As a child I was always confused about the board game Mastermind. I didn’t see how it related to the BBC TV quiz show for eggheads, as it involved guessing codes rather than answering questions about general knowledge or your specialist subject. Of course, the reason is because the two versions of Mastermind were completely different entities, but I was convinced that they must have been the same just because there was a man sat in a chair on the box of the game, and Mastermind the quiz show is famous for the black chair in which the contestants sit whilst they are grilled.
The box depicted a bearded man sat in a chair, with an oriental looking lady in a white dress stood behind him. The man was sat with his hands pushed together fingertip to fingertip in the manner of a typical James Bond villain, just before he pressed the button to drop 007 into a pool of sharks or something equally devious and evil.
The game was a basically a logic challenge for two players. One player made up a secret code of four different colours, and the other player had to guess what it was. They did this by placing coloured pegs in little holes on the playing board. The other player would then put in a number of black and white pegs to mark the other players guess. A black peg meant you had a peg of the correct colour, but in the wrong position, whilst a white peg meant a correct colour in the correct position (or it may have been the other way around – either way it doesn’t really matter). The other player then made another guess based on this feedback, and this continued until either the code was guessed, or the player run out of space on the board to make guesses.
It was originally invented by Mordecai Meirowitz from Israel in 1970. He sold the rights to the game to UK company Invicta Plastics when visiting the 1971 Internation Toy Fair, and it first hit the market a year or so later, where it proved very popular and even won the first ever Game of the Year award in 1973. It also won awards from the Design Centre and a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement.
The game was also developed further into other variations, including a junior edition, electronic versions and versions based around guessing words rather than codes. It is still available today, 55 million copies later, although sadly the current box doesn’t feature the bearded man any more.