmosfear ... There are spots that start this week on MTV and a cross-promotion in stores with soft drinks ... There is even a site on the World Wide Web for Atmosfear ... it's the first for any Mattel product." 
  55. ^ The Harbingers Booster Tape Cover (VHS videotape, USA/UK version). A Couple 'A Cowboys. 1995. "Boost the skill, strategy and suspense of ATMOSFEAR with a special 45-minute game tape for advanced players. Featuring all new appearances from The Gatekeeper. No need to read up on any new rules. Simply refer to the advanced keystone table below then insert the Booster Tape and press play for a whole new experience." 

External links[edit]