Archon: The Light and the Dark

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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.

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Credits (Atari 8-bit version)



Average score: 76% (based on 16 ratings)


Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 97 ratings with 6 reviews)

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

A great alternative to chess for those strategically-impared.

The Good
Archon is quickly described as a fantasy chess game where the pieces fight over who takes the square. There is thankfully more to it than that simple explanation: The shifting tide of the game that distributes power from light to dark adds challenges (attack, or run?), and each piece has specific strengths and weaknesses (don't use the shapeshifter if you aren't a better player than your opponent). In other words, you can define your own strategy when playing.

The Bad
I understand that Archon was designed on an Atari 800 in 1983, but that doesn't excuse the quality of the graphics. Of course, the gameplay more than makes up for the quality of the graphics, but I can't help thinking they could've improved it before it was released.

The Bottom Line
If your strategy skills lie somewhere between checkers and chess, give Archon a try. It's a bonefide classic game.

PC Booter · by Trixter (8947) · 1999

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

[ View all 6 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Amiga release in 1985? Игги Друге (46154) May 25th, 2014
Atari 400 800 Version mcburress Jun 13th, 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).


  • 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.

Related Games

The Archon Collection
Released 1989 on Amiga, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum
Archon Ultra
Released 1994 on DOS
Archon Classic
Released 2010 on Windows
Archon Classic
Released 2010 on Windows
Archon II: Adept
Released 1984 on Commodore 64, 1984 on Atari 8-bit, 1986 on Amiga...
Star Conflict: Archon
Released 2019 on Windows, Linux, Macintosh
Dark and Light
Released 2006 on Windows
Dark and Light
Released 2017 on Windows
Dark Light
Released 2020 on Macintosh, Windows

Related Sites +

  • Archon Interview
    Interview with the Creators of Archon
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    For Atari 8-bit: game entry database; downloadable release; software sets; advertisement; manuals; magazine reviews; additional material.
  • CPC-Power (in French)
    For Amstrad CPC: game database entry; package material; manual digitalizations; advertisement; downloadable releases; additional material.
  • CPCRrulez (in French)
    For Amstrad CPC: game database entry; advertisement; package material; downloadable releases; additional material.
  • Commodore 64 Boxed Sets
    For C64: high quality software sets digitalisations.
  • DOSBox Wiki
    The encyclopaedic page of the DOSBox project.
  • DOSBox, an x86 emulator with DOS
    Statistics page of compatibility with original DOS version.
  • Hall of Light
    For Amiga: game database entry; package material digitalizations; screenshots; additional material.
  • IMDb, the Internet Movie Database
    For combined platforms: game database entry.
  • Kio's home
    For ZX Spectrum: additional material including – photographed cassete inlay; snapshots; downloadable releases.
  • Lemon 64
    For C64: game entry database; music; documentation; cover art digitalizations; additional material.
  • Lemon Amiga
    For Amiga: game database entry; manual; additional material.
  • Macintosh Garden, an abandonware games archive
    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.

Identifiers +


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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. Amiga, Macintosh, Apple II, PC-88, Atari 8-bit added by Terok Nor.

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

Game added March 3rd, 1999. Last modified August 13th, 2023.