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Board Game Revival

July 31, 2011

Recently, to my delight, my daughter pulled out a hand-me-down Hi Ho Cherry-O game and played it on the kitchen floor while I made dinner.  I immediately recognized the box as it belonged to the must-have board game trilogy when I was a kid.  Back in my day, if you weren’t proficient in Hi Ho Cherry-O, Chutes and Ladders and Candyland, you would have been asked to repeat the first grade.

Sometime in the dead of last winter when I hadn’t left the house for five straight days and cabin fever had pried off the last finger of my grip on reality, something started really nagging at me.  Well, lots of things.  It started with an aluminum yogurt seal that sliced into the tip of my pinkie finger.  So as I searched for the consumer hotline for Stonyfield Dairy, I became sidetracked by the next bee in my bonnet.  My husband and I had just finished watching Seabiscuit for the twenty-fourth time and I loathed myself through every minute of it.  Indoor leisure time just ain’t what it used to be, I thought.   

Why are we not playing board games?”  I whined to my husband.  “Why don’t people play board games anymore?”  Outside of those under the age of nine, board games are dead.  Dead and pathetically tossed off their pedestal, gladiator-style, by Wii Tennis.  How degrading.  So right then and there, I declared aloud to my husband that I would launch a board game revival.  Yes, sir.  Just you wait.

To start off, I told him, I was going to invite over several of our friends, not disclose what we were going to do, and force them into a round of Trivial Pursuit.  All night long.  No one’s leaving until the end.  The legitimate end.  Which means, you can bet your life someone’s going to earn every damn pie piece.  Even Arts & Literature.  None of this “we’ll quit when we’ve had enough” business.  Then, when that night was over, I was going to do it all over again the following weekend.  This time with Pictionary.  Only, since the last guests would be on to me and no doubt avoiding my future dinner invitations, I’d have to invite another set of friends.  Then, the next time would be Clue.  And so on.  What if I run out of friends?  Rest assured, I won’t run out of board games.

"It all started with a harmless round of Parcheesi."

Yes, I know I’m likely the only person in America still geeked about board games.  Most people find them to be a giant yawn.  (Sure, you’re nodding to this while playing FarmVille.)  But at one time, people did play board games – yes, it was all the rage!  On the darker side, board games even contributed to the 1970s evolution of swinging.  I don’t know this for a fact, but I can definitely imagine a few couples sitting around in polyester, throwing back their gold-rimmed highball glasses, playing Parcheesi and wondering if they should really raise the stakes on the next round.  You know I’m right on that. 

Perhaps during no other time growing up did I feel more of a sense of family bonding than when we’d all sit around the ol’ card table for a lively game of Sorry.  Well, I think it happened at least once.  Maybe twice.  Okay, I know it happened one New Year’s Eve.  Raw meat in a fondue pot.  Aerosol cheese on Ritz crackers.  And a few board games at hand.  1985 never felt better.  I cannot wait to inflict this tradition on my children.  Of course I know they’re too young for this now.  Yes, I’ll definitely put this on hold until they’re older.  Like in high school.  When it becomes a total drag for them to stay home with Mom and Dad on the biggest party night of the year.  They’ll be on their way out the door and I’ll head ‘em off at the pass with the Tripoley box in my hands and a “gotcha” smile on my face.  I can hardly wait!

In order to do it right though, I’ll first have to make sure my kids learn to play all the staples from my childhood.  Here are my top ten favorites, in no particular order:

10.) Password – The innovation of a red cellophane window that allowed you to see scrambled words blew my mind!  Although, would it have been that hard, Milton Bradley, to have formatted this as 3-D glasses?  I promise, you would’ve made my entire year.

9.) Pictionary – Drawing skill is a plus here but a sixth sense gives you even more of an edge.  My husband once got “flying buttresses” after I drew a mere two lines.

8.) The Game of Life – Because how your life turns out is really just a roll of the dice, right?  Deep, huh.

