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    

Dungeons & Dragons - 3 Volume Set And Then Some - 1975, 76Munsters Drag Race Game Original Vintage 1965 Herman Munster Board GameVintage 1978 Magic Realm Fantasy Board Game Avalon Hill #717Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual - 4th Edition 1979Tsr D&d 1977 Holmes Basic Set, 4th Prt+ 1st Prt B1+new Dice+bonus. Lizard Logo!!Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Monster Manual (4th Edition 1979) Advanced Dungeons & Dragons " Monster Manual" Over 300 Monsters, 1978 #2009Ad&d - 1st - Dungeon Masters Guide - Hc - Tsr - Very Good -2011 - 19791977 The World's Greatest Baseball Game By Jww Corp. 1978 Players Booklet Objective:moscow Death Of Soviet Communism Spi Monster Game 1978 Dual Flat PackChattanooga Civil War Board Game By T&m Enterprises 1978.1965 Mystery Date Game Milton Bradley 4502 Complete!The Complete Fortune Teller Game-1975-10 Ancient Arts-tarot-rare-no Ouija Chart*1975 Don't Give Up The Ship / Great Age Of Sail Miniature War Game Tsr RulesBewitched Puzzle 1964 "endora Pours" Rare Complete Milton BradleyC3i Magazine No. 8, Including All Inserts Mint - Crisis: Sinai 1973Lot 2 Vintage Whitman Batman Card Game Decks 4463:29 Sealed 1966Terrible Swift Sword Gettysburg Spi War Monster Game 1976 Dual Flat Pack TrayVietnam 1965-1975 Victory Games Wargame Excellent Condition !Vintage Lost In Space Board Game Milton Bradley 1965 Very Good Condition1965 Transogram Glow In The Dark Green Ghost Game In Original Box !!Rail Baron Vintage Board Game Building Railroad Empires 1977 Avalon Hill Rare1971 Voice Of The Mummy Board Game Red Precious Jewels Mattel Talking Football Board Game 1972, Vintage, Play Box Works ExcellentTunnels & Trolls Rules-1977 4th EditionVintage Acquire Board Game 1976 Bookshelf Avalon Hill Game Company In ShrinkMatch Ii Memory Game From Ideal Vintage 1978 RareBig League Manager Basketball Game Card Set 1967-1968 Season Nba Teams Near MintTudor Electric Football Houston Oilers W Haiti 1970's Black ShoeTudor Electric Football New England Patriots W Haiti 1970's Black ShoeBlue & Gray Ii Civil War Spi Quadri-game 1975 Flat Pack TrayVintage "the Original Skittle Bowl" Game By Aurora No. 5501 W/box 1969 CompleteBattling Tops Game - 1968 - IdealVintage Spi War Of The Rings Lotr Board Game Tolkein 1977 Complete!1975 Creature Features Board Game Of HorrorVoice Of The Mummy Board Game Original Yellow Record 1971American Heritage Dogfight Wwi Air Battle Board Game 1962 Milton Bradley Blitzkrieg Module System Variant Spi 1972 Flat Pack Folio S&t 19Atlantic Wall - 1978 Spi Detergent Box Game - CompleteVintage 1968 Smokey Bear Board Game #4932,milton Bradley CorpNapoleon's Last Battles Waterloo Campaign Spi Quadri-game 1976 Flat Pack TrayBlue & Gray Civil War Spi Quadri-game 1975 Flat Pack TrayVintage Risk Continental War Board Game 1959 1963 Parker Bros Complete SetVintage 1974 Milton Bradley King Oil Board Game #44101970s Advanced D&d 4 Box LotLot Of 4 Board Games - 1970's-1980's -completeMechwar 2 - 1979 Spi Detergent Box Game - CompleteVintage 1979 Clean Working Electronic Action & Sound Battleship Game New Sealed Octrix Vintage 3m Company Card Game Of Eights 1970 Complete GametteVintage 1969 Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Game By Milton Bradley *99% Complete*American Heritage Dogfight Wwi Air Battle Board Game 1962 Milton Bradley Tudor Electric Football New York Jets Dark Jersey Hkws 1970's Red Sun Rising The Russo-japanese War 1904-05 Spi War Game 1977 Flat Pack TraySpi Wargame Outreach Unpunched Complete 1976Vintage 1970s Whitman Old Maid Card Game + Plastic Case! Euc! #4902! Free Ship!Vintage 1977 Mattel Electronics Football I Handheld Video Game 2024 Working 771976 Mattel Electronics Auto Race Game, In Good Working ConditionModern Battles Four Contemporary Conflicts Spi Quadri-game 1975 Flat Pack TrayVintage The Game Of Jaws By Ideal 1975 Universal Pictures W/ Box & InstructionsWooden Ships & Iron Men - Avalon Hill 1975 Bicentennial 2nd Ed Rules Unpunched