The Bilestoad

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The Bilestoad
The Bilestoad Apple II Cover Art.jpg
Developer(s)Marc Goodman
Designer(s)Marc Goodman
Platform(s)Apple II
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

The Bilestoad is a video game by Marc Goodman (credited as "Mangrove Earthshoe") for the Apple II and published in 1982 by Datamost.

In The Bilestoad, players control "meatlings" that hack and battle with axes and shields from a top-view perspective. The name is derived from the German words Beil (axe) and Tod (death). The odd spelling reflects Goodman's idea of a future language similar to A Clockwork Orange's Nadsat in which English has been modified by the borrowing of foreign words.[1] Although the game may seem medieval, the backstory in the manual explains that the axe fighting is actually a future virtual reality game designed to reduce real violence.

According to the author, influences for The Bilestoad include the movie Excalibur and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.[1]


The game can be played online in an Apple II emulator here.

The Bilestoad allows a human player to fight against either a computer-controlled opponent or another human. One can also pit two robots against each other. Movement and combat is accomplished with the keyboard, pressing keys to swing the gladiator's axe or shield outwards or inwards, or to make the gladiator turn, stop or walk. The game play is quite violent and bloody—players lop off their opponents' shield or sword arms, and dispatch them by decapitation.

Players progress through levels by successfully defeating their opponent. The highest level is called the 'Master' level.

The arena of combat is a small island, maps of which (at short, medium, and long range) are shown at the right side of the screen. Scattered around the arena are various objects, including yin/yang discs which players can stand on to accelerate their movement, stars that transport players to other points in the arena, and "faces" that allow players to leave the level. The game offers more strategic variation than many fighting games, letting the player run away and be chased around the island. The musical soundtrack begins with Beethoven's "Für Elise".


Players control the gladiators using two groupings of keys: one on the left side of the keyboard, the other on the right.

Action Player 1 Player 2
Swing axe outward / Stop / Swing axe inward Q W E I O P
Turn counterclockwise / Stop / Turn clockwise A S D K L ;
Bring shield outward / Stop / Bring shield inward Z X C , . /
Walk forward button zero button one


The Apple II has no built-in tone generator; all sound and music is produced by toggling on/off the speaker at appropriate intervals to generate the desired frequency. The game's incorporation of music with gameplay was an impressive technical feat.[2]

Source Code[edit]

Source code for The Bilestoad was found on two 5.25 diskettes retrieved from a dumpster in Berkeley, California and sold on eBay to the maintainer of[3] It was released on April 20, 2019 and is available here. The code is assembly and appears to have no comments. However, there are useful labels in various files such as BLOOD.



In the mid-1990s, Marc Goodman also released an alpha demo of a higher-resolution re-working of the game for the color Macintosh platform.[citation needed] Peter Akemann cited The Bilestoad as a major inspiration for his game Die by the Sword.[4]


  1. ^ a b Hague, James (1997). "Marc Goodman interview". Halcyon Days: Interviews with Classic Computer and Video Game Programmers.
  2. ^ "GameTales: The Bilestoad", John Romero, January 17, 2010
  3. ^ Miyares, Dave (April 20, 2019). "Developer Disks Retrieved From Dumpster, Purchased on eBay". Twitter. Retrieved 12 September 2021.
  4. ^ "NG Alphas: Die by the Sword". Next Generation. No. 33. Imagine Media. September 1997. pp. 94–95.