Geekblogger Stuart Burnham posted some pictures from a book of old board games he came across at a “car boot sale” (silly Brits) this past weekend and while I don’t have anything nearly as exciting to share, it did make me think about some of my favorite board games growing up.
Gal’s Top 10 Tabletop Games of Her Youth (in no particular order):
1. Fraggle Rock (1984)
Fraggle Rock was one of my favorite shows ever, so of course a game where I got to play a Fraggle was going to appeal to me. I don’t have many memories of actually playing the game, but I know I played it a lot when I was very little. Just looking at that gameboard (which is beautifully illustrated, btw!) brings back happy fuzzy feelings. And also feelings of anxiety. I am completely shocked to realized that I was an anxious child. (JK! I’m not shocked at all.)
2. Uncle Wiggily (1916)
Another one I loved to play a lot of when I Was little, but I can’t for the life of me figure out which edition we had. All of the pictures on BGG look vaguely familiar but none of them feel quite right. I’m sure we owned this because it’s something my parents had growing up (and I’m also sure we didn’t have the copy they grew up with; it was probably something they found at a garage sale). I remember plastic pawns, maybe rabbit-shaped, and that’s about it.
3. HeroQuest (1989)
I freaking loved this game. In high school, I knew about D&D and other roleplaying games like Vampire: The Masquerade, and I desperately wanted to play them. But none of the friends I actually did things with had any interest in playing, and it didn’t occur to me to try to befriend any of the boys who did. So this was the closest I could get. Mostly I played with my mother and brother, or with my best friend J. When she and I played, she would play all four of the heroes and I would be the Dungeon Master. She would give personalities to all the characters: the warrior was dumb and would frequently attack walls; the elf and the wizard (which were named after her and her crush) were in a secret, passionate relationship and would make out behind the fireplace. I think the dwarf was also named after her, because she was short.
One night, my parents were out of town, and I decided it would be a great idea to play by candlelight. I put a spooky Halloween sound effects tape into the tape deck in the living room, and J. and I set up a card table in the kitchen. A strange choice of location, but I suppose so we’d have some sturdy surfaces to place candles nearby (like on the breakfast bar). Problem with the 90’s, of course, is that tapes didn’t automatically start over. You had to get up to turn them over. And occasionally the cassette got jammed in the old tape deck and the tape got tangled in the mechanism. As I was trying to fix it, J. bumped the table, knocking over one of the candles we had placed on the card table.
My parents, of course, chose that exact moment to come home, and found the two of us scraping candle wax off the linoleum with butter knives. I don’t remember if I got in trouble, but I do remember it being very stressful and a good lesson to never put burning candles on unsturdy surfaces like card tables.
A number of years ago, my mother found a copy at a yard sale and picked it up for me. I played a few sessions with other friends who had grown up with it, but it was never quite as much fun as when we were growing up. I even started painting the minis (and got distracted because man, that’s a lot of minis to paint when you have more hobbies than attention span!)
However, when I moved away to California, I gave my copy to one of said friends on indefinite loan, and he has been playing with his five year-old son. I have gotten reports that they’ve been enjoying it a lot, and the birthday card they sent me has a picture of an orc his son drew.
4. Electronic Mall Madness (1989)
(I’m not sure why all the images of this are in German…)
This one was fun because set up was a little more complicated than simply unfolding a game board. You had to actually build the second floor of the mall. Also you had plastic credit cards and a robotic lady voice who would say entertaining things like, “Uh oh Red, you left your lights on. Go To The Parking Lot.” Or, “There is a Sale in the. Chitchen. Shop.” I still maintain that this was a pretty good game. My adult gaming group in MA always intended to have a girly sleepover (the men included) where we played this, and Girl Talk (which we’d all always wanted to play) and maybe even Pretty Pretty Princess (another one I always wanted, but never got). Never happened, but one day!
5. Skip Bo (1967)
This wasn’t really a favorite so much as a game my mother made me play with her. My favorite memories of the game were when my aunt visited from Utah and we’d play with her and my grandmother (“Nannie”). This is probably a large part of how I learned to love gaming. Nannie loved to play games. I’m sure we played other games (Phase 10, probably Rook) but this is the only one I specifically remember, and I remember how happy it made everyone (except for me because I was terrible at it and hated losing). There were always many shrieks and shouts of dismay around the table.
6. Cribbage (1630)
For as long as I can remember, Cribbage and Backgammon are the two games that my parents would take out on camping trips and play as us kids were going to sleep. I never really fell in love with Backgammon, although I really wanted to like it – I loved the little folding suitcase-like box it came in with its cream and brown plastic disks and strange dice and dice cups. Every time I see a copy like that I’m tempted to buy it until I remember that I don’t actually like Backgammon. Cribbage, though, is a game that will always remind me of my father and I try to play with him whenever I visit home. But I’ll save all the things I like about Cribbage for another post.
7. Egyptian Ratscrew (1975)
In eighth grade, my math teacher suggested that I might enjoy joining the Math Team. I did, in fact. Very much. And this game was a math team favorite. That silly math team is probably the reason that I had any semblance of fun in high school at all, and this game (along with Asshole, which we called “scum” when the teacher was within earshot) was the primary way I bonded with my other teammates. I mean, what’s not to like about a card game where you’re never quite “out”, and violence is almost always the answer?
I still teach this every now and then as a game that’s relatively easy for non-gamers to pick up. I taught a group at my friend’s speakeasy-themed New Year’s Eve party this past year and the game ended when one of the women’s manicures drew (my) blood. I remembered to tell the women to take off their rings, but didn’t even give a thought to their claws….
(The game “Slamwich” is a version of this reinvented for children. The bread-shaped cards and lunchbox tin carrying case are cute, but I’d rather just stick with a regular deck of cards.)
8. Steal the Pack (on BGG as “Stealing Bundles”)
A game my mom grew up playing and taught it to us kids. Was never my favorite game to play, but I liked it because it was one that I never found in any books of games, and thus it felt like a bit of a family secret.
9. Taboo (1989)
Let’s be honest, this is a great game but the best part is being the person who gets to push the really annoying buzzer when the person next to you says a word on their card. I was dismayed to find out that new copies come with a squeaker instead. A squeaker?? You might as well never play this again because the buzzer is where it’s at.
10. Mouse Trap (1963)
Mouse Trap was my first experience with a Rube Goldberg machine. Who doesn’t love those things? It was always super frustrating when the mousetrap malfunctioned though.
There are a lot more games I could have added to this list: Clue, Connect Four (which I now hate), Battleship, Mastermind, Othello, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland. But I had to stop somewhere. What are your favorite gaming memories from your childhood?