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    

Vintage Royal Imported Club Tricolor Mah Jongg Set Circa 1968 Vintage Mah Jong Set 1960's 162 Carved Tiles In Case Cardinal Industries1970's Voice Of The Mummy Board Game With Green Precious Jewels & InstructionsBloody April: The Battle Of Shiloh 1962 - Spi Unpunched!Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook, Dm's & Mm Lot Of 3 By Tsr 1970s Vintage 1975 Creature Features Board Game By Rgi…complete Game, Unused Contents! The Russian Campaign 1974 Complete Punched Charles S Roberts Best Strategic GamVoice Of The Mummy 1971 Milton Bradley Board Game - Vg Incomplete Vintage 1975 Ideal Jaws Game W/ Box% 1968 Milton Bradley The Wacky Races Game In Original BoxChainmail Rules For Medieval Miniatures 3rd Edition Gary Gygax Tsr 1979Dungeons And Dragons Basic Set With Introductory Module 1979Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Screen (1979) TsrVintage Spi 1971 Kursk-operation-zitadelle-4-july-1943 Board Game - New Sealed Simco Boxing Game ( Negamco ) 400+ Boxer Cards 1960s To 2000s Ali To Mayweather!1977 Avalon Hill Rail Baron Board GameVintage Book Of Treasure By Little Soldier Games. 1978 Rare ItemMmp - Heights Of Courage - Golan Heights, 1973Advanced D&d Dungeon Module T1 The Village Of Hommlet By Gary Gygax (1979) TsrVintage Tomy Waterfuls Tic Tac Toe Game W/box Unused?? 1970's Read Desc.Big League Manager 1970 College Football Game 20 Ncaa Teams With Cards Exc Cond!Schutze - Warplan Dropshot 2 & 3 (global Nuclear War In The 60s And 80s)Soldiers Spi 1972 UnpunchedTsr Gamma World Rulebook 2nd Edition 1978 Oop% 1960's Milton Bradley The Beverly Hillbillies & The Man From U.n.c.l.e GamesMetamorphosis Alpha Rpg 1st Printing 1976 Sf18-r Tsr Original Gamma World Rare!Big League Manager 1968 College Football Game Player Card Set 20 Teams Exc Cond!Vintage 1977 Rail Baron Railroad Board Game Avalon Hill Ga-295 (unused)All The Worlds' Monsters Volume 1..2 Chaosium Steve Perrin 1979/1980Vintage 1965 Mystery Date Board Game 4502 Milton Bradley Usa CompleteLot Of 34 Game Pieces Dungeons & Dragons 1978-1983+ Grenadier, Custom & More!1960 Ouija Board With Planchette In Original Box Pat 114,534Vintage 1978 Merlin Electronic Wizard Parker Bros Game Working W/box + ManualDungeons And Dragons Basic Set With Introductory Module 1979Panzer Leader Game Of Tactical Warfare Avalon Hill 812 1944-1945 War Game 1974Vintage 1978 Spi Objective Moscow Death Of The Soviet Communism Strategy WarBig League Manager 1969 College Football Game Player Card Set 20 Teams Exc Cond!Vintage 1977 Rail Baron Board Game, Avalon Hill - Excellent ConditionReplay Sports Games Baseball Board Game With 1976 SeasonLe Mans , Board Dice Game By Avalon Hill Co # 512 , Usa 19611979 Advanced Dungeon And Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide Tsr Games Gary Gygax Ral Partha 1979-1983 Lot Of 10 Miniatures Metal Oop D&d Advanced Mixed LotVintage 1960's Mah Jong SetBig League Manager Pro Football Game Card Set 1964 Season Nfl Player Cards Nrmnt4 Spi War Boardgames 1972-1975 FlatpacksVintage Milton Bradley 1970 Which Witch Board Game 100% Complete In Original BoxWestwall & Solomans Campain Spi 1976- 73Verdun A Dagger At The Heart Of France. 1978 VgTactics & Strategy Magazine - Sex In Wargaming + Special Errata Issue - 1978 SpiVintage Spi 1972 Soldiers: Tactical Combat In 1914-1915 Board GameNintendo Block Kuzushi Japan 1979 Tv Game Console W/box Ctg-bk6 Block BreakerSpi Game To The Green Fields Beyond - The Battle Of Cambrai, 1917 UnpunchedSpi Wargame Four Battles In North Africa Tray Punched 1976Jagdpanther Mag Vol. 3, #4 Anvil-dragoon Unpunched 1976 Rare Item Pig Mania Dice Game 1977 David Moffat Vintage Victory In The Pacific Ww2 Naval Strategic Battles Board Game Avalon Hill 1977Landslide Board Game - 1971 Parker Brothers - UsedComplete Casper The Friendly Ghost Game Board Works 1974Original 1964-vintage (milton-bradley) "time Bomb" Game! ~in/ Orig. Box!Old Vintage 1968 All Star Baseball Board Game Cadaco No.183 60's 70's Players