IN PROGRESS... Visualise a "Men at Work" sign here.
Orion is an oldish "game system": that is, a set of game equipment with which you can play multiple games, just as you can with an ordinary deck of playing cards or an Icehouse set. Although this game system is little known, it is popular with our gaming group. In an ongoing poll about which games we should play on the Seattle Cosmic mailing list, with seven people voting, Orion is currently one of about five games (out of more than 60) to receive five votes; every voter who had ever played it wants to play it again.
Orion consists of a plastic board with a 5x5 array of rotors. Each rotor can contain up to four flat, eye-shaped pieces of various colours, and the rotors interlock so that rotating one rotor passes the piece you are moving (as well as other pieces on the same rotor) to another one. With the right sequence of rotations, you can shuttle a piece across the board.
In Hydra for Two, you try to connect the top and bottom of the Orion board with an unbroken chain of pieces of your own colour.
After first publishing this page, I received a number of requests for information on where to find copies of Orion. For example, Dave O'Connor wrote:
From: "O'Connor, Dave" <Dave.O'Connor@intel.com> To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Orion Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2001 13:36:19 -0700 Hi Ron, ...[T]hanks for putting up the Orion page. After reading about it in one of your reports, I've become completely intrigued with it and now after seeing your page, I'm getting obsessed with it! How much does a set usually cost? Were there many made? Did you buy yours when it came out or did you just get lucky and find one somewhere? Thanks for the info, DaveO
Orion was published by Parker Brothers in 1971. I don't think many copies were manufactured, although there seems to have been something of a publicity push; some of my correspondents remember an ad campaign for the system from around that time. I bought mine on eBay in early 2001, for (as I recall) a mere $36.00 plus shipping, about as much as an average German game from Rio Grande, and less than you would probably pay for it were it manufactured today -- of course, at that point there was no Orion Home Page to publicise the system! (Sorry, guys.)
I am happy to say I have a lead on some sets, though they may not last long. Michael Keller, editor of World Game Review, where I first heard about Orion, wrote me in mid-June 2001:
If anyone who visits your site is looking for a copy of Orion, I have at least one and possibly two copies to sell. These are German editions in excellent condition; I would be willing to include a black-and-white photocopy of the English rules for free (or a color copy at cost). I don't know about the price... I'm not even sure whether I want to sell both; my original set has no box and is reduced to board (one spindle broken but usable), rules, and a bag of pieces. If I keep one of the German ones I might be willing to sell spare parts from the original.
You can reach Michael at email@example.com. If he no longer has any Orion sets to sell, the Gamers Alliance seems to have some for sale periodically. Watch out, though; their prices are a bit high, not to say extortionate -- they once tried to sell me a game (Infinity, by Gamut of Games) for $89 plus $8 shipping, that I routinely saw for sale on rec.games.board.marketplace for $30 or $40, and that I bought myself in very good condition just a couple of weeks ago on eBay for only $5.50!
Which brings me to rgbm and eBay. If you have access to Usenet, you can post a request for Orion to the newsgroup rec.games.board.marketplace; if you don't, you can at least search that group with Google Groups. And of course there is always eBay, where I purchased my copy. You may have to wait a while for Orion to turn up; I had to wait a month or two myself.
If none of the above is any help to you, try Gameparts.org or the Locating Hard-to-Find Games page at Boardgames.About.com for leads on used-game sellers who may have a copy.
Orion™ is a trademark of Parker Brothers. Although Parker Brothers have been bought by Hasbro, which now has practically a monopoly on gaming in the US (not to mention the game Monopoly itself), although Parker Brothers do not have a history of behaving very honourably (or legally) with regard to intellectual property issues themselves (as witness "The Billion-Dollar Monopoly Swindle"), and although I find the very idea of intellectual "property" to be repugnant and evil (my views are aligned quite strongly with those expressed by The Free Software Foundation, which bears no responsibility for the contents of this page), I intend to honour the so-called "rights" Parker Brothers had and may continue to have in this game. I believe my photographs and quotation of material from the game manual do not overstep the bounds of "fair use" as defined by US copyright law, although even that right is being eroded by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). I am careful not to overstep these bounds, not because I believe Hasbro/Parker Brothers has a moral right to the material (I don't), but because I know that if I am not careful, Hasbro/Parker Brothers (a $4 billion corporation) will very likely sue me (net worth, next to zero). But that's life in the land of the "free". (Just a few thoughts on Independence Day, 4 July 2001.)
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Page last updated 2001-07-05.