Berserker Works Limited (BWL)
(note: if anyone has played any of these games, or has any further info not listed here, please contact me)

(this is a screen shot from Wings Out of Shadow)

Overview & List of Games (from Fred's website)

Fifth Historian's Account

The New Media Reader

The Story of Berserker Works by Alex Ross (for the Games That Weren't website)


Overview & List of Games (from Fred's website)

From 1982 to 1989 Fred and Joan Saberhagen designed, implemented, and distributed computer games. Our goal was to bring interactive fiction to the computer. Fred's characters and stories were are basic material. When we were forced to close our doors, three very interesting projects were still in the works, unfortunately never to be completed: an implementation of Fred's SWORDS books; an adaptation of Stephen R. Donaldson's short story ANIMAL LOVER; and a adaption of AFTERMATH/NUKE RAT based on a Gordon Dickson short story.

Initial backing for the enterprise came from Baen Books. The games were designed for home computers popular at the time, i.e. Apple II series 48k, Macintosh 512k, Commodore 64, Atari 400/800, IBM-PC, IBM-PC jr.

Berserker Works' main programming team consisted of Scott Walker, Dennis and Mary Martinez, Lloyd Johnson, Tim Villanueva, and Eddie Johnson. One sequence in WINGS OUT OF SHADOW was implemented by Eddie Goldberger.

The games are now collectors items. Or so we can hope.

So, for all you history of computers buffs, here's a list of all seven products designed and/or distributed by BERSERKER WORKS LTD.

  • WINGS OUT OF SHADOW. Based on a short story by Fred Saberhagen. Featuring strategy, tactics, adventure and arcade action.
  • BERSERKER RAIDS. Fred Saberhagen and Lloyd Johnson. The struggle for control of a ten-star cluster between the remorseless Berserkers and two human forces.
  • SIGN OF THE WOLF. An illustrated Berserker story. A non-interactive art gallery disc that combines a story with 32 breath-taking illustrations. Flip through pages, set a bookmark, or view your favorite scenes on demand. Certainly, one of the first attempts at electronic fiction.
  • PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Designed by Jon Walter Williams. A Regency Romance of the Jane Austen era. Attend balls, hunts, and house parties. Spread gossip! Win the affections of a wealthy bachelor!! One to six players.
  • WIZARD WAR. Designed by Lloyd Johnson. Included a specially written story by Fred Saberhagen. Strategy, battles, and magic.
  • STAR BALL. Designed and implemented by Dale Koehler. A 3-D racquetball action game. Only production and distribution provided by Berserker Works.
  • ELECTRIC DRAGON. Programmed by Stephen Walton. An interactive Version of the I CHING is the authorized electronic implementation of THE I CHING or BOOK OF CHANGES. Only production and distribution provided by Berserker Works.

For more words from Fred on BWL, read the outstanding interview by Ken Rand.

Fifth Historian's Account

Back in the days when a computer game could be made without a team of hundreds and for prices not exceeding a million dollars, Fred and Joan Saberhagen had their own computer game company: Berserker Works Ltd. (see below for a description from Fred's site and a list of games) Several of the games they made, with the help of artists and programmers, were based on the Berserker series. Fred and Joan told me that they had fun working withthe bright programmers they had on their team. They said they used to think of an idea for something to put in a game, and the programmers would say it was impossible to implement, but Fred & Joan could see mental wheels start to turn, and sure enough, the programmers would come back the next day with something like, "Okay, MAYBE we could do it if..."

Those were pioneering days of computer gaming. I've personally played the three Berserker-themed games (well one of them's not really a game), and even with the comparatively limited technology of that time, they brought the Berserker fiction to life. The Wings Out of Shadow game in particular fused literature and interactive, multi-genre gameplay in a way not found at all in mainstream computer games today. It was even non-linear.

Sign of the Wolf is available in its entirety on Fred's site, so don't miss it! This was an early (then experimental) example of an electronic storybook. Though it wasn't interactive, it was innovative in its use of traditional literature in a new media.

The New Media Reader

Although most computer games today have not continued in the veins of some of the BWL games, an interest in interactive fiction has persisted. And thanks to this the Wings Out of Shadow game is now once again available for purchase and play, in an emulated format along with other historic software on a companion CD to the book, The New Media Reader.

The New Media Reader is edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort and available from the MIT Press (as well as Amazon). The following is a description from the official New Media Reader website:

The new media field has been developing for more than 50 years. This reader collects the texts, videos, and computer programs—many of them now almost impossible to find—that chronicle the history and form the foundation of this still-emerging field. General introductions by Janet H. Murray (author of Hamlet on the Holodeck) and Lev Manovich (author of The Language of New Media), along with short introductions to each of the selections, place the works in their historical context and explain their significance.

Your very own 5th Historian worked long and hard along with Joan Saberhagen, editor Nick Montfort, and Apple II guru Tony Diaz to bring Wings Out of Shadow back from the digital dust, and we succeeded! You can now once again own and play this historic and FUN computer game, which immerses you in the Berserker story of the same name! Not to mention the fascinating rest of the collection/book.

The Story of Berserker Works

Alex Ross has done a brilliant and detailed article for the Games That Weren't website, entitled: The Story of ‘Berserker Works.’


