Gone Interplanetary

Art Widner at the 1990 Worldcon. Photo taken and (c) by Andrew Porter.

By Marty Cantor: This is going on a few lists where there may be some fen who remember this Art Widner board game.

Right, you read the name up above correctly — Art Widner.

Interplanetary is a board game which Art Widner invented in 1943.

From paperwork (which I cannot now find) I believe that there may very well have been several boards many decades ago but I am certain of one board which is still in existence, the board I used when I played the game last night.

Some time after I joined LASFS in 1975 I discovered that LASFS had not only a board for this game but also various playing pieces. And paperwork showing that others had made attempts to make the game more playable than what was apparently earlier versions of the game.

Ted Johnstone, Bill Ellern and Betty Knight demonstrating Interplanetary at the Los Angeles Hobby Show in 1960.

As a seasoned board game player I soon found that the game seemed to need quite a bit of work to make it fully playable and I worked on the game, off and on, for several years. This work required the cooperation of other LASFS’ game players. Finally, in 2007, after many years of not paying attention to the game, I put what I consider to be the finishing touches on the game – and then again put the game aside for about 10 years.

Until last night.

A couple of weeks ago I i/n/v/e/i/g/l/e/d/ convinced three women who were new to the Friday Night Board Gaming Meetup I run to play a Eurogame called Wars of the Roses. This is a longish game of some intricacy. They loved the game so I thought I would introduce them to Interplanetary so I printed the rules and handed them out.

Last night 4 of us played Interplanetary. It is, obviously, not a Eurogame-style game, depending as it does on the rolling of dice. Interplanetary is, though, a game with some strategy and a spectacularly different board than any other game.

We had fun.

Interplanetary game board

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6 thoughts on “Gone Interplanetary

  1. As will be seen slightly in the older photo and in a newer one I just sent to Mike what appears to be a cometary orbit is the orbit of the Negasphere, a black hole. I should point out that Art was influenced in part of this game by Doc Smith’s Lensmen Series. (I mean, Thionite? Rith? two cargoes of illicit drugs which can be delivered to Earth from one of the planets.)

  2. Steve:
    Without the board (to give one a chance to game-test the rules), the rules by themselves will not tell one all that much about how the game plays. The board we use is composed of two 5 foot by 5 foot pieces of heavy plywood, so there is no way it can be made available for study away from where it is stored. The board is made of HEAVY plywood so that it will not warp.

    Also, the game pieces are common items used in an unusual manner and they are integral to the game.

    If you can make it to LASFS, contact me in advance so that the game can be set up and played. Please note that I am the only currently attending member of the club who has thoroughly studied the game.

  3. I remember playing this at the 1984 World Con. Because of the large size of the group long time players said we were running into situation’s they’d never seen before. Like the same cargo being hijacked five times before reaching Earth.

    I might still have a copy of the rules from that game.

  4. David Bliss:

    If you can find your copy of the rules from the game you describe I would appreciate it if you could send me a copy at [email protected] as I am very interested in comparing them to the rules we used to play the game last week.

    Also, As it was pirates hijacking the same cargo, that cargo would have never reached Earth as pirates are only allowed to sell their cargoes to fences on Mars.

  5. Marty Cantor:

    The rules are not with my other paperwork from the con so they may have been thrown out. I’ll let you know if I run into them.

    Earth. Mars. I just remember it changing hands a lot heading in-system.

    I spent several hours playing but cut out early to see the Masquerade. (Yes the whole thing to the end of the awards.) Ran into another player the next day and found out the annoying kid who kept chanting “I’m gonna wi’in, I’m gonna win” every ten minutes, actually did.

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