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    

Avalon Hill-battle Of The Bulge- Battle Game- 1965- No Reserve!Judges Guild Tegel Manor - 1st Printing, (1977) D&d GygaxLot Of Advanced D & D Players Handbook (1978), Judges Guild, And Thieves World1964 Transogram Hanna-barbera Jonny Quest Game Very Rare Johnny QuestVintage Original 1965 Mystery Date Game - CompleteStatis Pro Basketball Game 1972-73 Nba Midwest Research Never Used Near MintVintage 1978 Coleco Electronic Quarterback Handheld Football Game In Box WorksVtg 1964 Eagle Toys Nhl Hockey Stars Table Top Game Metal Player Pieces Vietnam Victory Games Avalon Hill 1965 To 1975 Vintage 1979 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set #1001 In Original BoxThe Book Of Ebon Bindings M.a.r. Baker 1978 Imperium Pub Co 1st Printing Tekumel1970 Panzer Blitz Ww Ii Game Of Armored Warfare Avalon Hill 100% Complete A1Vintage Dungeons & Dragons 1978 Advanced D & D Monster Manual By Gary GygaxVintage 1979 Original Tsr Boot Hill Rpg Boxed Nice Wild West Role Playing Game1979 Tsr D&d B7 Rahasia 9115 Module / 1st Or 2nd Print / Vf // Ad&dThe Battle Of The Bulge Avalon Hill Complete 1965Sports Illustrated Pennant Race Major League Baseball Game 1973 Unused Nr Mint!Magic Realm Avalon Hill 19791968 3m Acquire High Finance Board GameVtg 1978 Superior Models Knight Hs-01 Fantasy Pewter Figurine Ray Lamb Signed ░░1960's Coleco Tabletop Hockey Players Los Angeles Kings Excellent Condition!1960's Coleco Tabletop Rod Hockey Players California Golden Seals ExcellentAdvanced Dungeons And Dragons Monster Manual & Masters Guide 1979Avalon Hill Games Stalingrad (1974) Punched CopyVintage 1964 Time Bomb Game By Milton Bradley Vintage 1971 Mattel Electronic Talking Football Board Game Working Tested Vintage 1970 Parker Brothers Masterpiece Art Auction Board Game 100% Complete!Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Ad&d Players Handbook 1978 5th PrintingVintage 1979 Stop Thief Electronic Cops & Robbers Game 1979 Parker BrothersVintage Old Maid Card Game And Unopened 1975 Crazy Eights Pack MintVintage 1970 Parker Brothers Masterpiece Art Auction Board Game 100% NiceSports Illustrated Superstar Baseball Game 1974 Long Box Shrink Wrap Near Mint!!Vintage 1978 Gabriel Chutes Away! Air Rescue Target Game Original Box No 27330Vintage 1974 Mb 4410 King Oil Game Drilling Wildcatting Milton Bradley Very GoodVintage Batman 1966 Milton Bradley Board Game All Pieces Included Vg ConditionVintage 1979 The White Shadow Half Court Basketball Set Game S/s Nib Nos NmPig Mania 1977 Dice Game Complete W/ Original Box, All Parts *vintage*B782. Vintage: Hanna-barbera Lippy The Lion Flips Board Game Transogram (1962) [Vintage 1977 Dungeons & Dragons Monster & Treasure Assortment Set One Levels 1-3Vintage 1964 Beatles Board Game Pieces Flip Your Wig S535. Vintage: Bugs Bunny Adventure Game From Milton Bradley (1961) Complete [Rare 1963 Transogram Stoney Burke Rodeo Board Game Jack Lord Abc TvDungeon Masters Guide Ad&d Revised Edition December 1979 Good Used ConditionGdw Conflict Games Ww2 Africa The Fall Of Tobruk (1975) Punched Copy1978 Coleco Electronic Quarterback Boxed Complete! Amazing Shape! - VintageSherco Baseball Game With 1973 Major League Baseball Ratings Rare Early EditionVintage 1978 Rummikub Game, Complete Set, With Orignal Box, Made In Israel Neat!Vintage 1961 "car 54 Where Are You" Board Game, Allison, Rare!Monster Manual 4th Edition Aug 1979 Original Cover Art Dungeons Dragons Toulon, 1973: Napoleon's First Great Victory - Legion WargamesVintage 1978 Merlin The Electronic Wizard Game Parker Brothers WorksSpi 1975 Modern Battles 4 Contemporary Battles1960's Coleco Tabletop Hockey Players Philadelphia Flyers Excellent Condition!Vintage 1973 Parker Brothers Pit Card Game Factory Sealed With Bell Complete NisVintage 1977 Gdw - En Garde! - Game Rules Book, Revised Edition1963 The Beverly Hillbillies Game Super Nice Complete Condition In Nice BoxVintage 1962 The Jetsons Out Of This World Board Game Hanna-barbera ~transyBattle Flag Magazine * 1978 Issue 8/9 * Metamorphosis: Alpha Tsr * War GamesStrategy & Tactics Magazine #75 Napoleon's Art Of War: Eylau And Dresden (1979) German Break Thru 3m Bookshelf Board Game 100% Complete Fantastic Condition 1965