Archon: The Light and the Dark

Moby ID: 73
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Description official description

Archon: The Light and the Dark is a strategic board game with some similarities to chess. Two sides, a light one and a dark one, consisting of 18 pieces each compete on a board divided into (9 by 9) squares. You win the game by having one of your units on each of the five powerpoint squares, by removing all opposing pieces from the board or by imprisoning the last remaining creature of the opposing side.

However, you can't just remove a piece from the board by landing on it. When two pieces clash, the outcome is decided in the battle arena during one-on-one real-time combat. If the real-time combat takes place on a dark square, the dark monster gets a health bonus (longer life bar). On a light square the light side gains an advantage. There are also some squares whose color changes over time (from afternoon, to dusk, to night, to dawn etc.), which adds an extra layer of strategy to the game.

Unlike chess the two sides are not identical. Both sides consist of mythological creatures. For example the light side has among others unicorns, valkyries and a djinni while the dark side features basilisks, banshees and manticores. The differences are not just cosmetic. Two special pieces are the light wizard & the dark sorceress, they can both cast magical spells like: imprison a unit on the board, shift the flow of time (change day/night cycle to your advantage), bring one unit back from the dead etc.

The different pieces have their own movement restrictions regarding the number of squares they're allowed to travel on the board and whether or not they can jump over other units (like the knight in chess). Units also behave different in combat; some units are faster than others, some use melee attacks while others fire projectiles.

Archon can be played with either one or two players. The NES version, which was released a few years after the other versions, has improved graphics for the real-time combat part. Each type of square has it's own colored background and the unit sprites are larger.

Groups +



Credits (Atari 8-bit version)



Average score: 76% (based on 16 ratings)


Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 100 ratings with 6 reviews)

A true classic.

The Good
Well, starting with the gameplay - it's just superaddictive. The sequel (Archon Ultra) capitalizes on the already addictive type of play - sort of a mixture between chess and a fantasy, D&D type of thing. While I'm not sure on what platform the game originated I have to say that the opening music is generally very good, though it sounds horrible on the PC speaker.

The Bad
The graphics are really lame... and the computer is just too dumb.

The Bottom Line
Yet another typical Paul Reiche III classic.

PC Booter · by Tomer Gabel (4539) · 1999

Another C64 classic

The Good
Great concept and direction. Archon delivers not only great fun, but great strategy.

The Bad
Gameplay a little rough, even for the 80's.

The Bottom Line
Take chess and add in battles between great players with different strengths. That is what you get with Archon. This game nicely blends fierce battles with strategy and keeps the player entertained. You start off much like chess with your strong players on the back of the board and the "pawns" in the front. You must go through battles for spaces with the opposing color to gain your ground on the board. This is one of the top 5 games that C64 ever came out with. A must-try.

Commodore 64 · by Jeremy Howe (4) · 2004

Very original and highly addictive action/strategy game.

The Good
This game is loads of fun. A great combination of action and strategy with a pile of unique characters. If that's not enough, let's throw in some magic!

The Bad
To really enjoy this game you need to play with a second player. The AI is limited and an experienced player will beat it with absolute ease every time.

The Bottom Line
Archon is an easy-to-learn and not-too-difficult-to-master action/strategy game that's as fun now as it was 25 years ago. If I could only find someone to play against.

The game is played out on a 9x9 board similar to a chess board. One player plays Light and the other plays Dark, which have their own unique army of mythological creatures. Among others, Light has a phoenix, golems, and unicorns whereas the Dark has a dragon, trolls, and basilisks. Unlike chess, pieces are not captured. If two pieces occupy the same space, they battle. Terrain, choice and placement of units, and time all have strategic significance. As the rounds cycle, certain parts of the board cause Light and Dark units to become weaker or more powerful, so choosing when and where to do battle is important. When it comes down to it, however, the player who's more skilled in battle is likely to have the edge.

I can't recommend this game enough. Most definitely my favourite Commodore 64 game ever.

Commodore 64 · by Tom White (35) · 2009

[ View all 6 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Amiga release in 1985? Игги Друге (46656) May 25, 2014
Atari 400 800 Version mcburress Jun 13, 2011


1001 Video Games

Archon appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Archon III

A pair of 13 year olds worked on a game they called Archon III: Exciter for a while, never completing it, and the beta version widely circulated the internet, until eventually myth mixed in with fact and it was wrongly believed to be a genuine unreleased official follow-up.

Cover art

The game's striking and distinctive cover artwork is apparently an homage to the work of Dutch artist M.C. Escher, combining his typical preoccupation of repeating and inverted tessellated patterns of animal silhouettes as well as a rendering of an exotic polyhedron. Though it is not a direct adaptation of any of his works, it is evocative of the 1948 wood engraving Stars.

Electronic Arts

As of 2001, one of the four large meeting rooms on the first floor of the "Mission Control" building of Electronic Arts Redwood City, CA campus is named "Archon". The four meeting rooms are named after EA's first four games.

Palm OS

This game has been ported to the Palm OS (Palm Pilot/Handspring Visor).


According to Jon Freeman ("The Making of..." in Retro Gamer 40) Archon is the very first game where AI can play against another AI and without any human intervention complete the game. At the beginning Archon was meant to be for two human players only. One month before the release Electronic Arts demanded to make a one human player approach, so the team started to create an AI. During the process they figured out that AI can be used for both sides. It helped in bugfixing and some slight changes in the initial design where made by Jon and Anne when they watched how AI played the game. This feature was also used in shops when Atari computers were placed behind the windows and the game played all by itself and all passing potential customers could see it.


  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15h anniversary issue) - #20 on the "150 Best Games of All Time" list
  • Game Art Beyond
    • Archon plays a special role in the intro to the C64 graphics collection Game Art Beyond, released 2018. The game also received a high resolution title picture as part of the collection, based on the original artwork created for the Amiga.
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 03/2013 – One of the "Ten Best C64 Games“
  • Happy Computer
    • Issue 04/1985 - #5 Best Game in 1984 (Readers' Vote) (Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit version)

Information also contributed by Chris Mikesell, Martin Smith, nullnullnull, PCGamer77, Pseudo_Intellectual and FatherJack.


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  • IMDb, the Internet Movie Database
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  • Kio's home
    For ZX Spectrum: additional material including – photographed cassete inlay; snapshots; downloadable releases.
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    For Macintosh: reviews; artwork; downloadable releases; manual; screenshots; additional material.
  • Metacritic
    For iOS: reviews; ratings; critics; additional material.
  • The Archon FAQ
    Lots of tidbits and information about Archon from a fan.
  • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (video game)
    Encyclopaedic entry for combined platforms.
  • World of Spectrum
    for ZX Spectrum: downloadable releases; additional material including – cassete inlay, advertisement, instructions; player reviews; magazine references; magazine adverts.
  • ZX Spectrum Reviews
    For ZX Spectrum: magazine game reviews in HTML.

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  • MobyGames ID: 73
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Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Trixter.

Sharp X1 added by Trypticon. Commodore 64 added by Quapil. NES added by PCGamer77. iPhone, iPad added by Sciere. Amstrad CPC, FM-7, Palm OS added by Kabushi. ZX Spectrum added by Martin Smith. Atari 8-bit, Macintosh, PC-88, Amiga, Apple II added by Terok Nor.

Additional contributors: Roedie, Cantillon, Patrick Bregger, mailmanppa, Malte Mundt, FatherJack, ZeTomes.

Game added March 3, 1999. Last modified February 19, 2024.