Eon Prototype


Early Cosmic Encounter History (courtesy Allen Varney):

1972: Four longtime Risk players, Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, Bill Norton, and Peter Olotka, design "The Universe Game." Plastic models represent its six alien powers: early versions of the Virus, Zombie, Insect, Empath, and Mind, plus a version of the Plant. Each has a unique planetary system; if you conquer a system's "secret planet," the owner loses his or her alien power. Parker Brothers, publisher of Risk, buys the game in 1976, but the company sales force vetoes publication because "science fiction doesn't sell." Other companies are equally apathetic.

1977: Demonstrating the redesigned game, Cosmic Encounter, at science fiction conventions, the designers meet investor Ned Horn, who helps them publish the game themselves as the newly-incorporated Eon Products. The box includes 15 Alien Powers and components for four players. The first run of 10,000 copies costs $27,000, and through inexperience the new company loses money.

1978-1983: Eon makes it into the black by publishing nine expansion sets for CE, adding components for a fifth and sixth player plus 60 more Alien Powers, Flare Cards, Moons, and Lucre. CE becomes an authentic hit, but Eon never pushes its margins high enough to make the company lucrative. (Bill Norton leaves Eon in 1978.)

Eon also publishes Darkover (based on the Marion Zimmer Bradley novels); Quirks ("the game of un-natural selection"); Borderlands, a brilliant game of diplomacy, conquest, and resource management; Hoax, a game for impostors; and Runes, a clever word game wherein players guess secret words based on parts of their letter shapes. The Eon designers create Dune (and, later, two expansion sets) under contract to The Avalon Hill Game Company.

1984: Eon Products grows dormant as the exhausted partners move into software. Their new company, Eon Software, designs such games as Lords of Conquest and Pathwords for the Commodore 64. The Eon Products game line, including CE, eventually goes out of print and is sold to West End Games.

1987: West End produces a perfunctory and overpriced edition of CE that quickly bombs.

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