I'm Totally Board!

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.

Thin Ice

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.

Ask Zandar

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.

Enchanted Forest

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.

Girl Talk

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.

Fireball Island
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.

Fun City

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.

Grape Escape

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.

Guess Who

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.schilling Laura Schilling

    Girl Talk reminded me of one of my favorite games as a kid: Dream Phone. I had a few favorite guys but sadly can’t remember their names. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVary7lyBq0 “He’s not at the beach.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1463190227 Shannon Patrick

    I can play Guess Who (the early ’90s not politically correct version) from memory without the game board. My ex and I used to play it over the phone lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=731200297 Rebekah Bryan

    Tales of the Crystals!!!!!!!!!! I used to play that with the three neighbor girls. I was always the leader (clear crystal). The girls actually have their respective crystal hanging on their bedroom doors, still to this day. Unfortunately, mine got lost in a move at some point, but I debated trying to find the game again just to have my clear crystal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.siegel Elizabeth Siegel

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvDUx-RWJxw&feature=related I found a live version of the “Crossfire” jingle, with continues to be one of my favorite jingles of all time.

  • http://tinyurl.com/3v6c45w Earn 3000 USD per month from internet
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23438848 Kim Mansur

    Oh my god. No one else remembers Tales of the Crystals, and I’m so glad you did!!!!! My cousins and I would play it ALL OF THE TIME! <3333333

    Although, when one of my cousins decided she didn't want to play it anymore, her sister and I decided that she was the evil queen that we had to fight.

    Pretty much, that was the best game ever and I'm so so so excited about it! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.eisenstein Elizabeth Marley Eisenstein

    NO ONE EVER REMEMBERS TALES OF THE CRYSTALS! I loved that game so much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jnross Jennie Ross

    i LOVED 13 Dead End Drive! It was one of my favorite games that I was constantly playing. I really enjoyed Mall Madness too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/vincentpriceisdead Shelley Franklin

    Oh man, I thought Ask Zandar was a memory from some fever dream. I loved this game, even though I don’t think I ever actually played the game like I was suppossed to, I just liked to make the ball light up and go “whoosh”! And add me to the list of kids not allowed to have Mall Madness. Oh well, at least my parents let me have the Sweet Valley High game.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mmvktm Molly McGrane

      sweet valley high was my go-to game. loved it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=532172539 Heather Newton

    I’m 40,all “grown up” now. But that theory is challenged often when my friends come over, we have drinks and get out the board games. (Better than going to the bar. ) Our inner kids come out and it can get down right riotous with competition. Long live the board game!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1051163667 Kaelyn Cross

    Party Mania!!! I bought that at a yard sale for $2, and I’m pretty sure it’s the greatest board game ever! I force all of my friends to play it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rsimmers Becky Simmers

    oh my gosh! i love thin ice! we recently bought a cheapo version at Five Below. Of course we ran out of tissues, but we just use our own and occasionally use paper towels. Depending on the brand, we can stack household objects on it before the ‘ice’ breaks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brittany.schernik Brittany Schernik

    Mall Madness and Dream Phone…me and my sister used to play that all the time. It was fun, but thinking about it now…the concept is kind of lame. And the Baby Sitters Club game, I believe we had that one too. Me and my brother played crossfire, till all the little marbles got lost. Man, good times.

  • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.johnson Courtney Johnson

    Enchanted Forrest! I was obsessed with that game! I had no idea that other people loved it! So much fun!

  • http://www.facebook.com/emilymerrick Emily Merrick

    Candy Land was my FAVORITE when I was really little. I would cry if I didn’t get Queen Frostine, so my parents would stack the deck so I would get her every time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/emilymerrick Emily Merrick

      OH! And my cousin had Pretty Pretty Princess, the game where you put on all of the costume jewelry and whoever gets the tiara wins the game (or something to that effect). Lots of princess themes in my childhood play.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=622655179 Lauren Jefferson

    I loved tales of the crystal. My mom on the other hand hated it because she had to hide everything so me and my friends could play.

  • http://www.facebook.com/emily.heyward Emily Heyward

    I LOVED Enchanted Forest!!!!! I wish I could look at it right now. What was that other game that was maybe a murder mystery, I feel like it took place in London or something like that, and around the board were different houses/apartments, the board was beautifully illustrated, very dark…

    • http://www.facebook.com/shinyunicorn Sarah Heyward

      221B Baker Street?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=7903958 Nicole Jornet

    I tripped down the stairs holding Ask Zandar and broke the ball. Pretty sure I cried a little.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robynisindecisive Robyn RW

    Enchanted Forest was one of my favorites! I played that game well into my teens, which is when I handed it to my friend’s younger sister, who was enthralled.

    I should see if I can find it again….

  • http://www.facebook.com/penguinys Nyssa Sager

    Yes! I totally loved (and still love) board games! Enchanted Forest was also one of my faves 😀 I think it’s pretty common though, because I found that game at my boyfriend’s house as well. Yaaay for board games!

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