Actually, I think it was around 1998. (Checks Google) Nope, had to be about January 2000. Episode I came out in May of 1999, and while shopping an after Christmas sale at my local Target, I saw this on clearance for seven dollars:
Most importantly, it came with this one plastic figure. About 35-40mm tall, close enough to my Warzone 28mm for a horrible groaner of a joke:
I bought it and later that afternoon presented it to my then seven year old daughter, who expressed little interest, but was polite enough to try to play the game with me. Moments into actual game play, with all the brutal honesty children of that age are loved for, she said to me, "Daddy, this game is stupid. Jar Jar Binks is stupid and I don't like him. Can I have some chocolate milk?"
These words filled me with joy and inspiration, and I immediately said, "you're right, this game is just junk, let's make some chocolate milk", and I made glasses for each of us that we drank while ceremoniously throwing the game into the trash can outside. Everything except that orange plastic symbol of everything wrong with George Lucas' decision to prioritize merchandise sales above making a great movie. That went to the Mountain of Lead in preparation for what was to come.
Fast forward to Dragon Con 2000, the last one I attended. Chris (Valpurgius) Seebacher and I were hosting our third Warzone demo and tournament; the 'gang' had grown to the point where we had ten tables in continuous use, only two were for demos. That JarJar figure had been painted and made cameo appearances in nearly every photo of tournaments and demos as everybody passed it to each other. After the third and last round of the tournament, we presented swag as prizes at our "#1" table, which had been cleared of most of the terrain while Jar Jar stood alone in the center of the battlefield. After the prizes were awarded we asked the group, "now, anybody who wants to can grab one squad and one individual to try and kill Jar Jar Binks".
I had figured this would get a few laughs and smart comments and that maybe two or three people would want to get in a quick pickup game. The reaction was intense as some people actually ran to retrieve their miniatures before the table filled completely. We ended up with 11 or 12 players crowding each other as they placed their units on the edge of a 4'X4' battlefield, and the smack talk was loud and proud. Initiatives were rolled and the order of play sorted out; when I announced that JarJar would be taking his actions fourth in the order, the table went silent as every pair of eyes locked on me with the realization that killing JarJar was not going to be all that easy.
Units surged forward under command of the first three players and then I leaned in, rolled a d12 and scatter dice and read the results from my chart. "Jar Jar runs from the advancing troops into a unit of battle droids, becomes tangled with one and it's blaster begins firing randomly", and measured Jar Jar's random movement, rolled the scatter dice again and placed a blast template which caught two figures and told the controlling player to make an armor save. Evil grins developed on every player and the rest of the turn involved movement that was much more tactical than the first players, and then it was Chris Seebacher's turn.
I have to take an aside here to properly describe Chris Seebacher. The guy is frighteningly intelligent, has a photographic memory and is a brilliant tactician, whether you're programming a computer, role-playing or fighting a battle, but the really scary part about Chris is his positively evil sense of humor. I served five years in a Long Range Surveillance Company with Chris and wasn't the first person to call him by his well-earned nickname, "Blue Falcon".
Seebacher examined the tactical situation for only an instant before announcing, "I'm firing at Aimee's squad", and rolling to hit his neighbor's unit.
Shouts of, "oh, it's ON!" erupted from the group and for several game terms, everybody prioritized eliminating their competition over the actual game objective. Eventually, the players, with only a tiny bit of assistance from JarJar, killed each other until there were only two players left, with only a few miniatures each, but every single player stayed, commented and cheered as if they were watching the Superbowl. I don't remember who won, because I believe to this day that everybody walked away from the table, "winning", and the entire group went for pizzas in a cloud of nonstop laughter.
Here's some previews of my "new and improved" game of killing Jar Jar Binks.