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    

1970's/1980's Ad&d Dungeons & Dragons Hardcover Guide/handbook/manual Lot Of 11Vintage 1965 Lost In Space - Complete - Mb Tv Cartoon Board GameAssortment Of 25 Metal Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures, Ral Partha, 1970's - 90'sFrank Herbert's Dune From Avalon Hill (1979) Vintage Sci Fi Board GameStatis Pro Midwest Research Major League Baseball Game With 1973 Player Cards ExVintage 1965 Batman And Robin Capture The Joker - Complete - Tv Show Board GameStatis Pro Midwest Research Major League Baseball Card Set 1974 Season ExcellentMilton Bradley Breaker 19 Cb Trucker Game 1976Vintage 1966 The Batman Game - Complete Mb Tv Show Cartoon Board GameMetamorphosis Alpha Rulebook 1976 Printing Tsr Sci-fi1978 Vintage Ti Texas Instruments Speak And N Spell Learn To Speak EnglishVintage Hogan's Heroes Bluff Out Board Game Transogram 19661976 Spi Westwall Four Battles To Germany Lot 212Vintage 1974 The Addams Family - Complete - Mb Tv Cartoon Board Game1977 Dungeons And Dragons 1001 Tsr Games Basic Set W/ Dice And Inductory Module1978 Spi Descent On Crete May 1941 Lot 209Dragon Vintage Magazine Dungeons Dragons Fantasy Role Playing D&d 1976 Issue # 2Boot Hill 2nd Edition Tsr Rpg Osr 7005 19781976 Spi Terrible Swift Sword The Three Days Of Gettysburg Lot 2181962 American Heritage Dogfight Milton Bradley World War I Board Game S&t 28 Magazine W/boxed Lost Battles Wargame 1971 Good ConditionMint Set Of Vintage 1960s Ideal Battling Tops Game Mint Player Parts NrVintage 1974 New Adventures Of Gilligan - Complete - Mb Tv Cartoon Board Game Four 4 Track Cribbage Wood Board By Drueke, Model #1962 W/ Box & Instructions Vintage 1974 Prize Property Board Game 4408 Unused Nr 1979 Replay Baseball First Edition1971 Spi Korea The Mobile War 1950-51 Lot 2141972 Spi Winter War The Russo Finnish Conflict 1939-1940 Lot 2151972 Parker Brothers Sorry Board Game-complete1975 Tsr Empire Of The Petal Throne Box Set Mar Barker Tekumel First PrintingNegamco Major League Baseball Game + 3 Seasons Of Ratings 1973 1974 & 1975 Ex!Vintage Mattel Football 2 Handheld Game – Works - 19781978 Vintage Tomy Obstacle Course Pocket Game Toy Marble Rare - Free ShippingNhlpa Statis Pro National Hockey League Sports Card Game-1975 Season-lkbg1976 Spi Napoleons Last Battles The Waterloo Campaign 1815. Lot 217Monopoly 1961 Edition1974 Avalon Hill Panzer Leader Bookcase Game Wwii 1944-45 1960's American Heritage Broadside Board Game - Parts - Includes Booklet Antique Password Game #4260 Vintage 1962 CompleteGalaxian Midway Coleco Mini Arcade Game 1979 | Very Rare Includes Battery CoverSealed - Advanced D&d Dungeon Masters Guide By Gary Gygax 1979 Tsr Games1977 Spi Drive On Stalingrad 1942 Lot 210Vintage 1962 Flintstones Mitt Full-complete Tv Hanna Barbara Cartoon Skill GameVintage Puck Luck Hockey Board Game 1960's ?Uno Card Game 1971 Vintage 1973 DeckNegamco College Basketball 1975-76 Season - Unlv Plus For 10 Teams - MintNegamco College Basketball 1975-76 Season Pac Conference + 2 For 10 Teams - Mint1962 American Heritage Dogfight Milton Bradley World War I Board Game Vintage King Of The Hill Toy Game Schaper Usa W/ Box & Catalog 1965 Vintage Run Yourself Ragged Board Game Original 1978 Tomy 7070 + Balls & HoopAcquire Vintage High Adventure In The World Of High Finance 3m Co 1968 OpenedVintage 1961 Monopoly Board Game - Complete Set - Excellent Condition1979, 1981 Dungeons And Dragons Masters Screen 9024Kingmaker Board Game Avalon Hill (1976)- Bookshelf / Bookcase CompleteVintage 1971 H.r. Puffnstuf - Complete - Mb Tv Krofft Cartoon Board GameVintage 1978 Coleco Electronic Quarterback Handheld Football Game In Box WorksVtg 1971 Good Ol' Charlie Brown Peanuts Board Game Original Box # 4139 Complete1979 Ideal Electronic Detective Game No Reserve Honest AuctionUsed Vintage 1971 Speed Circuit A 3m Sports Game Grand Prix Racing Game ++ New Sealed Merlin The Electronic Wizard Handheld Game 1978 Rare Vintage Nib