I was very into board games when I was little. That tends to happen when you suck at sports, aren’t allowed to watch TV after school and are so bossy that your friends refuse to play make-believe because you always get to be the princess (hey, it was my house, right?!). Board games were pretty much all I had left. And boy did we have a lot of them. There were, of course, the classics (Hungry Hungry Hippos, Operation, Trouble). But some of my favorites were a little less, well, timeless.
13 Dead End Drive
This was like a murder-themed version of Mousetrap. You’re trying to conceal your identity from the other players in an attempt to win a wealthy widow’s fortune. Fun! But while the murder theme is much more exciting than the let’s-just-call-an-exterminator original, 13 Dead End Drive shares the very worst aspect of Mousetrap: it takes FOREVER to set up. All those little traps with plastic parts that had to be arranged just so. I loved the idea of this game but probably played it only once or twice, and only after begging my parents to set it up for me.
It had a very memorable commercial, of course.
Not to be confused with Don’t Break the Ice. The concept behind this winner involved trying to drop wet marbles onto a piece of tissue pulled taut over a tray without breaking “the ice” (the tissue). If it sounds at once convoluted and extremely basic, you’ve got the idea. It did come with its own pack of tissues and I remember being very upset when they ran out.
Another great commercial.
This was more of a girly game, in that there was no clear competitive purpose and jewels were involved. In the tradition of Magic 8 Balls and Ouija boards, this game consisted of asking Zandar – a wizard enclosed in a globe – a question and trying to guess what his answer would be. Then, after waving your hand over the globe, he would magically answer. Kind of pointless. Kind of awesome. If you guessed right, you got to collect a rainbow gemstone. Maybe I should resurrect Zandar from my mom’s basement to help me with future important life decisions…
Here he is in all his glory.
And the complete opposite of Ask Zandar was this game involving pushing little pucks into your opponent’s goal. It was gussied up with elaborate boy-color designs and a really, really exciting commercial involving lightning, smoke and a catchy jingle.
This is one of the least-known of all the games I loved. You travel around a forest finding “treasure” under each tree and you have to remember which treasures were where so that when the King asks you to retrieve one… oh I don’t know. It was pretty and magical and had the word “enchanted” in the title, so yes I loved it!
This one was too, um, special to have a commercial, but you can still buy it here.
Clue: The Great Museum Caper
This was a spin-off of plain old Clue. It involved a 3D board (sounds fun but code for another hard-to-set-up game), one person playing the “thief” and everyone else as detectives who try to hunt him down. I’ve always been a big fan of the original Clue despite the fact that it’s kind of an extremely boring game, so this was a nice variation.
This was one of the only games I used exactly as the commercial suggested: at slumber parties, surrounded by giggling girls. You had to answer embarrassing questions and do dares like prank call the boy you liked or drink a glass of water upside down. If you failed, you had to wear a ZIT STICKER! Needless to say, hilarity ensued.
There were also awesome spin-off games.
Tales of the Crystals
No one remembers this game and it’s so trippy that I wouldn’t be surprised if I had dreamed it up all along. It’s an elaborate fantasy game in which cassette tapes guide you around your house and yard. You perform tasks, journal about them (!) and collect crystals. Unsurprisingly, many of my favorite games seem to have involved crystals. When I looked up Tales online recently, I also found this other game, Jewels in the Attic. I’m very upset I didn’t know about this sooner.
The Babysitter’s Club Game
Kind of a Babysitter’s Club-themed version of Girl Talk. The point of the game was to “share stories”. Seriously. Oh, and to “make your friends giggle and sometimes groan.”
I can’t believe there was actually a commercial for this.
A little too aggressive for me but the commercial was amazing. The game involved trying to steal a ruby from a tiki at the top of a volcanic mountain. Sort of like a board game version of Legends of the Hidden Temple. Periodically, the mountain would spit fireballs (red marbles) at you.
The premise of this one is deceptively simple: “Roll and move around the board. When the city clock reaches 5:00pm, stop and see who has won.” It was my best friend Abby’s favorite game and she claims it’s a lot harder than it sounds.
Ah, yes, I can still sing the Grape Escape theme song in its entirety. Another elaborate game board designed to squash the little clay “grapes” that represented each player. Not to be confused with Splat, a seemingly identical game.
I had to include this even though everyone has heard of it and they totally still make it today. This game – in which you had to choose a character and answer questions about him while trying to prevent your opponent from guessing who you were – was one of my favorites. I remember playing with a particularly dense friend in 2nd grade who couldn’t grasp the concept and each round, after I asked the very first question (“Is it a boy?”), she’d shout out, “No, silly, it’s Susan!”. A fun grown-up variant is to play this game but be creative with the questions: “Does this person look like they’d have bacne?” or “Would this guy murder his whole family?” are good openers.
See how fun it is here.
Of course, there were many games I knew about but didn’t want (Pizza Party, Don’t Wake Daddy, Shark Attack) and others I coveted but wasn’t allowed to have (Mall Madness, Electronic Dream Phone). The latter two I have bought in recent years but they aren’t nearly as magical as they would have been in the era of pouffy side ponytails and acid-washed overalls.
On a final note, I rediscovered this game the other day, and an embarrassing amount of eBay time and money later, I own it. Now I’ve just gotta find the right middle school slumber party… and a VCR.
Images via hasbro.com, toy-tma.com, boardgamesexpress.com, tressugar.com, gameshepherd.wordpress.com, upillar.com, trollandtoad.com, alotaboutnothing.com, imgfave.com, teamtoyboxes.com.au, fireballisle.com, listal.com, boardgamescritic.com, and forladiesbyladies.com