I can tell you straight away, it's NOT the 1982 illustrated text adventure "The Hobbit". This was out before that. It may even have been late 70s.

What I remember:

  • I played on a friend's computer. I don't think his was a standard, popular model. i.e. not a Vic20, C64, Atari etc
  • The graphics were ASCII text based. I think there were only three characters used: an 'H' to represent you, the player; a special character to represent orcs; and another character to represent trees.
  • The playing area was fairly small, maybe 50 characters to a side.
  • Gameplay was turn based. You would move one space in any direction, up, down, left, right. I can't remember if diagonal moves were allowed.
  • Once you'd moved, the orcs would all move one space straight towards you. If one of them reached you, game over.
  • If an orc moved into a tree, it died.
  • The object of each level was to move around, positioning yourself such that the orcs would move straight at you in such a way that they'd each run into a tree and die.
  • A level ended when either an orc captured you or the orcs all died.
  • If you finished a level, the game would continue with the next level being more complex, usually more orcs and fewer trees, possibly on a larger playing area.
  • Each level had a name. You started as a 'Hobbit'. If you finished the first level you became a 'Strider', I think. Finish the last one, maybe the tenth, and you retired as a 'Ranger Lord'. The others had names like 'Guide', 'Courser' and 'Tracker'.

The playing area looked something like this:

enter image description here

Obviously, H is you, the hobbit, each T is a tree and each O is an orc. It wasn't actually T and O for tree and orc, but I can't remember what characters were used.

  • 4
    That's a variant of a classic game, I think in the original they were Daleks rather than Orcs. If you don't get an answer here, you might want to delete the question and repost on Retrocomputing. FWIW, there's another variant here under the name "Exterminator". Apr 16, 2018 at 4:26
  • 1
    It might help in searching for this game to know that there's an entire genre of games that are similar to what you describe, and which are as a group called "roguelikes" (after "rogue" which was the first such game). There are some differences to what you're talking about and a typical roguelike (they usually have some kind of combat system with more options than leading enemies into traps, for example), but it's clearly similar enough that somebody might use the term to describe it.
    – Jules
    Apr 16, 2018 at 5:20
  • 6
    I've found an early version, just named "Chase", in a 1979 book, "More BASIC Computer Games". They're not Daleks after all, I guess that was just another variant. According to the book the very first version was by Mac Oglesby. Unfortunately I don't think any of this will help you find the particular variant you're looking for, but FYI. (Is it possible your friend took the original game and modified it himself to be Hobbit-themed?) Apr 16, 2018 at 7:04
  • 3
    @JeffZeitlin Without an actual screenshot (or a similar concrete piece of the game, such as an audio clip) it will be off topic at Arqade.
    – Laurel
    Apr 16, 2018 at 15:13
  • 3
    The gameplay is a variant on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robots_(computer_game) , but I don't know of a LotR-themed version of that game. Apr 16, 2018 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


not a Vic20, C64, Atari etc

In that case.. how about the Tandy Color Computer?

enter image description here

If you were a Hobbit, wandering through the woods on an important Hobbit errand, and suddenly found yourself surrounded by (shudder) dreaded orcs, what in middle-earth would you do?

Since you have in your possession the magical CoCo (a gift from Gandolf, perhaps?) you need only to strike the "N" key to be whisked to safety - at least for the moment. But you need to be careful, for stroking the "N-Amulet" only works once!

The object of this engaging game is for the "Hobbit" (the player) to escape from the orcs, which resemble a popular arcade-game character.

After typing RUN the player will be asked how many orcs he thinks he can escape from. Pick five this time and hit ENTER. The screen will then be cleared and five orcs, quite a few trees, and a pair of flashing eyes (that's the Hobbit) will appear. If you are in a bad position (surrounded by four orcs, or cornered) you may hit "N" and receive a new screen. As we said, you may only do this once, and after you have moved you cannot use this option at all. To eliminate the orcs, you must guide them into the trees. Orcs are not very intelligent!

Movement is like this:

1    2   3
  \  ^  /
   \ | /
4<---5---> 6
   / | \
  /  V  \
 7   8   9

For example: typing a "2" will move you one position up and a "9" will move you one position right and one down . A "5" cannot be typed twice in a row. Once you move by typing the appropriate number, the orcs will begin moving. This will continue until all the orcs are eliminated or you are caught!

The game includes a three-round scoring system which is self-explanatory.

The listing:

The scan above is from the January 1983 issue of The Rainbow.

While this certainly looks like a close match, I admit I have not tried to type the full BASIC listing into a Tandy emulator. BUT you can play the whole game online via the Internet Archive at this link!

At one point in the full listing, the text string "THEIR TURN" is output, suggesting that it is indeed turn-based as you recall.

However, there is one point where it definitely doesn't match your recollection:

Each level had a name. You started as a 'Hobbit'. If you finished the first level you became a 'Strider', I think. Finish the last one, maybe the tenth, and you retired as a 'Ranger Lord'. The others had names like 'Guide', 'Courser' and 'Tracker'.

There are no signs of these or any similar text strings in the program listing. Perhaps your friend modified it after typing it in? The article refers to a "three-round scoring system", which makes it sound like there were only three levels, although I admit it's a bit ambiguous.


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