A graveyard in the Wild West, usually reserved for undesirables like gunfighters, outlaws, town drunks, and those who couldn't afford a proper burial in the town cemetery.

Also, an old blues song, written by an unknown songwriter. It's one of the more menacing blues songs, in which a man tells his woman to go fetch him his gun so he can kill her. My favorite versions (recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter) feature screaming guitar and growling vocals.

"Look up on the wall, baby,
Hand me down my shootin' iron.
Look up on the wall, baby,
Hand me down my shootin' iron.
Call your mama long-distance.
Tell her expect your body home."

"If the city don't bury you, baby,
Lord knows the county will.
If the city don't bury you, baby,
Lord knows the county will.
You made your last mistake.
You goin' way out on Boot Hill."

"Well, I don't wanna wax you, honey,
'Cause you gave me my first thrill.
I don't wanna wax you, woman,
'Cause you gave me my first thrill.
You made your last mistake.
You goin' way out on that Boot Hill."
Boot Hill is actually just a really steep hill in Deadwood, South Dakota, at the top of which is Mount Moriah Cemetery. The cemetery was not for drunks and outlaws, but rather for everyone in the frontier town. It's the final resting place of the infamous Wild Bill Hickok, Potato Creek Johnny, and Calamity Jane, as well as the town's first sheriff, Seth Bullock (who Teddy Roosevelt called "the only true cowboy left in America.") in one of his State of the Union addresses.

Advice: Don't walk up Boot Hill. It's a lot steeper and longer than it looks.

In Boot Hill there are over 400 graves. It takes
the space of 7 acres. There is an elaborate gate
but the path keeps to main route for it tankles
like branches of a tree among the gravestones.

300 of the dead in Boot Hill died violently
200 by guns, over 50 by knives
some were pushed under trains -- a popular
and overlooked form of murder in the west.
Some from brain haemorrhages resulting from bar fights
at least 10 killed in barbed wire.

In Boot Hill there are only two graves that belong to women
and they are the only known suicides in that graveyard.

-- From The Collected Works of Billy The Kid by Michael Ondaatje. The actual poem doesn't have a name (only a couple in the book do), so I put it where it looked like it would fit best.

Boot Hill was a cowboy themed arcade game released by Midway/Bally in 1977.

This title was the sequel to Gun Fight (which was the first arcade game ever to use the Intel 8080 processor.

The game

This game may be a little more simple than the first person shooters most of you are used to playing, but it isn't quite as simple as Gun Fight was. I suggest grabbing a friend and playing in two player mode for maximum enjoyment.

The graphics are in a style that is unique to the Pre-Galaxian era of arcade games. They are monochrome, featuring white characters on a black background (although a real arcade version will have a detailed green and blue overlay adding a fairly nice background to the game). I say the graphics are unique because only these really old games had large detailed characters rendered in monochrome. What they were lacking in color, they made up for in detail (the wagon wheel alone had as much detail as an entire ship in Galaga, and that was just part of the wagon). Graphics changed a bit with the advent of color arcade games. It was several years before the color ones became as detailed as the old monochrome ones were. The reason being was keeping track of color information required memory, and processor power that the monochrome games were able to use on detail instead.

Each player (up to two people may play at a time, and you will want to play in two player mode), controls a gunfighter. You use a small joystick to move up and down. While you used a second (much larger) joystick to aim your pistol and shoot (the stick also has a trigger button). Your only goal is to shoot the other player, who is right across the screen from you (who will then fall down and say "Zap, Shot Me", and turn into a tombstone. It isn't usually a straight shot, because there is a wagon on the screen that gets in the way.

Just shoot the other player for points. The game is time based, and not life based. The factory setting is for a 90 second game, but this is operator adjustable. The computer opponent is quite easy to beat into the ground with a little practice, but a human opponent is much more challenging.

The game cabinet

This game was released in an upright dedicated cabinet. There may have been a cocktail unit as well, but I was unable to find any information about one.

The upright version was mostly yellow, but it was covered with stencil style painted cowboy sideart that showed two different cowboys on each side. The front of the machine had a few more cowboys painted on it (one with a black hat and one with a white hat). There was no marquee at all, the game had its title printed on the monitor bezel, which also showed a detailed cartoon scene of a few cowboys shooting it out in a graveyard on top of a hill.