7.) Sorry – I don’t enjoy playing this game with someone who doesn’t say it like they really mean it. 

6.) Monopoly – Eight-year-old-me did not like this game.  It soared way above my head.  But I loved getting to prance around the board with those adorable metal figurines.  So cute that they often disappeared from the box.  And reappeared soldered to my charm bracelet.  

5.) The Ungame – Nobody loses, true, but nobody wins either.  It offered open-ended questions for you to ponder and discuss.  I would bet money this game was invented by a shrink to trick teenagers into communicating with their parents.

4.) The Bride Game – The point was to beat your female opponents by getting down the aisle first.  Yep, I hear you loud and clear there, 1971.

3.) PayDay – I used to hoard the PayDay money under my mattress, knowing it would be the only time in my young life that I would possess a wad of cash like that.

2.) Uncle Wiggily – A round of this game often manifested into wicked nightmares, thanks to a terrifying bird named the Skeezicks

1.) Clue – What a great game for kids.  The bite-sized murder weapons were my favorite.  Thanks to Clue, my Pink & Pretty Barbie would pack heat to all her social engagements.  I would do anything to have the original game with the original set of creepy people photos.  Notably Mrs. White, Professor Plumb and Colonel Mustard.  Side note, wouldn’t Colonel Mustard be a rockin’ name for a band?  Or a car?  Or a parakeet?    

Honorable Mention (because they’re not really board games):

Operation – My biology teacher Mr. Sybrant had to deprogram me after I learned human anatomy from this game.  What, the Adam’s Apple isn’t actually an apple?  Get outta town.

Mouse Trap – did anyone even play this as a board game?  I much preferred to simply build the thing and snare the plastic mouse.  Why bother with the rest of that gobbledygook stuff.

Battleship – This game really hinges on your partner’s honesty.  My brother was either really lucky or a big fat liar or I had a really poor aim.

Hungry Hungry Hippos – Apparently, hippos eat marbles.  But let’s not stop there.  What about Tic-Tacs?  Contact lenses?  Frozen peas?  What’s all this crap lodged in the tray?

Care to admit your own favorite board games?  Share if you dare.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen permalink
    August 1, 2011 10:54 pm

    OMG! I LOVED Uncle Wiggly!!! It was my favorite for so long! Parcheesi was also a really big one of mine, but I’m not sure that it was more mine, than my mom’s. She loved playing it, so I loved playing it with her! I’m very proud to say that I still own the original with the dice cups!!! Loved Trouble (But only if it had the popper in the center!!!) Definitely loved Life! I had everything planned out! Sadly, I was a Trivial Pursuit loser and didn’t enjoy it much because I never got many pie pieces :( As a family, we always played Pokeno and Yahtzee. Nothing like teaching young children about gambling!!! I loved family game nights and still do. Now it’s sooo much fun to have adult game nights; definitely adds a totally different component to some of those games!

    We had so many games in our attic and when I started teaching the older children, I brought a lot of the games in for them to use. It is apparent that they don’t know the first thing to do with board games because of how poorly they treated everything! We learned how to take care of those cardboard boxes and how to make sure that all of the playing pieces and cards were accounted for. Sadly, most of those games have been rendered useless. They broke my heart when they destroyed those games!

    • August 2, 2011 8:37 am

      Yes, Uncle Wiggily is a classic! It’s sad when I hear people say they’d never heard of it. Do you remember the Trouble game commercial – “something-something trouble on the pop-o-matic bubble!” I think that was half the reason people played that game. The actual game was pretty dull. I never got into Yahtzee much but we did own it. And I used to hate Trivial Pursuit too until I grew a steal-trap mind that retains every random bit of useless information. Although, I have to say that there is a strategy to it. Always guess the least obvious answer on the multiple choice, and if it’s a president it will almost always be either Lincoln or Kennedy.

  2. Katie Adams permalink
    August 2, 2011 1:19 pm

    Another rule of thumb for Trivia Pursuit is that Wayne Gretzky will answer any hockey question and Glenn Miller for any “big band” one.

