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    

Lot Of 11 Vintage Ral Partha Ad&d Dungeon Fiends Metal Figure Miniatures 1970'sVintage 1965 Transogram Green Ghost Glow In The Dark GameThe Game Of Jaws 1975 Ideal Shark Frank Herbert's Dune Bookcase Game Complete Vintage 1979 Avalon Hill Board ScifiVintage 1977 Mattel Electronics Football 1 Handheld Game Works10 Modules Approved For Traveller Sci-fi Rpg (gdw 1977)Spi The Campaign For North Africa Strategy Game 1979 Unpunched1974 Dungeons And Dragons Original Collectors Edition 3 Volume SetVietnam 1965-1975 - Victory Games 1984 Strategy Board Game - Unpunched, UnplayedVintage 1975 Ideal Jaws Movie Shark Game W/box Steven Spielberg Original Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Printing, Dec 1975-april 1976Waddingtons 1964 The Battle Of Little Big Horn Rare Board Game Vg Some Bits GoneAvalon Hill Magic Realm Board Game, 1st Edition 1979 *complete*Vintage 1967 Star Trek "spock" Board Game Ideal - Nice Condition - NrVietnam 1965-1975 Victory Games War Strategy 1984 Excellent ConditionVintage Milton Bradley Mystery Date Game 1965 Game Board And Pieces1978 Tomy Digital Derby Auto Raceway WorksVintage 1976 Westwall Four Battles To Germany Spi QuadrigameOriginal Late 60's Metal/tin Nhl Los Angeles Kings Coleco Table Hockey PlayersWar In The Pacific (simulations Publications 1978) Rare Spi Monster Game1970 Season Sports Illustrated Baseball GameVintage 1970 Which Witch? Board Game Milton Bradley 4012 Halloween Haunted HouseVintage 1978 Tomy "digital Derby" Auto Raceway Handheld Electronic Game ~ UsedVintage 1960s Tudor Electric Football Game Field & Original Box Only Milton Bradley 1965 Hit The Beach American Heritage Wwii Board GameSuperstition Vintage Board Game 1977 Milton Bradley~ Vtg 1977 Gabriel Hubley Div. Chutes Away Air-rescue Target Game In BoxVintage 1965 Operation Milton Bradley Board Game 4545 - New & Sealed - Mint!!Mystery Date Game 1965 Milton Bradley Vintage Board Game For Teenage GirlsVtg 1962 The Exciting New Board Game Of The Kennedys 100% Complete Rare HarrisonVintage 1970 Parker Brothers Board Game, Masterpiece: The Art Auction, CompleteVintage Ideal 1964 Mystic Skull Game Of VoodooVtg 1963 Acquire 3m Bookshelf Game World Of High FinanceAgainst The Odds, Vol 1 #2. Unpunched. Game Is: Khe Sahn, 1968.Alien Board Game By Kenner 19791966 Vintage Gi Joe Capture Hill 79 Game Hasbro W/ 14 Toy Soldiers + Cannons EtcVintage 1973 Coleco Telstar Combat! Video Game Console. Rare In Box!Advanced Dungeons And Dragons Players Handbook And Dungeon Masters Guide 19791965 Mb Mystery Date Game CompleteThe Dragon Magazine Vol. 1 No. 2 1976 D&d Ad&d Tsr Vhtf Rare Role Playing1970's Tudor Electric Football Nfl Team Washington Redskins 11 Players With BaseVintage 1977 Mattel Electronics Football Handheld Electronic Game Ex+ Working1970's Tudor Electric Football Nfl Team Green Bay Packers 12 Players With BaseDungeons And Dragons Original Monster Manual (1979)Lensman -1969 Second Edition1970's Vintage Tudor Electric Football Game Nfl Players For Parts, Accessories1979 Dungeons And Dragons Dungeons Masters ScreenVintage Ral Partha Goblins 1976 Lot Of 14 D&d Minis Lead Unpainted The Beatles Flip Your Wig Game - Board Game - Good Condition - 1964 - No ReserveVintage 1969 Tudor Electronic Football Model 633 Jets Colts Nfl Afl Superbowl 3 Vintage 1970's Haiti Tudor Electric Football (dolphins Bs)Vintage 1978 Hungry Hungry Hippos Game In Sealed Unopened Box. No ReserveVintage 1975 Ideal King Of The Sea Game - Box, Board & PiecesBattle For Hue - Sdc - Up - Jihn Hill - Signed - 1975Vintage 1967 Ironside "raymond Burr" Board Game Ideal - Nice Condition - NrMattel Battlestar Galactica Space Alert Handheld Electronic Game 1978 VintageVintage Hasbro 1978 Hungry Hungry Hippos Game In Original Box!Vintage 1977 Milton Bradley Big Foot Board Game Near Complete Unpunched TokensVintage Spi's Oil War Collector's Edition Board Game, 1975Vintage Panzer Leader Game 1974 Ww2 Normandy D-day Invasion Complete Nice