Milton Bradley Vectrex (box art & overlays)
One obvious liability of the Vectrex is its black and white display. Even in the early 1980s, monochrome was seen as a serious limitation in a game system, no matter how innovative its display method might be. This potential deal-breaker was addressed with heavy gauge, flexible plastic overlays produced for each game. These overlays fit snugly into plastic grooves on the top and bottom in front of the monitor, and featured high quality color printing.
The overlays not only improved the games’ aesthetics, but also provided simple instructions. The translucent, semi-transparent overlays also reduced the flicker inherent in vector displays. Since the overlays weren’t designed until after a game was considered finished, they often frustrated programmers, since further code changes had to accommodate the position of an overlay’s design elements. Nevertheless, the colorful overlays generally helped to enhance each game’s presentation and remain one of the Vectrex’s most iconic elements.
In late 1983, Atari programmer and Asteroids(1979) creator Ed Logg began work on Gauntlet (originally titled “Dungeons”), an arcade video game Inspired by his son’s love of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and Dandy(1983), a D&D-style game for the Atari 800 computer. Following the infamous crash of the video game industry in 1983, the market for coin-operated video games began to shrink dramatically. At the same time, route operators who purchased increasingly expensive games and split their profits with location owners found it more and more difficult to get a return on their investments. In an environment in which consumers resisted spending more than one quarter on a game, Atari needed to, as Logg told ICHEG, figure out “how to get more money for the same amount of time.” Gauntlet’s unique design provided the answer: four simultaneous players each spending a quarter for the same amount of time.
But before players emptied their pockets to play Gauntlet, Logg and Atari designers needed to create a cabinet that could accommodate four players at once. As Logg explained, “One real problem was the players had to stand a little off the side,” which meant the game “required more floor space in an arcade or street location than a normal game. This reduced the places the game could go and it was one issue we could not solve.” Nevertheless, the final version of Gauntlet was a marvelous combination of function and aesthetics. It included a cheaper, but more reliable 19” monitor instead of its original 25” monitor with no plexiglass between the screen and the player to reduce glare. The front of the game also had four coin mechanisms—one per player—to eliminate confusion over whose money added health to whose avatar. The massive cabinet featured enchanting fantasy side art of the warrior, valkyrie, wizard, and elf battling a host of monstrous creatures.
Source: CHEGheads Blog
A Game of Troublesome Pigs (Circa 1900 - 1910)
After raiding the garden, those troublesome pigs flee the angry farmer and his trusty dog as the farmer waves his fist and swings his hickory stick. This is some of Milton Bradley’s finest chromolithography, rivaling that of McLoughlin Brothers. This wonderful early game also has a highly complex game board with a fabulously illustrated image of a group of pigs raiding a cornfield.
Source: Z & K Antiques
Commonwealth Navy board game, 1913, made by National Games Company, Melbourne, to celebrate the arrival of the Australian naval fleet in Sydney in October 1913. The company also released the ‘Antarctica’ board game in the same year, to celebrate Australian exploration and the expanding empire. National Museum of Australia.
Source: National Museum Australia
Mansion of Bliss - A new game for the amusement of youth
During the 18th and 19th centuries there was an explosion of board game publishing. These games were intended to be both educational and entertaining and were produced mainly for children. The major topics covered were history, geography, science, religion and moral values. The Mansion of Bliss is a typical example of the Museum’s collection of 19th century race games. It is a moral game ‘designed for the amusement of youth, with a view to promote the progressive improvement of the juvenile mind and to deter them from pursuing the dangerous paths of vice’. The game is played with a teetotum (a spinning die) and accompanied by a booklet which gives a four line verse for each playing space. These outline the rewards or forfeits associated with that space. For example ‘The Truant’ and ‘Cruelty to Animals’ result in a forfeit, while ‘Obedience to Parents’ and ‘Fidelity’ are rewarded. The first player to reach ‘The Mansion Of Bliss’ in the centre is the winner.
The publishers of board games are usually very well known as their details are printed on the games. The people who actually invented the games are not so well known. The inventor of The Mansion of Bliss was Thomas Newton who was also responsible for another moral race game called Virtue Rewarded and Vice Punished.
Source: Museum of Childhood
Bermuda Triangle (1975)
In Bermuda Triangle the players are operators of merchant fleets. They must navigate their fleets between the four ports on the map picking up cargoes (lumber, sugar, oil and bananas). Each cargo they collect and get back to their home port gives them more cash, but they must be careful of the “mystery cloud” which moves around the board and into which their ships may vanish forever.
This is an amazingly fun game. The players move their ships along the track on the map from one port to another according to a die roll while the cloud moves and spins randomly according to the spinner. There are magnets located under the cloud and on the ship counters and if the cloud and a ship get too close together the ship is sucked into the cloud. There is really very little strategy involved in the game (beyond trying to guess where the cloud will move next and moving your ships accordingly) but is is still quite fun to play. The game rapidly turns into a “last ship remaining” contest and the ad-libs, jokes and comments made by the players as their ships are sucked out of sight are worth pulling it out for. By no means serious, but certainly fun.