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Angband - the Computer Game

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Angband is a Tolkien-based roguelike computer game, named after Morgoth's fortress of iron in JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion. For those who are not familiar with this type of game, they are turn-based dungeon exploration and monster-killing games which generally use ASCII graphics. In Angband you are represented by an @ symbol1 and travel around the dungeon fighting lots of monsters (alphabetic characters in various colours) by either running into them (which represents hitting them with a melee weapon), shooting them or zapping them with an array of spells, wands and other magic devices.

The object of the game is to kill Morgoth (the Dark Enemy of Middle Earth), by travelling through the dungeon amassing experience, equipment and (less importantly) treasure. Eventually you will have to fight and kill Morgoth, who resides in the deepest dungeon level, in order to win the game2. You can continue your adventure after killing Morgoth, but there isn't much point, unless you want to search for the One Ring which is rumoured to be buried in the dungeon somewhere...

Apart from simply thrashing you in combat, here are some of the nasty things that monsters can do to you:

  • Cause bleeding wounds
  • Poison you
  • Frighten you so that you cannot fight in melee
  • Confuse you, making it impossible to run or fight effectively
  • Drain away your life (ie, experience points)
  • Paralyse you
  • Randomly swap your stats around
The deeper you go into the dungeon, the more dangerous the monsters become, and the more important it becomes to have protection against these special attacks. This protection is usually obtained through equipment such as artefact weapons and armour.

One distinctive feature of Angband is that when you leave a dungeon level, it and everything on it is gone forever. Also, there is a limit to how many items you can carry at the same time (you have a home in town, but that too has a finite capacity). This means that you need to make hard choices about what equipment to keep, what to sell in the shops in town, and what to discard.

Unfortunately, these regenerating levels also encourage a practice known as 'scumming'3, where the player spends a long time at a depth at which they can easily survive until they finally feel tough enough to descend deeper (if you were to attempt this in a game with static dungeon levels such as NetHack, you would probably starve to death waiting for new monsters to appear). Scumming is also how the Borg, a computer program which plays Angband, manages to win the game. Being a program, it has infinite patience, and will oscillate between levels one and two for as long as it takes to become absolutely safe on level three.

Angband can be downloaded for free from the official Angband page at Thangorodrim, along with other Angband-related material including spoilers, humour and suggestions for music to listen to while playing Angband. A whole host of variants (about 30 of which are still regularly updated) can also be downloaded from Thangorodrim. Popular variants include Mangband (an online multiplayer version), ZAngband (based on the works of Roger Zelazny) and ToME (formerly known as PernAngband, and based on Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels).

1Unless you are one of the heretics who use graphical tiles2This doesn't happen often - you'll usually do a lot of dying first!3Not to be confused with savescumming, which is cheating by making backup copies of save files and restoring from them when you die

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