  3. Timoree permalink
    August 9, 2011 4:56 pm

    Where the heck is my invitation to game night? Chris and I have recently been playing a lot of Yahtzee. And FYI anyone is lucky to have me as a partner for Trivial Pursuit. I know I haven’t been storing up all of these random facts for nothing. So far, this is my second favorite blog, coming in only slightly ahead is the aptly titled Mayberry blog. Keep em coming!!

    • August 10, 2011 7:51 pm

      No, no game night yet. But I swear it’s gonna happen. If I pick teams, you’re on mine.

  4. October 22, 2011 9:39 pm

    Firstly, I am thoroughly enjoying reading your blog, and reminiscing about the good old days. You will be jealous to learn that I have in my possession, the original “Clue,” complete with creepy people and bite-sized weapons. Secondly, you can rest assured that there are more board game geeks out there than you think (I’m one of them). My childhood favorites were Mousetrap (building the contraption and catching the mouse), Pictionary, Clue, Life and Candyland. My adult favorites are Cranium, Bezzerwizzer (hard to find, but worth it), Pictionary, Taboo, Balderdash and Apples to Apples (does that one count if there’s no board?). Luckily, I have a whole slew of friends who also love board games, and I don’t even have to trick them into coming over!

    • October 23, 2011 9:38 am

      I’m quite jealous that you know a willing group of board game participants. And that you own all those top-notch board games. I’ve heard wonderful things about Bezzerwizzer, although I always thought people were talking about a German beer. (Or maybe that’s part of the reason the game is fun?)

      P.S. Thanks for reading! Stop by again anytime.

  5. May 3, 2012 5:42 pm

    So “Bride Wars” came from the Bride Game?

    • May 5, 2012 11:26 am

      I’ve yet to see that show. If those Bride Wars brides happen to be walking down the aisle in large floppy hats and polyester dresses, then yes.

  6. August 21, 2012 11:54 am

    Love your blog! We are opening a vintage board game bar in DC. Called, well… The Board Room. We will have vintage 80’s coin operated games too. Keep up the great work!

    • August 22, 2012 8:19 pm

      Thanks, Beth! I’m so unbelievably bummed that I don’t live near a vintage board game bar. I’d expect The Board Room to be the hottest thing ever. I would be there every weekend. Best of luck to you all!

  7. Megan permalink
    August 30, 2012 11:09 am

    Absolutely love this blog and this entry is fabulous! My parents have the original Clue with all those creepy faced cards. Colonel Mustard was probably my favorite of them all! (who could resist such a handsome man with a curly mustache and monocle?)
    I have often asked the same question concerning board games. There is definitely need for a revival! My faves growing up were “Go to the Head of the Class”, “Poochie Pretty as a Picture Game”, and “Millborne” (ok ok, it’s a card game, but that counts, right?).
    I’m making my way thru your archives! SO many similarities it’s a little scary but fun to remember them!

    • August 30, 2012 5:33 pm

      Poochie Pretty as a Picture Game? I’ve never heard of it, but I wish I had! I loved Poochie. I don’t remember much about her except her giant pink haired-head, her sunglasses, her collar and her accessories. What was she all about, anyway? She would’ve been nothing without her pink hair.

      Board games. Ah, board games. The approaching cold season seems to be the perfect time to stage a revival. Are you in?

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Megan.

      • Megan permalink
        August 30, 2012 9:38 pm

        I think Poochie was just a toy and they franchised it. I don’t remember much except for the pink hair and possibly some car driving? I found a little something on wiki about Poochie.

        I am totally in for a board game revival. Sadly, not much cold weather shut in days here in Southern CA. Just moved here from NC where it could have been possible. I might have to try anyways!
        My Gma loved playing Scrabble and, even though a 10 year old was no competition for her, I’m a pretty fierce Scrabble player in my adult life.
        Ah…board game revival! It shall happen!

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