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Archive for the ‘Toys – Boardgames’ Category

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Hungry Hungry Hippos

Posted by Big Boo on June 2nd, 2010

hungry hungry hipposHungry Hungry Hippos was a madcap board game for up to four players which, to be honest, relied more on luck than skill in order to win. Four plastic hippopotamuses lined the edges of a plastic playing board, and when you pressed a little switch on the back of the hippo it’s head shot forward and upwards before returning, which made it look like it was chomping away on some food.

Unlike most hippos, these plastic version dined on little white plastic marbles. A number of marbles were put in the middle of the game and each player then frantically pressed their little switches to get their hippo to eat the most marbles and win the game.

Each of the hippos was a different colour (none of them grey, the traditional hippopotamus colour) and apparently they all had names, presumably in an effort to inject some kind of character into them. The purple hippo was called Lizzie, the orange one Henry, green was Homer and Harry was yellow. Over the years replacement hippos were brought in (the original ones presumably bloated from a diet of plastic marbles). Henry changed colour to blue and Lizzie was replaced by Happy, who was pink.

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Jack Straws

Posted by Big Boo on May 10th, 2010

jack straws gameNot to be confused with the Labour MP of similar name, Jack Straws is a classic old game of the kind that I’m sure are still available, but yet you never seem to see in the shops any more.

It was a game that rewarded steady hands. It consisted of a large number of miniature plastic objects including oars, crutches and swords (the Jack Straws), which were grouped together in one hand then left to tumble under gravity onto a table.

Using a small tool (basically a piece of wire with a hook on one end) the aim of the game was for each player to remove a piece from the pile without moving any other pieces. If you did move another piece you were out of the game.

Really simple yet it could be quite addictive. It had been around for many many years before the eighties came around, but I think as with many such toys this was the time period when these sorts of games started to get phased out in favour of more modern toys containing far fewer real hours worth of play in them.

You might also know this game as Pick Up Sticks, although in truth this is a subtly different game. Instead of little shovels and things the game is just played with a large number of wooden (or plastic) sticks. Since the sticks have nothing for a hook to catch hold of, Pick Up Sticks was normally played just by picking the sticks up with your fingers.

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Screwball Scramble

Posted by Big Boo on September 28th, 2009

screwball scrambleYou know how sometimes there were certain toys which no matter how many times you added them to your Christmas List, Father Christmas (he was still Father Christmas when I was a kid, not Santa Claus as he seems to be called these days) never seemed to bring them?

One such toy for me was Screwball Scramble, which I must have asked for several years running. Sadly I never got one of my own, and had to be content with playing on the ones they sometimes put out in the shops in the run up to Christmas.

Screwball Scramble was an obstacle course for ball bearings, the aim being to get your ball bearing from the start of the course to the end as quickly as possible. You controlled the game via a series of buttons and switches at the front of the maze which were all mechanical in nature – no batteries required here.

Stabbing the buttons and flicking the switches caused various parts of the obstacle course to be activated, so with careful timing and a modicum of good luck you could move your ball bearing about without actually touching it. That is assuming the ball didn’t jump off completely and you had to replace it!

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Stay Alive

Posted by Big Boo on August 10th, 2009

stay alive boardgameOne of things you did as a kid when Christmas was just around the corner was to start making a list of things you wanted Father Christmas to bring you (I try to resist the urge to call him Santa Claus.  It was always Father Christmas when I was little).  Invariably of course you didn’t get everything on that list, but you might have got a few things that weren’t on your list.

Quite often though it was these unasked for presents that actually became your favourites.  I’ve mentioned this before with the Don’t Upset Me game I received one year, and another good example was the rather excellent Stay Alive, which also appeared magically in my Christmas gifts one year.

Stay Alive is a really simple game to learn, and can have up to four players.  Each player sits on one side of the game board, and places their coloured marbles on the grid in the middle of the board.  The grid is made up of a number of sliders with holes in various places, one set running horizontally and another set running vertically.  Once all the marbles are placed players take it in turns to move the sliders with the aim of causing their opponents marbles to fall through the holes, whilst also ensuring their own marbles are as safe as possible.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Ghostbusters Role Playing Game

Posted by Big Boo on July 14th, 2009

ghostbusters roleplaying gameIt’s probably fair to say that the 1970’s and 1980’s was the era when role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons were at their most popular. This popularity saw certain films and comic books get their own role playing game, and Ghostbusters was one such film that the made the transition from celluloid to statistics.