The game used a 23" monochrome open frame monitor that was buried deep within the machine. They used a combination of mirrors, overlays, and blacklights to put the game on a detailed background of actuall hilly terrain. The control panel had one 2-Way trigger switch joystick, and one smaller 8-Way for each player. Proper replacement parts are no longer made for any of the controls in this game. But standard replacement parts can be modified to work with it fairly easily.

Most other black and white games with an 8080 processor will plug right into this cabinet, but very few of them use the same controls, severely limiting quick conversion and multigame options.

Where to play

Well your first choice should be to track down an original machine. They aren't everywhere, but I estimate there are still hundreds of them still around. Actually, you might as well buy one of these if you can find it. The average market price for these machines is less than $250 for a nice one in working order (price is USD, current as of 2002). The good thing about these old black and white machines is that they were not converted very often, as new titles required color monitors, and more generic controls. By the time you bought a new monitor, new controls, and a conversion kit, you might as well have bought a new game in the first place. So they were often simply put away in a warehouse sometime in the early 80s, often still functioning.

If you can't find a real one (or think I am an idiot for suggesting you find one of these), then you can play it on MAME. But you won't have the whacked out overlay, the blacklight, or the correct controls. Even if you have a MAME cabinet, you still won't have the correct controls (unless you happened to have mounted a 2-Way trigger joystick on your cabinet).

Boot Hill was a wild west roleplaying game published by TSR in 1975. The second edition was published 1979, and then the third edition was published in 1990 (that last date may be wrong, I have yet to find an actual copy to look at, but it was released sometime AFTER that date.) The game was originally created by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume, after TSR had already published Dungeons and Dragons.

The game was based on a five attributes: Strength, Coordination, Observation, Stature, and Luck. It did not have any sort of stat for alignment, which was a break from Dungeons and Dragons. Everything in the game was based on a percentile system to determine success, as opposed to the polyhedral dice collection that D&D would require.

Boot Hill (along with Top Secret, Star Frontiers, Metamorphosis Alpha, and Gamma World) may have been responsible for some of the push of modern games to make universal roleplaying games. (See GURPS, Fuzion, Hero System, and Fudge.) In the back of the old first edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide there were a few pages (112-114) which dealt with integrating Boot Hill characters into your D&D game, and vice versa. The early pioneers to roleplaying weren't much different from what you might see in a home campaign. They wanted to have Merlin meet Wyatt Earp, Flash Gordon fight a Dragon, and Billy the Kid deal with zombies. (e.g. the spaceship in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and the fact that Murlynd from Greyhawk carries around six shooters.)

One of the problems that Boot Hill ran into was the "incompatible edition" problem that many roleplaying games run into. Boot Hill dealt very poorly with it, and attempted no sort of compatibility between first and second, or second and third editions. When you do this you risk alienating your hard core fans, which in many cases are your best advertisements. (Wizards of the Coast was very concerned with this with the creation of Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition, and you can see where they avoided changing some sacred cows in order to placate the old hard core gamers.) People also distrusted the fact that it made no attempt to be compatible with Dungeons and Dragons, not even on a shallow level.

Another problem is that Boot Hill didn't have a setting to capture the player's minds. Boot Hill advertised itself as a Wild West game, but didn't try and get you excited about the prospect of playing a Wild West game. You were expected to play it if, and only if, you liked that setting. This is in contrast to a newer entry into the Wild West, Deadlands, which lures you in with a hook. "This isn't the wild west. This is the WEIRD wild west." I, personally, would not have ever wanted to play Boot Hill (apart from to learn the mechanics of the system, due to the chart in the back of the DMG), but Deadlands still seems attractive to me.

Boot Hill, however, was really a predecessor of what roleplaying games would be. Dungeons and Dragons proved the concept of roleplaying games in general. Boot Hill demonstrated that you could have a game with a touch of a generic setting. With a few tweaks of Boot Hill, you could have modern fire arms, vehicles, and play Top Secret using just Boot Hill rules. Or change a few other numbers, make the pistols into muskets and play in the American revolutionary war.

Apart from living on in the hearts of some old school gamers (see all the Cattlepunk references in Knights of the Dinner Table), Boot Hill will most likely remain out of print for some time.

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