It would be a christmas in the mid-80’s when cousin Iain got his Crossbows & Catapults set. I showed little interest in it initially – I couldn’t tell you what I got that year, but the fact that Iain’s present of choice involved Viking vs Barbarian conflict and not some kind of space battle probably had a lot to do with my apathy.
As tradition dictates, the family ended up at Auntie Mary’s place for a slap up meal at some point over the festive period. For some reason Auntie Mary has always been well stocked with office equipment – from “magic” markers that at some point I had been accused of getting my younger cousins to sniff for kicks, to thick sheaths of paper and rubber bands a plenty, she was better stocked than Office World.
It was the quality rubber bands, however, that transformed Crossbows & Catapults from mundane to the extreme battleground depicted in the adverts. The catapults didn’t exactly need souping up, but the crossbows, my word, with their puny elastic bands replaced with taught rubber they became weapons of mass destruction.
Normally you’d begin a game of C&C by building a base from the blocks, which fitted together pretty loosely – just well enough to form an interlinking wall. You’d also have a half-castle piece that you’d place over the treasure marked on the center of the piece of card which was the base of your, erm, base. Behind the walls you’d put your catapults and off to the sides you’d place your crossbows. When you were both ready the game would begin, with each of you taking it in turn to fire a small disc from either type of weapon to try and destroy the base of your opponent. Victory was gained by landing a disc on the treasure marked on the piece of card.
Usually, destroying enough of the enemy base to then go for the treasure took maybe a dozen accurate shots. With the high tension rubber bands supplied by Auntie Mary, destroying the enemy base took maybe three shots. Assuming the crossbow didn’t break due to the stress it was under (a bit like getting your fingers caught in a mousetrap), it was, quite literally, KABOOM! from the moment you released the mechanism of the crossbow. A base carefully constructed by cousin Iain could be obliterated very early in the game, allowing me to switch to the catapult in order to deftly drop a disc into the treasure area.
For some reason, much to the annoyance of Iain, I won a lot. I think what made it all the more frustrating was that it was his game. Well, that and the fact that I would celebrate each base-shattering projectile impact with a mock bicep flex and throatily booming “Viking Power!” – a catchphrase of the late Jón Páll Sigmarsson, the world’s strongest man at the time. Trust me – that never got old! 😀
I remember one time going undefeated for an entire evening on the dining table at Auntie Mary’s place, as cousin Iain and cousin Jamie operated like a cannon-fodder tag team. With an almost unlimited supply of rubber bands to hand, the weaponry was always on top form – all that was left to do was build a sturdy base and show no mercy toward my younger relatives, then bathe in the glory of Viking Power. At some point that same evening there was also a glorious one shot victory against cousin Iain, due to a projectile impact that destroyed most of his base and a fluke of immense proportions when the disc landed on the treasure spot. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that! 😉
Due to living down in Cornwall at the time, I only got to play C&C when I was up for a visit, and by the time I moved back in 1988 the plastic weapons had become so broken through being operated beyond their designed stress levels that the C&C set was another one of those toys that ends up dusty on top of a wardrobe. Hence, I haven’t played Crossbows & Catapults since the 80’s, but I do remember it fondly and, you know, I reckon I’d still have the skills to pay the bills to this day. Viking Power!