Vintage 1960s and 1970s Games

By the middle of the 20th century, the ancient tradition of playing board games had managed to survive the inventions of film, radio, and television. In fact, in the 1950s, many of the most popular board games of the day, even those tied to TV shows, movies, and comic strips, were still based on the same two-dimensional 63-tile track used in the Italian game of Goose, which was invented in the 1500s.

In the 1970s, though, board games faced an entirely new threat to their existence: The video game. When the first coin-operated arcade games were introduced in 1971 (the failed Computer Space) and 1972 (a sensation called Pong), toy and game designers had to consider how to keep consumers interested in the tradition of family game night.

Fortunately, board games had been evolving throughout the 1960s, thanks to the radical innovations of Marvin Glass and the Ideal Toy Corporation. Together, they introduced a series of board games that involved 3D plastic devices that used gravity, balance, and spring action—the 1963 Rube Goldberg-like Mouse Trap is easily the most famous of these. In 1966, Milton Bradley followed up with Twister, the first-ever board game to use the human body as the player’s pieces.

While Glass’ quirky creations—like the 1970 haunted house game Which Witch?, with its fun “whammy ball” action—were still popular as the decade dawned, game makers soon had to consider how to incorporate new electronic technology into their products to make board games even more enticing. One of the earliest electronic board games was Voice of the Mummy, which required players to race around a Mummy’s sarcophagus. If a player landed on a “Mummy’s-voice” space, a recorder hidden inside the game’s plastic tomb would drone a message of doom. The sequel, Séance, featuring “The Voice From the Great Beyond,” debuted in 1972.

Mattel, too, got in on the electronic-game action in 1972, with the release of its Talking Football game. It required players to manipulate 13 tiny plastic records, each the size of a cookie, that ran through football plays like a long pass or off-tackle run on the A side, and then six possible defenses on the B side, all of which would be acted out by players on the board. Dick Enberg, then the radio announcer for the Los Angeles Rams, narrated the action, shouting “Great play!” as a recorded crowd cheered. By 1977, Mattel’s Football game had become a handheld electronic device.

That same year, Atari debuted its wildly popular 2600 home video-game console and Apple released its user-friendly home computer, the Apple II. Against this backdrop, Milton Bradley finally unveiled Simon, its first all-electronic game. Simon, which could fit in one player’s lap and also be played by four people sitting around a card table, was inspired by the old parlor game Simon Says. This version of Simon Says required players to copy a pattern of electronic tones and lights generated by the device.

Simon was an instant hit. No wonder, then, that Milton Bradley immediately followed Simon with 1977’s Brain Waves, a “light-up fake-out strategy game,” and 1978’s Laser Attack, w...

Naturally, other companies wanted a piece of the electronic action. Ideal imitated Simon with its 1979 game Maniac, while Parker Brothers introduced Electronic Cops and Robbers with an “electronic crime scanner” that same year. Ideal’s Electronic Detective, which looked sort of like a vintage electronic adding machine, billed itself as a “computerized who-done-it game,” programmed with 130,000 different murder mysteries. It even came with a 45 RPM record that explained how to play.

Milton Bradley’s Dark Tower, released in 1981, is now coveted by electronic-board-game fanatics. This medieval fantasy game featured a traditional board and tokens, but the dark tower of its title had a tiny computer that ran the game play, conducting the battles and keeping track of how much food the players had. At the time, this was an impressive technological feat.

Not all 1970s board games were preoccupied with electronics. In fact, one of the most popular games of the decade was Boggle, which appealed to the traditional word-puzzle-solving crowd that had made Scrabble such a hit in 1953. Instead of relying on newfangled technology, Alan Turoff came up with the “random walk” principle of the game. Perhaps not surprisingly given the competition, the game failed when it was first introduced in 1972. However, fan mail convinced Parker Brothers to relaunch Boggle in 1976 with a clever new letter-shaking device, and Big Boggle, introduced in 1979, upgraded the board from a 4x4 grid to a more challenging 5x5 layout.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Museum of Talking Boards

Museum of Talking Boards

Prepare to enter the strange world of Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board game, which captured imaginations en masse… [read review or visit site]

Elliot Avedon Games Museum

Elliot Avedon Games Museum

This in-depth University of Waterloo virtual exhibit showcases vintage games in a variety of categories, from class… [read review or visit site]

Electronic Plastic

Electronic Plastic

From Tomy to Coleco to Mattel and Nintendo, check out this collection of over 660 handheld and tabletop videogames … [read review or visit site]

Pong Story

Pong Story

David Winter's tribute to early video games, and to Ralph H. Baer, 'inventor of the video game.' Offers a detailed … [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

