#847 Old, classic board games

Musty fun

[digg=http://digg.com/arts_culture/13_Greatest_Old_School_Board_Games] Wedged tightly into dark corners in dusty attics are piles of old, worn out board games from years ago.

The corners of these old boxes are cracked and split open, the flashy prints on top long worn away, leaving only the dusty, corrugated bones behind. Pencils with broken leads, yellowed instructions, faded homemade scorecards, and assorted sub-ins for lost game pieces litter the box and make it look like that clattery kitchen drawer of assorted knick-knacks. Take a deep breath and you may sniff up a familiar musty scent that takes you way, way back.

For old time’s sake, let’s look fondly on thirteen of the greatest board games of all time:

hungry-hungry-hippo13. Hungry Hungry Hippos. This game was invented for all the kids who were shooed into the basement to calm down and go play a board game. That’s when us sugar-rushing rugrats caused havoc by pulling out Hungry Hungry Hippos and started smacking plastic hippo mouths at a hundred marbles flying in all directions. Just what mom had in mind.

mouse_trap12. Mouse Trap. This game taught us the meaning of the slow, tantric crescendo. That’s because the first 99% of the game was a boring, play-by-numbers hopscotch. But then it got to mousetrap time, and it was allllllll worth it.

connect-four11. Connect Four. Despite the quick set up time, easy rules, and fun gameplay, Connect Four always seemed suspiciously educational. And now, be honest — did you ever realize your kid sister was just about to deliver a four-in-a-row knockout punch and then release the trap on the bottom, spilling all the pieces on the table and denying them their big crowning moment? Hey, I’m not proud of it, either.

battleship10. Battleship. The best part of Battleship was those hard, plastic cases the game came in. It was like its own luggage set and it was hard not to feel important when you flipped one open and began fiddling with all the pieces inside. Kids, those are what we used to call laptops. Sure, no RAM, no hard drive, but check out the 3D graphics.

uno9. Uno. Now, Uno wasn’t really a board game, but whenever it was Board Game Time there was always that one whiny kid who begged everyone to play Uno instead. But no one would. That’s why it’s called Uno.

mastermind8. Mastermind. Was it just me or did that box cover look like an ad for exotic high-stakes infidelity? Either that or the people you final-round interview with to become a political assassin.

risk7. Risk. Turns out you can’t dominate the world in an hour. As a result, committing to a game of Risk was commiting to giving up your entire evening. Games could go until three, four, five in the morning, with the first person out at 9:00 pm sitting bored on the couch flipping channels for six hours. Too bad, man. Shouldn’t have challenged Siam.

candyland-board6. Candyland. This game required no reading, no writing, no strategy, and no decision-making at all. You just flipped over a card, looked at the color, and moved your piece to that color. That’s it, really. Candyland ranks high because it’s a gateway board game and gets people interested in the harder stuff.

trivial-pursuit-original5. Trivial Pursuit. The hardest stuff of all. I’m talking about the original, heavy box Genus Edition here. You know you’re playing that one when the questions are impossible and everybody feels like an idiot without any pie pieces. Props to the first person who proposes ditching the board and just asking questions.

game-of-life4. The Game of Life. If you can believe it, Milton Bradley himself created The Game of Life way back in 1861. Now, the game is more than a little preachy — I mean, if you don’t go to college, have lots of kids, and drive around in your station wagon buying insurance and suing for damages, then you probably won’t be able to end up a millionaire and buy that beautiful, white plastic mansion at the end. But there was something pretty cool about Life, too. There was the fact that you got to spin the big wheel on your turn, that every space had a little story to go with it, and that kids got to act grown up for an hour.

scrabble3. Scrabble. So apparently they’ve sold over 100 million copies of Scrabble in 29 languages. They sell dictionaries, they have tournaments, the factories are still pumping them out. Not bad for a handful of cheap wood tiles.

clue2. Clue. This dark and bloody board game about mansion murder was always a winner with happy-go-lucky kids on Saturday afternoon. Yes, Clue was a tense and quiet hour of private note-taking, raised eyebrows, and suspicious glances. A nice break from running around the backyard with untied shoelaces and runny noses, anyway.

monopoly1. Monopoly. There were some classic moments in most Monopoly games. First off, who’s going to be the banker? Either you have an excited kid around who wants to do it or somebody caves in and reluctantly does the job. Reluctant Bankers are no good, though. You’ll be reminding them to pay you $200 for passing GO the whole time. Next, what’s the rule with Free Parking? We going with the official rules where it means nothing, popping a big $500 in there, or doing something completely different? Also, every game has the late-inning game-changing trade at some point. It’s the three-way deal that gives the richest player all the railroads to seal everybody’s fate or the tired person who gives up at midnight and just trades away Boardwalk for $100 to meet the rent on Park Place. Whatever your Monopoly quirks, there’s no denying that it’s a classic.

Huddled around the kitchen table waiting on a long pause in Scrabble, sitting in a friend’s basement late at night waging merciless war in Risk, or gathering the family together for a classic Saturday night game of Monopoly, whatever your style — there’s just something about those old, classic board games. They bring us together for some laughs, some ups, some downs, and some plain old good times.


Incredible Candyland Photo Credit: Peggy Dembicer


Photos from: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here

192 thoughts on “#847 Old, classic board games

  1. Awesome Thing #847B: Skipping past the game part of Mouse Trap and just setting up the crazy contraption.

    And the family rule for Free Parking was every money that was lost via Chance or Taxes went into a pot which you got if you landed on Free Parking. Can really turn around the game near the end. Or the guy that already has all the blues and the railroads lands on it.

