Hercules Workshop

Featured Vintage Software: Othello (1980) (Atari)


Programming Language : 6507 ASSEMBLER
Released On (Media): Cartridge (4KB)

Released by ATARI, INC. Consumer Division in 1980 for the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), also known as the 2600.


This is the third part in our series on classic board games that made the transition or were ported to early home computers.

Othello, sometimes referred to as Reversi is a strategy board game that takes minutes to learn how to play but much longer to master. This is one of those games that I wish I could play, every now and then I pull it out and try again but I'm a terminally bad Othello player. The object of the game is very simple, to have the majority of your coloured disks on the board at the end of the game.

Original Program Instructions
Downloadable (PDF)


The game always begins with the Black and White player each placing two disks in the center of the board as shown in Figure 1.

The object of the game is to capture more squares on the board than your opponent. To capture a square(s) you must outflank your opponent's disk(s). To outflank means to place a disk on the board so that your opponents row (or rows) of disks is bordered on each side by a disk of your colour. A row maybe made up of one or more disks,

Figure:1 - Atari Othello
Game Board - Initial Setup

Below is an example of how outflanking works. Figure 1 shows the White player with two White disks on either side of a Black disk. Figure 2 shows that the Black disk has been "flipped" and is now a White disk. You score one point for each disk you flip and your opponent looses one point for each disk they loose.

Figure:2 - Atari Othello
White Disks Outflank the Black Disk

Figure:3 - Atari Othello
White Flips Outflanked Black Disk

You can outflank your opponent in diagonal, horizontal or vertical directions. You're also able to outflank in more than one direction at a time. So that's the basic game play, pretty simple and straight forward but mastering the game will take more time.

If you have no moves you can make to outflank your opponent, you will loose your turn and the cursor will change to your opponent's colour. If neither player can make a move then the game ends.


To my great shame I can't be of much help with strategy for this game as I'm probably even a much worse Othello player than I am a Chess player. I know that the corner squares are very important to control as they can't be outflanked. The squares on the outside edge of the board are also important as they can only be outflanked in one direction. Other than that you're on your own.


This switch is used to select the Game Skill Level (1-3) computer vs. human player. Game Skill Level (4) is human vs. human. The game skill level number will appear at the upper left corner of the screen.

GAME RESET switch:
Use this switch to start the game or to reset a game that is in progress. If you press the GAME RESET switch when the game number is displayed on the screen, it will disappear and display the player's scores.

This will put the game into a setup mode where either player can position disks on the grid. This is used to setup specific game play situations. To do this move the cursor to the desired square and press the FIRE button to alternate between WHITE, BLACK and GREEN (blank).

Normal game play.

Black player moves first

White player moves first


If you own an actual Atari 2600 Video Computer System or a Coleco Gemini then you can pickup a game cartridge cheap online somewhere like eBay. If you don't you can also try something like one of the new Atari Flashback consoles, these come preloaded with many different games.

Alternatively you could use a software emulator such as Stella, it's a popular multi-platform Atari 2600 VCS emulator available for many different operating systems. We've made the Video Checkers binary file available for download that you can use with Stella. You can also follow this hyper-link Stella Multi-Platform Atari 2600 VCS Emulator to download the Stella program for your specific O/S. Please note this is an external link to the developers website and not hosted by us.

Download Atari Othello
(4KB) BIN File