7 board games based on old TV shows
Help Mr. T steal back a valuable soda pop recipe!
Once upon a time, (specifically the 1970s and '80s), television shows could not create apps and websites and social media accounts to drum up money and exposure. So they produced board games. Not just the game shows, which sort of made sense, but the sitcoms, soap operas, and even special event shows. The list below, courtesy of The Museum of Play, offers a taste of the more peculiar adaptations.
Even in the post-feminist '80s, there was no denying the popularity of the contest, begun in 1921 and still continuing today. This game carefully straddled the fluff and flounce of pageantry with a promise to increase the "verbal, reading, spelling, and mathematical skills" of the girls who played it. The girls would move their contestants up and down the "runway," drawing cards to accumulate points in the categories of scholarship, character, talent, and personality. Oh, and swimsuit wearing. Don't forget swimsuits.
Some television historians mark writer/producer Norman Lear's show as a huge turning point for television. Before Lear, beautiful, impeccably dressed white folks had easy adventures and told easier jokes. But in 1971, Lear's All in The Family, the story of a close-minded working man battling a changing world and his aggravatingly liberal son-in-law, changed TV. The show dealt with atheism, homosexuality, racism, rape, miscarriage, poverty, and all the real-life stuff that people used to seek an escape from through television.
And in 1972, those same subjects, watered down a tad, became the basis for a family board game. In the game, players would be asked to answer questions anonymously ("What do you think of a college education?" "What do children owe their parents?"). For fun, an answer representing what Archie and sometimes his sweet wife Edith were thrown in. Then players tried to guess who had written what, double points if you guessed if a statement was Archie or Edith. "What do children owe their parents? –Archie: More than they'll make in a lifetime."
Here is the unlikely romance of two forms of entertainment loved passionately by their fans and denigrated by the rest of society: role playing games and soap operas. In The Game of General Hospital, you get to assume the role of your favorite character, receiving their strengths and weaknesses in areas such as charm, resistance to romance, and reputation. You then navigate one of the most confounding game boards I've ever seen, with squares requiring that you "Must Have Romance in One Turn or Lose One Point" or "Hold a Board of Director's Meeting," interspersed with cards labeled Fate, Control, and GH Board of Directors. I do not know how the game is played. In fact, I imagine only a few people have the breadth of vision to really understand it.
First, you're going to need to get past the wolf pack stalking your family through the snowy winter. Which would have been great weather to have when the wildfire starts a few spaces after that. And then, as luck would have it, there is an "Indian War Party" still standing between you and the safety of The Little House. If you, or Ma, or Pa, or even the dog land on one of these danger spaces, you have to retreat five paces. The first player to get the whole family safely into The Little House is the winner. There is no Nellie Olsen square. Because it's just easier to negotiate starving wolves.
When we celebrate the irascible old broads we've loved since the '80s, we can't give all the love to Cloris Leachman and The Golden Girls. Don't forget Angela Lansbury, and her charming alter ego Jessica Fletcher, who had the guts to live in Cabot Cove; a sweet small town painted with the blood of hundreds of (usually partially deserved) murders. A good way to show some of that love is with the game Murder, She Wrote. You get to be Jessica, trying to find out which other player is the murderer as he/she wipes out the citizens of Cabot Cove one by one. Be sure to hold out for a copy of the 1985 version, as it has the best, most disturbing illustrations.
Mr. T, who played cranky but lovable B.A. Baracus in the adventures of those good-hearted mercenaries, was by far the most recognizable and popular of the hit show's actors. On TV, he was merely the muscle and the mechanic of the team. But on the game board, he's so important he's not even a playing character. He's integrated into the board itself. He helps the other members as they try to break into an armed fortress to steal back a valuable… soda pop recipe. Land on him, and he'll reward you with advanced movement or extra rolls of the dice. The winner of the game is the one to bypass all the guards and get the recipe undetected.
I don't care that I've never heard of this show, which apparently enjoyed a single season run on Saturday morning television in 1974. (You can watch the opening credits here…but honestly it's probably not gonna help explain much). I still want to own this board game. The show was intended to be sort of a… Neanderthal nature documentary, narrated by gentle Burgess Meredith. Producers Hanna-Barbara consulted with anthropologists to make the show as authentic as possible, for a kid's show anyway. The game sends the Korg family through the wilds of the Ice Age, hunting down food, weapons, and water, while avoiding supply shortages and ambushes.