Monday, December 16, 2013

Some vintage board games you probably won't get for Christmas

Earlier this autumn, I was ogling1 some old board games for sale in a local collectibles store, and I decided to snap a few photos, because these games are just too fun not to share. For each game, I tried to provide some websites where you can read more and also, as available, culled some online remembrances of those who played these games back in the day.

Manhunt (Milton Bradley, 1972)

Track down vicious criminals from the comfort of your own living room!

Here's an excerpt from The Game Pile summary of this game, by Dennis Matheson:
"[T]he players are police detectives attempting to determine who committed a crime. To do this, they must travel around the board to collect clues about the criminal. They then feed these clues into the crime computer in order to narrow down the list of suspects. The first player to correctly identify the culprit is the winner. ... [T]he game has a very interesting flavor and the steps the players have to go through actually correspond to those that a detective investigating a real crime would perform."
One of The Game Pile commenters adds: "I played this as a child with my friend Mickey. He and I solved crimes of the likes of Dina Mite and Nan Seewater until daybreak. It was a challenge back then! But so much fun."

Dina Mite! What a name. Some of the other names of suspects from the game were Ida Hoe, Luke Sharp, Dora Jar, Ella Minate, Kay Poot, and Barb Wyre.

Meanwhile, on the You'll Shoot Your Eye Out blog, these observations were made about Manhunt in 2006:
"This is a great game simply by dint2 of the sheer number of props that come included. You've got the 'electric computer [that] programs the action', a probe and scanner that 'provide[s] the hidden clues', several colorful player tokens in the shape of vintage sedans, clue sheets to keep track of ... well clues, a deck of cards for use with the probe and scanner, a detective's handbook (where a budding young detective keeps his or her clue sheet), a book of 'suspect data', and of course, the game board itself. ... Milton Bradley isn't kidding when it describes itself as the 'key to fun and learning'. This game and a few choice episodes of Perry Mason should be mandatory learning tools for anyone interested in law enforcement."

Cross Up (Milton Bradley, 1974)

(Lucille Ball sold separately.)

Cross Up was no Scrabble or Boggle, in terms of popularity.

According to the product description on BoardGameGeek, it was "a competitive crossword game where each player fills a 25-space crossword grid, one letter at a time, building words horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. All players work with the same letters. The highest score wins."

There's some interesting information about Ball and Milton Bradley in this excerpt from Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia, by Michael Karol:
"Lucille Ball loved to play games, especially backgammon, and in the 1970s she appeared in TV and print commercials and on game boxes endorsing various board games for Milton Bradley. These included Pivot Pool, which had a picture of Ball and the phrase 'This is my favorite family game'; Body Language, which had Ball twisted in various poses on the box; and Solotaire ('plays like solitaire, scores like poker'), with a picture of Ball on the front of the box."
If you're intrigued, cheap copies of Cross Up are available on

Nuts to You (Hasbro, 1969)

No psychedelic drugs were involved in the creation of this game. Honest.

We start again with BoardGameGeek, which describes this product thusly: "In this game, as one of the four animals, you try and collect the most nuts; the unique mechanism is that there is a talk device with a strip that will say a prescribed sentence back to you. It works sort of like a pull string dummy that has several phrases it can say. Interesting plastic peanuts you collect too."

The game was designed by the prolific Marvin Glass and Associates, which also gave us Lite Brite, Mousetrap, Ants in the Pants, Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots and Simon.

It originally sold for $2.99 and was part of the Hasbro Talking Games Assortment that included — and I'm not making these up — Hey, Fatso and Get in That Tub.3

Bermuda Triangle (Milton Bradley, 1976)

Do you think they advertised this during In Search of...?

This board game, unlike the previous three, remains well-remembered, sought-after and oft-discussed.4

BoardGameGeek provides this marketing text from the Bermuda Triangle box:
"Bermuda Triangle, the legendary area in the Atlantic Ocean where dozens of ships and planes have disappeared without explanation, is the setting of this exciting game of suspense. ... The sinister mystery cloud hovers, weaves and sweeps, swallowing some ships as it passes. ... Can you make it 'home' with your cargo, or will your fleet become just one more victim in the Bermuda Triangle? ... THE INTRIGUING GAME OF VANISHING SHIPS"
The game design was quite original and above average. In fact, it might be that more thought was put into this game than was put into the Bermuda Triangle theories that were popularized and monetized by Vincent Gaddis, Charles Berlitz and other authors.

On The Game Pile, Matheson raves about it:
"This is an amazingly fun game. The players move their ships along the track on the map from one port to another according to a die roll while the cloud moves and spins randomly according to the spinner. There are magnets located under the cloud and on the ship counters and if the cloud and a ship get too close together the ship is sucked into the cloud."
Bermuda Triangle even has its own official fan page, filled with pictures of the game pieces and the instructions. There are even photos of modern students enjoying the game in 2011.

If you want to snag of copy of this one in 2013, it's going to cost you a bit of money. But it's still LESS than the average cost of a new video game, which can be $60 or more these days. On, as of the date of this post, you can find Bermuda Triangle here and here.

1. Ogle, per Merriam-Webster, likely comes from the Low German oegeln and dates to 1682.
2. Dint is another great word. Again according to Merriam-Webster, it dates to before the 12th century and is from "Middle English, from Old English dynt; akin to Old Norse dyntr."
3. At least those are two separate games, and it wasn't Hey Fatso, Get in That Tub.
4. TANGENT: Seeing the Bermuda Triangle box reminded me of another board game that I used to play with my friends in Clayton, New Jersey, in the late 1970s. It was called The Sinking of the Titanic. The game has a bit of a tarnished history, according to BoardGameGeek. After it was released in the mid 1970s, people complained that it was insensitive to those who died on the Titanic. So the Titanic references were removed and it was republished as Abandon Ship, with the same game play intact. I could tell you much more about the game, but I don't need to. The best non-essential thing you read today might well be this great piece titled "The Sinking of the Titanic game" on the The Lostinjersey Blog. It's a comprehensive and gut-busting post.  

Closing moment: This Guy


  1. Thanks for posting these, Chris. I don't think I ever owned any of these, but the Manhunt game reminded me of this scene from Kentucky Fried Movie.

  2. Where did you find Nuts to You?

  3. I don't think we ever played it; but I think I have a copy of Bermuda Triangle that was in a box lot at an auction once :)