  2. I can’t tell you how often I pulled the Connect-Four thing on my dad. I couldn’t stand to let him win. but then again, hey, he did it to me just as many times.

  3. I actually played Monopoly for the first time in, oh, many a year the other day. Through ‘lucky’ rolls, several trips to jail and the greed of my fellow players, I somehow managed to not land on a single purchasable property, which left me with plenty of money, until the wheeling and dealing started and hotels started appearing. At this point I blew all my money on buying the Yellows, put some houses on them and then realised I had no money left and quit.

    I never was very good at the game…

  4. I had almost all of those games in your list…even Mastermind with it’s unusual box cover! :)

    I liked Battleship alot when I was a kid.

    Anyways, your writing style is very humorous…”But no one would. That’s why it’s called Uno.
    That was funny.

  5. Love this list. I just bought my 3 yo daughter Hungry Hungry Hippos and Candyland for Christmas and she loves them both. It also makes up for never having either of them as a kid myself.

    A couple you left out, but are still classics are Pictionary and Boggle. More recently, I’ve become a big fan of Scattergories and Cranium too.

    I love board games :)

    1. Go Pictionary! Nothing was as funny as watching my reserved Mom and her equally reserved sister almost pee their pants based on the funny sketches!

      And a new classic — What’s Yours Like? Check it out!

  6. Great list! This New Year’s Eve my entire group of friends came down with the flu…since we obviously weren’t going anywhere we pulled out Risk and began a 6 hour epic quest for world domination.

    Sounds lame but it was actually a great NYE, you know – except for the flu symptoms and the odd “our cease-fire treaty wasn’t up yet a**hole” argument.

  7. I have that big pile of games stashed on the shelf of a bedroom closet!!
    You are AWeSoMe!!! Love the blog!!

  8. Ha ha ha, Candyland is a “gateway board game”. That is so true.

    If you think “Life” is preachy, check out “What Shall I Be: The Exciting Career Game for Boys”. My family actually had this game. Basically, you collect cards for personality and education, which then determines your career path. Quit school after college, and your only choice is “Athlete”. Creepy 1950’s gender role stereotyping at it’s best/worst.

  9. As a personal testament to the greatness of Monopoly, even though my older sister would make up new rules and cheat whenever I was winning (unfortunately a frequent occurrence), I still loved playing anyway. There’s something about all that wheeling and dealing, that gets those endorphins going.

  10. Agreed about Mastermind. When I was a kid I thought it was an illicit boardgame for grown-ups only, and was disappointed to discover it is kind of straightforward and boring.

    Hungry, Hungry Hippos always devolved (evolved?) into a marble-artillery battle.

  11. The Mastermind commentary was PERFECT. I never understood that box either.

    I recently read an interview with the Monopoly World Champion. He (modestly) stated that an amateur Monopoly player would have as good a chance of beating him as that would in taking a tennis match off of Roger Federer.

    Really great list.

  12. I want to register my grave disappointment that “Operation” was not listed. In my opinion, it is an absolutely classic game.

  13. Canyland turned out to be very surprising to me. My, at the time, 3 years old and I were playing. He kept on moving to wrong place, so I figured that either he was stupid or colorblind. It turned out he is colorblind. Might not have figured it out without Candyland.

    1. I thought I was the only one who loved that game! I love it even more than Clue, for you know who he is, but not what he does. Every turn is strategic planning looking to where he went and with what and how to trap him. Great game.

  14. Allow me to bring up a couple more greats that come to mind.

    Fireball island

    Love them

  15. Candyland is not a game. By your own description, there are no decisions involved.

    Half of these games are exercises in pain. Awful stuff. Monopoly #1? Popularity != Quality.

    You need to go visit BoardGameGeek.com, stat!

  16. Uno is a card game. No board or playing area whatsover. Fail.

    I would subsitute Sorry!, Trouble, and possible Operation for some of those on the list (still debating if Operation is a board game or ‘table’ game, lol)

  17. I also wanted to reiterate that Candy Land is not a game. There are no players, just observers that follow a pre-determined result that is generated by pseudorandom shuffling.

    Decision making is actually a necessary prerequisite for something to be a game. Without that, its a toy or activity, but involves no game play.

  18. Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.

  19. Ohhh, sorry. The correct entry for today was “Lost.” You need to start involving current events. Halloween day’s entry should be Halloween, Christmas’ Christmas, and Lost Premier Day should have been Lost.

    However, I have to agree with Monopoly being #1. My favorite is personally Cranium, but if we’re talking old-timers, you don’t beat Monopoly.

    And I always loved to be the banker.

  20. Mike Dover – You’re totally right! How incredibly embarrassing. I need to keep my internet reading straight… I can’t believe I tried to pass off something I stole from another comment on this site as “independent research”… Too funny.

    Who knew that 1000 awesome things comments could be so recursive and self-referential.

  21. I hate Monopoly. I remember gazing wistfully at Ren & Stimpy on mute, while my mom screamed “SAMMY IT’S YOUR TURN.” Being the youngest I also never got to be the Banker. It’s something I still battle every day.

  22. Yeah. There is something definitely about board games, that are just plain fun. I had many great memories playing board games, it’s been forever though really. People around me have kinda lost it. That’s all im gunna say… :)

  23. Stratego was a glaring omission…but all of those games bring back happy (or irritating) memories.

    I’d have put Dungeon! on the list though…

  24. If you want to try something new in board games, I highly recommend “Settlers of Catan.” It’s from Germany and it’s fantastic. I’ve spent a lot of really great hours playing this game with my friends and it beats the pants off of any of the games above. Gamble $25 and give it a try.

Comments are closed.