The Argos Expedition is an old C64/128 educational type game. It was published in 1985 by CBS Software in collaboration with the Children's Television Workshop.

Interestingly enough this website says that Eon Productions also had a hand in the game's design. Eon Productions were the designers of the famous board game Cosmic Encounter. (Interesting to me because I'm a fan of CE and didn't realise they also helped with Argos).

Argos is a science fiction game of teamwork and space exploration. The basic premise is that each player is a crew member aboard a space ship looking for strange alien artifacts.

There are a few really cool ideas that were used in the design of this game. Firstly the game included a deck of cards. These cards contained secret missions that each player must complete to earn bonus points at the end of the game. This introduced a sort of faux role-playing element to the game, where each player had their own ulterior motives and hidden agenda. One especially cool card was the dreaded "space sickness". You basically had to sabotage the mission without the other players finding out. If they did, you lost points.

Another interesting element was the number of players that could play and be actively involved at any one time. My memory is a little hazy, but I believe you could have up to four or five players. One (or two - can't quite recall) on the keyboard, one on the joystick and two on paddles (if you owned a pair). This was one of the main ways of encouraging team work (as I'll explain shortly). With everyone doing their thing at the same time it really did seem like we were at our different control stations in the spacecraft.

I remember this to be particularly tricky at times. Even when deciding on what to do, or where to go, all players had to push their buttons at the same time. This seemingly simple feat took some coordination to achieve.

The general flow of play goes something like this:

You're presented with a chart of space showing the position of each unknown artifact. You then decide (or argue) as to which artifact to travel to next.

During the journey, you may happen upon some strange space event or hazard (the wormhole springs to mind) which all players must help to guide the ship though safely. Each player would use their controller to manipulate some part of the ship. For example, in an asteroid belt, one player would control the vertical movement of the laser crosshairs, another would control the horizontal. Another player would do the firing etc (I can't remember what everyone had to do). Failure to navigate the hazard could have several negative consequences, such as being moved to a different area of the galaxy or loosing fuel.

Once the hazard has been navigated the ship arrives at the artifact. Again, all players must work to beam the artifact aboard. I remember that you needed to keep control of such things as rotation, the sounds it was making, its position on the screen and the colours it was flashing. This all seemed very technical for me at the time.

Once you have the artifact aboard, the real fun starts. This is where you must negotiate with the rest of the crew as to what sort of experiments to do to this particular artifact. These experiments could range from finding its material properties, to discovering its cultural history or use, or perhaps just burning it for fuel. As I recall, you had a certain amount of points you could use to do different things. If two people wanted to do the same thing, they had to bid in a simple auction. I think you were awarded points depending on what you found out.

When I first played it with my Dad and brothers I was probably only about 8 and I remember finding it pretty boring. We didn't use the secret mission cards as they were described as being for more advanced play.

Looking back now, I see this game as incredibly innovative, with some excellent game design features for it's time. I can now also see the influence of Eon Productions (namely the negotiation and teamwork side of things).

I can only wonder whether a game like this will be re-released for today's technology.

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