6 Freakiest and Forgotten Kids Board Games
We all remember “Monopoly,” “Risk,” and “Clue.” But for every board game that entertained millions of families before they all turned on each other after 11 hours of endless play, there are all those games that proved too insane, too idiotic or just too focused on electrocuting criminals to ever become household classics.
I Vant to Bite Your Finger (1979)
Essentially Russian Roulette for pre-teens, “I Vant to Bite Your Finger” had players take turns winding Dracula’s clock in the hopes of not waking him up. Whoever did wake him up had to place their finger in his mouth, a move that was not only UNBELIEVABLY DISTURBING BEYOND ALL COMPREHENSION but also resulted in a game that made as much sense as “Put Your Hand in That Strange Dog’s Mouth” and “Shove Your Arm Down the Garbage Disposal.” The “victim” would then get two red marker dots on their finger, indicating they were bitten or now have hand herpes. Of course, the real problem with the game is that vampires aren’t exactly known for biting fingers, unless testing a job applicant for drugs. But a game in which a toy vampire bit kids’ necks would have almost certainly required something large and hydraulic and resulted in countless ruptured aortas.
What Shall I Be?: The Exciting Game for Career Girls (1966)
Let’s be honest, you already know what’s coming. After all, a “game for career girls” from the mid-60’s isn’t exactly going to tout “neurosurgeon” or even “Hardee’s Night Shift Manager” as professional options. But still it’s depressing to see how this game could only promise such things as “model” and “airline hostess” for girls while the boy’s version featured such future opportunities as “lawyer” and “astronaut” and probably “astronaut lawyer” in case of any litigious aliens. Sadly, the underlying the message of these games was “Guys can blast off into space and girls can serve them their Tang when they get back.” No doubt “The Exciting Game for Career Girls” ended when all the players got married, got rid of her last name, and told her boss, “I quit because I’m needed in the kitchen and nursery.”
Back in the early 80’s Milton Bradley created a series of arcade-style board games for kids who either couldn’t afford a video console or were so in love with video games they actually tried to smash through the television screen to grab the characters. Options included “Frogger,” “Donkey Kong,” and most famously “Pac-Man,” which turned the arcade classic into a very well mannered version of “Hungry, Hungry Hippos” for those who liked to take right turns. Gone was the excitement of being hunted down by ever faster ghosts as you desperately tried to clean the board, replaced by the overwhelming thrill of your younger brother accidentally swallowing a marble. In the end Milton Bradley gave up making video game board games when they realized the only way they could translate “Grand Theft Auto” for family fun night was to replace all the hooker corpses with bullet-riddled teddy bears.
The Game of Happiness (1971)
For anyone tired of hearing someone sarcastically exclaim, “Sorry!” whenever their token got sent back or had to use their own actual money to pay off rent on Boardwalk came a game so relentlessly upbeat it made you want to punch a unicorn. In “The Game of Happiness” you started with six “Hang up” cards. Then you had to collect six keys (friendship, family, health, money, love, and knowledge) so you could make it to the “Rainbow of Happiness.” If you hurt a friend’s feelings you lost $1000. If you became jealous you started over. If you looked at the photo on the game box and thought this wasn’t going to be a G-rated acid trip you were an idiot. Featuring such spaces as “Phoniness is out,” “Sincerity is in,” and “Life loves you,” “The Game of Happiness” was like a combination self-esteem class, reassuring hug, and severe kick to the nuts upon realizing this was indeed your birthday gift.
Capital Punishment (1981)
About as far removed from “The Game of Happiness” as possible. “Capital Punishment” proved how in ten short years board games went from making kids feel good about themselves to making society feel all hope was lost. Each player controlled fours characters: a murderer, a rapist, an arsonist, and a kidnapper (which was also the original premise behind “Candy Land” before they realized how easily preschoolers scream in terror). Players won by leading their criminals down the path of justice into life imprisonment, death row or the electric chair (as opposed to “The Game of Happiness,” in which you led your colorful token down paths marked “You’re always learning”). Players could also use “liberals” to spring their opponents criminals on “technicalities,” making this the most obviously ham-fisted politically-motivated board game ever until Dick Cheney tried to force “Chutes and Ladders” to add semi-automatic weapons.
Perhaps inspired by the notion that kids have so many fingers they could probably afford to lose a few so long as they weren’t thumbs, “Swack!” gave children the chance to play with a mousetrap large enough to snap Mickey’s head clean off. Like any small rodent who doesn’t quite grasp the concept of spring-loaded vengeance, kids would try to steal a piece of plastic cheese without having the trap slam down on their tiny wrists, ending any future career they might have except those involving kicking. This also made it the perfect game for awful parents who still believed in smacking their little ones around but were too lazy and so outsourced the pain to a toy. In fact, so insane and inhumane was this game that only it’s original commercial can truly capture the sheer fun that was childhood ensnarement…
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