Let the Wookiee Win: The Story of Dejarik
Posted on May 09 2016
The scene aboard the Millennium Falcon when Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO are playing a game with small holographic creatures has certainly become a fan favorite. Han Solo’s remark about why the droids should allow the Wookiee to win and C-3PO’s logic “Let the Wookiee win” are classic moments. A similar looking holographic game was named dejarik in “Galladinium’s Fantastic Technology,” a 1995 roleplaying game supplement from West End Games, and it was soon adopted as the name for the Falcon‘s game. In this article, we’ll learn about the game’s history and about its holographic pieces.
Long before the game had a name, George Lucas was in the process of completing the first Star Wars movie when Phil Tippett and Jon Berg showed him some crazy little sculptures meant as designs for cantina residents. Although they weren’t used for the cantina, Lucas liked them so much he called in Tippett and Berg’s crazy creatures for another scene in the movie: the “chess scene” aboard the Falcon. Originally Lucas had planned to use little people in costumes on a giant chessboard, but the movie Futureworld (1976) already featured a similar scene and effect, thus a new solution had to be found to complete the scene. While Grant McCune created the chessboard, Tippett and Berg adjusted the sculptures they’d designed. Lucas asked that the figures be about six inches tall and when Tippett and Berg shot the stop-motion sequences of the creatures, Lucas was present, as well. The voices of the creatures were provided by sound designer Ben Burtt himself.
Because the scene was so well received, the game would continue to pop-up regularly in comic books and novels, and all the creatures received a proper species in Decipher’s Customizable Card Game. Dejarik was later featured in a couple of episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, which shows that the game was well known and that it was played in the galaxy by a lot of people in different eras.
And when it came time to continue the Star Wars saga, Phil Tippett received a call from Kathleen Kennedy, who asked him to reproduce the sequence from A New Hope for The Force Awakens. Tippett and his team discovered that the original creatures had deteriorated into a horrible condition. Four creatures had been given to George Lucas on a plaque that stood in his office. The rubber of the sculptures had disintegrated and therefore new models had to be scanned, 3D printed, and recreated with the newest materials. They were once again brought to life by stop-motion, like they had been in March 1977. When Finn accidentally activates the game aboard the Falcon, it seems to begin right where it had stopped almost 40 years ago on that fateful journey from Tatooine to Alderaan.
The strategic dejarik game was so old that its origins were still unknown to scholars. The exact rules of dejarik have never been officially published, but the tactical game consisted of eight mythological and or existing creatures that had to confront each other on a holographic game table. Each holomonster had its own strengths that it would try to use when confronting the other creatures on the board. One of the known tactical moves was called the Kintan Strider death gambit.
Ghhhk: This was a four-legged green animal that hailed from the planet Bith (also known as Clak’dor VII). The oil from their skin was used as a healing salve. Male ghhhk usually woke up at sunrise to start their mating call.
Grimtaash: Was a creature from Alderaanian mythology. This blueish creature with a trunk represented the Molator guardian. On Alderaan the Grimtaash’s spirit protected royalty from corruption and betrayal.
Houjix: This blue animal with four legs and a spiked tail hailed from the Gran world of Kinyen. They looked ferocious, but houjix were often kept as pets or guardians and they could be quite gentle.
Kintan Strider: This semi-sentient being from Kintan was able to use simple weapons, such as clubs and maces. They had long arms and nearly went extinct on Kintan. Luckily, the creatures were exported and bred on other worlds, as well. The Kintan Strider lost to a Mantellian Savrip in Chewie’s game against the droids, but nearly 40 years later, it finally got its revenge and smacked the Savrip with its stone club.
K’lor’slug: This creature originally hailed from the swamps of Noe’ha’on, but it lived on many other planets after having slipped aboard one of the vessels that visited its planet. The k’lor’slug was a dangerous and poisonous hunter and it was often considered a symbol of gluttony and decay.
Mantellian Savrip: The Savrip was the only sentient being in the dejarik game, though many people still considered it to be nothing more than a simple creature. These hulking reptilians wore simple clothes and they were often hunted down on their home planet Ord Mantell. R2-D2’s Savrip beat Chewie’s Kintan strider, but the strider eventually recovered and managed to defeat the Savrip.
Monnok: This was another semi-sentient that used primitive weapons such as spears and staffs. The monnok was respected on its home world of Socorro for its hunting qualities. Smugglers regarded the monnok as an omen for a difficult, but rewarding journey.
Ng’ok: This dangerous ill-tempered creature with retractable, razor-sharp claws was used in many systems for protection. Ng’ok warbeasts smelled pretty bad.
While the table from the Millennium Falcon was issued with a lot of the larger Falcon toys, the amount of merchandising from the dejarik creatures remains limited. The Decipher cards gave the creatures first got their names and can still be tracked down. In 2000, Hasbro released the 3.75” figure “Chewbacca (Dejarik Champion).” This was an immobile action figure of Chewie sitting triumphantly next to the holographic table that features four mini-creatures based on the piece that was kept by George Lucas. The same creatures were used for Hasbro’s big Millennium Falcon in 2008, which featured the creatures on a light-up table.
In 2007, Sideshow Collectibles released the Dejarik Holochess Set (Expansion Pack) with the table and the eight creatures in a non-holographic appearance on scale with their 12-inch figures. Wizards of the Coast released beautiful individual miniatures of all dejarik creatures in their last set of RPG miniatures (Masters of the Force, 2010). Recently, Topps has included the dejarik holomonsters in their card trader app.
Sources: Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know (2015), Decipher CCG, The Making of Star Wars (2007), The Millennium Falcon’s Owner’s Workshop Manual (2011).
Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) is president and co founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars fanclub. He has contributed to Star Wars Insider, to the Build the Millennium Falcon magazine, and has created character names and back stories for What’s the Story? and Rogues Gallery.