The more I learn about my hobby, the more bizarre its history seems to become. The choice in box cover art are at times just…strange. Some of these box covers seem satirical except the punch line eludes me. Some were supposed to be provocative but come off as oddities instead. Here is another look as some WTF moments in board gaming.
1. 15 Love from Waddington Games
Waddington Games, the European partner for Parker Brothers, released a tennis board game in 1974. The game has a catchy name: 15 Love.
The production choice of the game box was, shall we say,
interesting. The box cover has a blurb about a make believe tennis player named Biggs Calderhead. Supposedly Biggs was a tennis hustler, a make believe type of con artist. Biggs, the game box tells us, once won 12 large playing tennis with one foot tethered to concrete.
The production choice to add an apocryphal tennis pro when Jimmy Connors or Billie Jean King were available is a genuine curiosity. The choice in having the model depicting Biggs being an out of shape Ron Jeremy knock off must have been a joke that is missed by me.
But enough about the game box, blurb and actor. What is the game like?
I’m glad you asked. It’s a roll-and-move version of Pong. The thought of a roll-and-move Pong is enough to make me slip into a coma.
You place your tennis pawn(s) on the board, try to serve the ball in bounds and chuck the dice. Games last about 60 banal minutes. Or sooner if you use my house rule: the first person to concede wins.
2. Orgy from Gaylord James
Orgy, from Gaylord James Inc, was a product that could only come from the 1960’s. A drinking game with a name that would not pass today’s PC muster, Orgy comes with a porron and a few other components (like bibs) for $10.
The goal is to pour your favorite libation down the throat of one of your team members without spilling it. Points are scored by rules so poorly defined I could hear Dusty bitch about it from here.
The game was advertised in Playboy (a men’s magazine of yesteryear) where such racy things were encouraged. The game box shows happy couples in submissive positions pouring wine down each other’s throats. An Elizabeth Montgomery knock off is displayed prominently with a “I play the game” sticker on her forehead, another component you get for your $10.
There doesn’t seem to be much of a game here–even by drinking game standards. The game box gives you the feel of a Roman bathhouse, I suppose. Maybe that’s what the publishers were going for. Who knows? One thing is certain: Ron Jeremy is sexier than that game.
3. The Backbone from Nike and Cooper SA
Spanish board game publisher Nike and Cooper made some sleeper hits like Escape from Colditz and Napoleon’s Last Battles. The company didn’t last for very long, hailing from 1981 to 1987. Despite their obvious wargame chops, the company made an unexpected wargame departure with 1983’s “The Backbone”.
The Backbone is an abstract area control game. Players move their tokens about on a hexagon made up of six different colored triangles.
Wargame publishers make abstracts from time to time. That’s not what’s news here. It’s the box art. The box art shows a goateed man in shades wearing a tuxedo playing the game on a naked woman who has the game board tattooed to her back. There is an inset picture on the box cover showing the man, now wearing a suit instead of a tux, with a registered trademark ® symbol next to it.
Why would Nike and Cooper trademark that? Did they think they had struck gold with this board game box cover model? Since the company went out of business around the time of Iran Contra, I guess we will never know.
4. Smokers Wild from Avalon Hill
Avalon Hill was a big time wargame publisher. Every now and again they would get it in their head to publish a lark like Class Struggle. All were poorly received by the hardcore gamers. We like wargames, thank you very much.
In 1978, Avalon Hill decided to publish another lark. This one was called Smokers Wild. The goal is to end with the most money while avoiding addiction to cigarettes.
Players take a role such as Doctor or Undertaker. These are supposed to be roles that will benefit you if your opponent gets addicted to cigarettes. The roles have puns for names such as the undertaker who’s name is Doug Graves.
The box cover is a piece of work. The model (and I’ve never used the term more loosely than now) is smoking six cigarettes, has additional cigarettes sticking out of his hair and shirt and is staring deadpan into the camera. The table in front of him is littered with comical renames of famous cigarette brand logos.
The game box has enough warnings to satisfy the strictest surgeon general. When there are more labels on the cover trying to calm you down and reassure you than trying to sell you the game, It’s probably time to go back to the drawing board.
5. Intern from Avalon Hill
I don’t mean to pick on Avalon Hill…but they had it coming with this one. In the game Intern, players take on the roles of young physicians who try to accumulate the most sleep. Drs. Cliff and Lou Andrew designed this game to teach people what its like to be an intern in a busy hospital.
The game box has some TMI. The host of interns committing textbook examples of malpractice in front of a critically injured patient cannot distract us from the bag of urine in the foreground.
Nothing sells a board game like a bag of urine. Maybe that’s why doctors shouldn’t design board games.
6. Zap from Skor-Mor
Zap is a derivative of Trouble. You roll some dice. Maybe you can move a pawn. Probably not. Then its your opponent’s turn. Play continues until one player has moved his pieces to his goal line.
Judging from the top cover, Zap is a snoozefest. It’s not until we flip it over do we realize how stimulating this game actually is.
You got to give the publisher credit. The copy says, “Zap! It’s a glittering casino right in your own home.” This 1975 basement rec room might look more like a glittering casino if he turned a light or two on.
It’s really hard to imagine three middle aged men getting this excited sitting in a dark basement doing some Coors product placement.