KENZER & CO. DEBUT THE WORLD'S FIRST MONTY PYTHON HOME GAME!
by Hans ten Cate
Sunday, 22 September 1996

And now... the world's first real-life Monty Python game! It's a card game, you see. And we don't mean Three-Card Monty... uhm, Monte.

That's right! Be any one of your favorite characters from "Monty Python & The Holy Grail"! This game will have you taunting your opponents, yelling "Ni" at some of your best friends and relatives, singing with the Knights of the Round Table, and (if you're lucky) being eaten by the Legendary Black Beast of Arrrghhh!

This past July, Kenzer & Company, a game company in Palatine, Illinois, released Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The Collectible Card Game. The game is already a huge success, selling out at many game stores and distributors here in the United States. Meanwhile, Kenzer & Co. are making sure the game captures a steady following and are already working on new cards for the game.

A SEA OF CCG'S

So what is a Collectible/Customizable Card Game (or CCG), you say? Well, it's a card game, to be sure. But here, each opponent gets to play with his or her own unique deck of collectible cards (i.e. much like a deck of sports trading cards). In a CCG, each card has its own abilities or effects - and no two decks are necessarily the same. This makes the game quite unpredictable - and, of course, customizable to suit any player's strategy. Players can improve or change their card decks by buying new cards. Boy, we would have loved to have been the marketing geniuses behind that idea!

Over the past five years, CCGs have become an extremely popular form of gaming, particularly in the United States. "Magic: The Gathering"™ is perhaps the most well known and most popular card series. As of late, a large number of new collectible card games have entered the market. Many of them based on movies or television shows such as: "The X-Files," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Highlander," "The Crow," "Star Wars," and "Lord of the Rings." So "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is among the more recent films to be licensed for the purposes of a card game.

Readers already familiar with CCGs will no doubt recognize a good idea when they see one. Being able to "play" the "Holy Grail" film with your friends has been a popular idea for some time. "Holy Grail" trivia and "Holy Grail" drinking games are not unfamiliar rituals to college students. The myriad jokes, quotes, characters, and humorous situations in the film make it a sure win for gaming.

Currently, there are 314 different playing cards available in the "Holy Grail" series. As mentioned earlier, you cannot buy them as complete sets, it's a "collectible" card game after all. Players can buy them in Starter Decks (a box of 60 randomly packaged cards) and Booster Packs (15 cards each). Starter decks currently sell for $10.95 each and booster packs are $3.45 each.

THE BIRTH AND CREATION OF A GAME

So why a Monty Python card game? After the success of their first role playing game (Kingdoms of Kalamar™) the boys at Kenzer & Company set out to create a new and different type of board game. Based on a favorite movie perhaps. David Kenzer, President of Kenzer & Co., explained, "I think I went through my movie collection and started looking at them, and I was like, 'Holy cow, Monty Python! If we can't sell that to gamers, then we know we should just quit.'" Kenzer told The Daily Llama that he actually had three top picks for a possible game license: Star Wars, Middle Earth (from the J.R.R. Tolkien books), and Monty Python. Since two of the three had already been made into card games, Monty Python it was! The folks at Kenzer also quickly agreed that a card game would be more exciting.

Kenzer & Co. called up Roger Saunders (head of the Python (Monty) Pictures in London) in September 1995 to find out about licensing possibilities for a card game. Meanwhile, founders Brian Jelke, David Kenzer, Steve Johansson, Mark Schultz and Adam Niepomnik began collecting ideas for the cards. Certainly, Kenzer and colleagues must now be the best "Holy Grail" quote-ologists in the universe. The staff had to go through the entire film dozens of times to come up with card ideas. When capturing screen images from the film, Kenzer had to play and replay the same 10-second segments over and over until the pictures were just right. To top it all off, at several recent trade shows, they had the film playing in the background to attract visitors to the Kenzer display booth.

Kenzer & Co. used video captures taken from the Columbia laser disc version of the film and created additional artwork for the borders, icons, and card backs. The cards themselves were produced on several Macintosh computers with QuarkXpress & Adobe Photoshop and a lot of hard drive space. Although the film images themselves are a bit grainy (when compared to Cornerstone's 35-mm film transfers), the images are certainly fun to look at. "The more time I spend going through this movie and trapping pictures," Kenzer says, "the more funny stuff I find. There's gonna be cards that people look at and say, 'I don't know where that came from in the movie.'"

One in particular, Kenzer explained, involves the Knights of the Round Table's retreat from the taunting Frenchmen. "Lancelot says something like, 'The fiends, I'll tear them apart.' And Arthur's like, 'No, no, no,' and he holds him down. When you're watching the movie, you're always looking at Lancelot and Arthur because that's where the action is. But when trapping a shot for the game, I'm looking at the other people's faces to make sure they aren't blurry and stuff. In that particular scene, Brave Sir robin is hilarious. He's got his shield half up, he's hiding behind it, he's got this petrified look on his face. I was just cracking up. That stuff you just don't see when you're watching the movie because your eyes are attracted to the action. So we've got virtually an infinite number of cards we can come out with."

Kenzer & Co. signed a formal license agreement with the Python Office this past February. By then, the company had already created a fully playable game which they had been play-testing for some time. So an official debut was not far off. Only a few more cards had to be made. For a rundown on some of the funnier cards, see "Monty Python and the Holy Grail's Extremely Nasty Cards" in Daily Llama Issue 13. "The cool thing," Kenzer told us, "is that, when playing a game, you frequently wish you had a certain card that could do 'X.' But when you are actually making a game, you just create one!"

NOW GO AWAY OR I SHALL TAUNT YOU SECOND TIME-UH...

As mentioned earlier, Kenzer & Co. are already working on an expansion set, featuring new images and new gags. Included will be photos from previously unseen Grail scenes (such as the missing 23-second Castle Anthrax sequence). Kenzer told us that some of the new cards will feature Tim the Enchanter, the Black Knight, the Trojan Rabbit, more taunts, and more Questions Three cards. He also claims that there are shots of King Arthur actually stabbing Dennis the Constitutional Peasant. Honest! Kenzer & Co.'s previous experiences with laserdisc may prompt them to extract future images from a 35-mm print instead. In any case, the expansion set may be available as early as next March.

Until then, what are you waiting for? Go out and buy the game. Set up tournaments with your friends. Get your fellow students to play it between classes, for crying out loud. "We want people to be laughing out loud when they play this," said co-designer Brian Jelke. No doubt, they will...

Be sure and visit Kenzer & Company's world wide web site and their Official Monty Python & The Holy Grail CCG Home Page. They now have a handy list of Frequently Asked Questions to accompany the Rules of the Game. The game is also now available for purchase from PythOnline's shopping arcade.


Card design Copyright © 1996 Kenzer & Company, All Rights Reserved. Write Yer Own™ cards is a trademark of Kenzer & Company; Film images are copyright © 1996 The National Film Trustee Company Limited; Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a trademark of Python (Monty) Pictures, Limited.

Sources:

  • Andrew Kardon, "300-Card Monty," in Inquest, Issue Number 15, July 1996, pp. 50-53.
  • "Monty Python and the Holy Grail Players Guide," in Inquest, Issue Number 17, September 1996, pp. 138-142.