C1977 Ad&d Outdoor Geomorphs Playing Aid Set One Walled City Complete Uncut C1976 Ad&d Dungeon Geomorphs Set One Set Two Set Three Complete Uncut Gygax TsrDungeons And Dragons Tsr 1977 Basic Set 1st Edition Plus Bonus Amazing ConditionC1978 Judges Guild City State Of The Invincible Overlord Dungeons Dragon Excond Vintage 1965 Milton Bradley Time Bomb Game In Box With Instructions Works!Ltd Toy Stamp & Vintage 1965 Milton Bradley Mystery Date Game Complete In BoxVintage 70's Alien Board Game,complete,kenner,20th Century Fox Movie GameVintage 1979 Hg Toys Alien Blaster Giant Target SetVintage Alien Board Game 1979 Kenner Vintage 1964 Mattel Bats In Your Belfry W/ Original Box1965 Transogram Green Ghost Game In Box W/ Instructions Glow In The DarkVintage Batman Board Game~milton Bradley~1966~complete~great ColorDungeons & Dragons Supplement Iii 3 Eldritch Wizardry Gygax Blume Tsr, 6th: 1978Vintage, Rare, The Phantom Ruler Fo The Jungle Board Game, Transogram 1966 BjVintage Scooby Doo Board Game - 1973 Milton Bradley Great Condition - CompleteTsr Metamorphosis Alpha 1976 + Wardco 2007 Edition Sci-fi Roleplaying Game1960 Gusher Board Game - Oil Well Drilling Theme - Nice - W/ InstructionsVintage 1970's Tsr Gaming Dice Unopened - Four 20 Sided + Vintage BlackmoorGreenlight 1967 Shelby Gt500 Red / White Stripes Diecast Model Car 1:18 129281979 Avalon Hill Dune Bookcase GameGreenlight 1967 Shelby Gt500 White / Blue Stripes Diecast Model Car 1:18 12929Boot Hill Rpg Game Of The Wild West Tsr Games 1979 Vintage Rare-mines Of Keridav 1979 1st Ed. Phoenix Games Rpg Dungeons & Dragons Ad&dVintage Tudor Electric Football Model 500 W/almost 4 Teams Circa 1960Prestags Master-pack 5 Games: Chariot/spartan/legion/viking/yeoman Spi 1976Vintage 1967 Pollyanna Parker Brothers Board Game W/original Box & Pieces1979 Tunnels & Trolls Rules +5 Solo Dungeon Arena Khazar Wierdworld Spira LboundTsr Supplement #4 - Gods, Demi-gods And Heroes 1976Chancellorsville Vintage 1979 Avalon Hill Civil War Game Board Game 2nd EditionSpi War Board Game Simulation The Fast Carriers Air-sea Operations 1941-1977Vintage 75 Pieces Carrom Game Parts Pieces + Instruction Book 1961Vtg 1972 Toys/games Parker Brothers Game Clue Board Game, EucMilton Bradley H.r. Pufnstuf Board Game 1971Very Rare Chattanooga Civil War Board Game Complete Unpunched 1978 Military War1960 Cadaco Allstar Baseball Gm 100 Discs (early 60's & Some 50's) See InfoVintage Mail Run Tv's Pony Express Board Game 1960 Never Played Sealed PiecesVintage Spi 1976 Outreach The Conquest Of The Galaxy, 3000ad Game #1480Vintage 1974 Milton Bradley King Oil Board Game 100% Complete Neat!Vintage Complete 1965 The Addams Family Card Game By Milton BradleyVintage Superior Models 1970s Jaguar Metal Miniature Spaceship Starship Tsr D&d Supplement I: Greyhawk 12th Print Autographed Kuntz 1979Vintage Sinking Of The Titanic Game 1976 Acquire Board Game Avalon Hill Bookshelf Finance Game 1976 Complete Ga-140 Elan Merch Lotr Lot Of Miniatures Painted And Unpainted D&d Hobbit Old Rare 19781964 Vintage By Ideal Mystic Skull The Game Of Voodoo Board Game Bj 1971 Topper Corp. Ding A Ling And Straight Space Skyway The Talking Feeling And Doing Game A Psychotherapeutic Game For Children 1973Negamco Professional Bowling Game - 50 Pro Bowlers From 1976 - Hard To Find!!Rare 1976 Board Game - Battles Of Trenton And Princeton - Oldenburg GrenadiersVintage 1970 Husker Du? Do You Remember? Regina Products. Memory Board Game.Vintage,collectible Simulation Publications War Board Game: Napoleon At War,1975Vintage 1977 Blizzard Of 77 Buffalo New YorkVinatge 1965 Zolar Enterprises "zolar's Mystic Genii Board" Role Playing GameVintage Superior Models 1970s Valiant Metal Miniature Spaceship Starship Vintage 1978 Mattel Classic Football 2~electronic Handheld Game~foot Ball~works!The Dragon #5 Gaming Magazine (march 1977)Vintage 1964 Parcheesi - Selchow & Righter Co. *complete* Excellent ConditionRal Partha Troll W/club, 98-003~ 1979Vintage Old Maid Cards Whitman 1975Dungeons & Dragons Swords & Spells Book Printed November 1979