It's All in the Game

Remember those endless school holidays and the similarly endless rainstorms that kept us all inside for days upon days? Remember how we whiled away the hours playing board games like Totalitarian, Escape From Butlins and Whisk?

If you grew up in the '70s or '80s you'll know that those games are as much a part of childhood as falling off your bike, chicken pox or playing on dangerous construction sites. In this article we revisit a few of our favourites.

Blackout

Blackout

It's Britain in the 1970s and widespread industrial action means power cuts and shortages for many UK families. With no TV, no electricity and with the long nights drawing in, what better way was there to spend an evening than playing Blackout, the industrial-relations-based board game for all the family? It was a game of tactics, diplomacy and negotiation as, playing as either a union official or an industry bigwig, you tried to outmanoeuvre your opponent and emerge with a better deal. No wonder it was one of the bestselling games of the decade, even though you couldn't actually play it in the dark.

Haunted Fridge

Haunted Fridge

Dare you put your pork in the haunted fridge? That was how I remember the TV ads for this wonderful game. The '70s and '80s were great for games involving elaborate devices and gimmicks - games like Buckaroo, Mousetrap or Kerplunk. Haunted Fridge was easily the best of the bunch. It revolved around a wonderfully realistic three-foot-high plastic fridge - even the light came on when you opened the door! You took it in turns to place a small plastic item of food into the fridge - a chicken, a bottle of milk or a pork chop, for example. If you were lucky, nothing happened; it not, the door would slam shut and your food would be snatched away into the 'spectral realm'.

The major flaw was that the items genuinely did seem to disappear into another dimension. Certainly, we never managed to figure out where they went. What this meant was that the plastic food counters didn't last very long and we had to improvise with other items: marbles, toy cars, dad's keys, the gerbil and so on.

We were finally banned from playing it after we stuffed the boy from next door in there. Thereafter, our edition of Haunted Fridge was consigned to the attic, from where we occasionally heard the odd muffled thump and cry for help.

Roadworks Manager

Roadworks Manager

The first time I played this game was at school. At the end of term we were allowed to bring in games and one boy turned up with this classic. You control one of six companies and the idea is to cover as much of the road network with roadworks as you can and ultimately bring traffic to a standstill. You get extra points for setting up roadworks where there is no visible sign of any work taking place and there are bonuses for things like using warning signs that cause a greater obstruction than the works they are supposed to be warning people about, or successfully rerouting traffic so that it ends up going back where it came from. The winner is the person who spreads their cones over the greatest area, or whoever is the first to get punched in the face by an angry motorist.

BBC Weather - The Game

BBC Weather

TV tie-in games are notoriously disappointing, but BBC Weather is actually a breath of fresh air. It's enlivened by the inclusion of some nice magnetic weather symbols and there is a spinner in the middle of the map which predicts the weather. Surprisingly, it's often more accurate than the real thing.

But what really livens up the game is what happens when you land on a raincloud. You pick up a 'drizzle' card, which is supposed to have some mild penalty on it - 'thunderstorm, go back three spaces', that sort of thing. In fact, due to a mix-up with some other, more adult, game, the card instructs you to perform a lewd and obscene act with another player.

Once this error had been discovered, the makers were faced with a choice: either recall every copy of the game and replace the smutty cards, or do nothing and continue to enjoy the unexpectedly high sales. Unsurprisingly, they chose to do the latter.

Call Centre

Call Centre

This game rode the wave of electronic toys that arrived at the beginning of the 1980s. Up to eight people could play, connected to the central 'call centre' via headsets. You selected your potential customer by drawing a 'customer card' and then tried to tempt them to buy insurance, complete a market research questionnaire or so on. Pre-recorded responses told you how successful you were being - although it wasn't particularly true to life because they were completely random.

Poor results would mean players would be sacked. The winner got promoted to a more responsible and worthwhile position cleaning the toilets. This bit, at least, was realistic.

You Got It!

You Got It!

The medical diagnosis game that provided hours of educational fun, featuring everyone's favourite patient, Dirty Simon. It was a game of deduction in which your task was to guess what was wrong with Dirty Simon from the symptoms. Does it bring him out in a rash? Did he catch it off a toilet seat? Has it made bits of him drop off? We all have fond memories of finally working out the answer, jumping to our feet and shouting, "You've got herpes!" We used to hear the people next door doing it all the time, and they didn't even have the game.

Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2020. FREE Download

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