Role playing games are often stereotyped as being a bit geeky, as to somebody not used to playing such games it appears there is usually no board or playing pieces but instead a whole bunch of numbers and some weird looking dice.  The Ghostbusters role playing game deliberately tried to distance itself from these more technical games in order to create a more relaxed experience for the players.

Each player created themselves a character by assigning 12 points to each of four traits, these being Brains, Muscle, Moves and Cool, which are fairly self explanatory.  You could also select a particular Talent related to each of these traits, which made your character better at performing certain tasks.  If this all sounded like too much work then you could also choose to play as one of the movie characters, as the game came with statistics cards for each of the main characters of the film.

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Posted by Big Boo on June 26th, 2009

downfall boardgameDownfall was one of those games that I always wanted, but no matter how much I hinted or wrote it on my Christmas list Santa somehow failed to bring me my own copy. Luckily a cousin of mine did get one for Christmas one year, so I did get to play it, but I liked it so much that just made me want my own one all the more.

What I liked most about Downfall were the dials on the main playing board.  These reminded me of the dials on safes that you always saw people twiddling, ear up to the door, when trying to rob millionaires on films (the safe was always hidden behind a picture for some reason).

The idea in Downfall was to get all your coloured counters from the top of the playing board to the bottom by twisting the dials, which had little holes in them that could pick up the counters.  In the meantime your opponent was trying to do the exact same thing on their side of the playing board.

Players took it in turns to twist one of the dials, although you weren’t allowed to twist the dial your opponent had just twisted.  As you twisted the holes in the dials past counters in other dials the counters would drop into the lower dial if two holes were alligned.

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Mr. Pop!

Posted by Big Boo on March 9th, 2009

It’s funny how some games have stood the test of time, whilst overs have faded away.  One of the latter is Mr. Pop!, and I’m surprised that it’s no longer available given that it was a lot of fun to play.

Mr. Pop was a cross between Perfection, Guess Who? and Mr. Potato Head.  It was a single player game in which you first had to pick a card that had a picture of a man’s face on it.  You had to recreate that face by inserting plastic pieces of hair, eyes, noses and other facial features into slots on a plastic head.

Sounds pretty easy so far, but you had to do this against the clock.  The plastic face was mounted on a plastic board that featured a clockwork timer (that’s what we like – no batteries!) so to play you wound up the timer and pushed the head back until it clicked into a locked position.  Letting the timer run out caused the head to pop forward, shooting all the plastic face pieces out at the player, which was quite a shock.

The game was intended for younger players, but adults had just as much fun playing it, and quite often were worse than the kids.  It’s a crying shame this game is no longer available as beneath all the fun it was quite educational, teaching concentration, pattern matching and hand eye co-ordination skills.

Whilst Mr. Pop is no longer available, there is an almost identical equivalent called Mr. Funny Face, so if you hanker for a bit of face making fun against the clock, why not check it out. Thanks to Pamela for pointing me at this new version.

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Posted by Big Boo on November 6th, 2008

I must say it surprised me to learn that Jenga! was actually a product of the 1980’s, as I thought it was a much more recently invented game.  In actual fact its origins actually go back to the 1970’s, but it was during the eighties that the game hit the big time.

Jenga! is an extremely easy game to play.  A number of wooden blocks are stacked in layers of three, with alternate layers running at right angles to each other.  Players then take it in turns to remove a single block from somewhere in the tower, just not the top two rows, without upsetting the tower.  They then place it on top of the stack, again making sure they don’t topple the entire structure over.  Whoever causes the tower to fall is the loser.

Seeing as only one person can lose a round of Jenga, it is most easily played with just two people, but more can join in by giving each player a number of lives, losing one each time they lose a game, with the player dropping out once they’ve used up all their lives.

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