BWL Gallery
(click thumbnail for larger image)

Packaging for Berserker Raids

Packaging for Wings Out of Shadow

Packaging for Wizard War

Packaging for Sign of the Wolf

A flyer for BWL games!

Screenshot from Wings Out of Shadow, Title Screen

Screenshot from Wings Out of Shadow, Fighting the dragon at the pulpit

Screenshot from Berserker Raids, Intro Screen (Commodore 64 version)

Screenshot from Berserker Raids, Title Screen (Commodore 64 version)

I saw the rest of the game before and recall it being much less graphic intensive than Wings, but I've had trouble getting screenshots of the main game.

Don't miss SIGN OF THE WOLF. The whole illustrated story can be found on Fred's website.

Berserker Boardgame by Flying Buffalo Inc. (FBI)

Game description from FBI's website and back of box:
Man against machine in a race for survival! This board game for two players is a tactical space conflict game based on the novels & stories by renowned SF and fantasy author Fred Saberhagen. The fearsome robotic dreadnoughts from deep space race toward Earth in their attempt to destroy the birthplace of mankind. Fighting against extinction is a hastily gathered force of much smaller human ships. Cruisers and C-plus guns batter the Berserkers from afar, while Earth's only hope - the ram ships - swarm like killer bees. Inside the ram ships huddle the marines who must board the Berserker and destroy it from within ...

Berserker is an easy and thrilling game of the human struggle for survival against the Berserkers. Optional rules cover Earth Shadow, Veterans, Prisoners, and a lengthy campaign game.

Game credits:
Designed by Fred Saberhagen and Richard Loomis
Developed by Ugly John Carver and Michael A. Stackpole
Produced by Flying Buffalo Inc. (product #6101)

More info
It appears that this game is still available for $6.95 from Flying Buffalo via their website. It can also frequently be found on eBay.

This game apparently debuted in 1982, with some corrections and additions to the rules dated 1991.

I have not played this game personally, but it does look like it would be a fun entry-level strategy/tactical game. The basic rules are straighforward but there appear to be enough options to allow versatile gameplay. If anyone would like to contribute a review or any memories about the game, please email me.

The game has an entry at Board Game Geek here. There's a small amount of additional info there. One member there comments that: "This game was lampooned in a Murphy's Rules cartoon something like this: 'This game represents a battle between a killing machine the size of Earth's moon, and about a dozen of Earth astronauts (the two sides are roughly equal in firepower).'"
Well, there were a few more than a dozen. And let's not forget about Johann Karlsen.. =)

Board Game Gallery
(click thumbnail for larger image)
Note: all of this artwork is copyright Flying Buffalo Inc.(FBI) and is reproduced here with express permission of FBI President, Rick Loomis.

Box Cover

Art by Michael Carroll

Berserker Dreadnought Counters

Art by Denis Loubet

A bit of the strategic display/map

Various Counters, unpunched (Note: these counters are all the same size in real life; the images just ended up being at different resolutions)

Starweb by Flying Buffalo Inc. (FBI)

This is a popular play-by-mail game which features the Berserkers as one of the characters which players can choose. Each player mails in his/her orders for one turn of gameplay, then receives the results of everyone's actions and has two weeks (or one month in the slow version) to make his/her next move.

Game description from FBI website and Starweb rulebook:
Starweb is a game of 15 stellar empires clashing over 255 worlds. Everyone starts out equally, each with one homeworld. The object of the game is to be the first to get approximately 10,000 victory points. When you sign up for a game, you get to pick one of 6 different "character types", each of which gets victory points for different things.

  • The Empire Builder - You are driven to conquer. Victory can be yours only by crushing those who oppose your iron-fisted rule. Strike fast, strike hard, for a swift victory is a sure one.
  • The Pirate - Plunder is your game. Your maruading fleets of brigands and blackguards sweep through the far reaches of space, capturing ships, sacking worlds, and cutting a wide swath of terror through the ship lanes.
  • The Merchant - You come from a long line of galactic traders, ferrying goods and products between the stars. Greed overcomes your fear of the unknown ... you will travel far and wide for your customers, because your only real motive is personal gain.
  • The Artifact Collector - You are drawn by the unique, rare and exotic; the most extraordinary objects in the universe are the strange and indestructible artifacts left behind by a lost race. You want them all for your very own...
  • The Berserker - You are a malevolent robotic intelligence whose prime directive is the utter destruction of life. Robot warriors, launched from orbiting fleets, lay waste to all who stand before them, while entire worlds are doomed in the blast from a single planet buster bomb!
  • The Apostle - You are a fanatic - religious or political - and you are convinced that the galaxy should and must be converted to your point of view.

    More info on Starweb, including the rules and how to sign up to play, can be found here.


Fred Saberhagen wrote a novel, Octagon, about players in a Starweb game getting more than they bargained for. Some start turning up dead, and one mysterious player may be behind it all.

This one sounds like great fun, but I've yet to get my hands on it so can give no review. More info can be found on Fred's site here.

(click thumbnail for larger image)
Note: all of this artwork is copyright Flying Buffalo Inc.(FBI) and is reproduced here with express permission of FBI Pesident, Rick Loomis.

Rulebook Cover

Art by Michael Carroll

Berserker Illustration

Art by Elizabeth Danforth