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Now That Was a Seventies Board Game

I've gone back to my childhood over the past few weeks. What a fun journey it's been too. Nostalgic memories of  a time when the most difficult decision you had to make was which of the cereals in the Kellogg's Variety pack to eat for breakfast on a Saturday morning. Well, that and the tough choice between watching Multi-Coloured Swap Shop on BBC or Tiswas on ITV anyway.

Initially, the reason for this retro rewind was to research the book I am currently writing, which happens to be all about the pop culture of the seventies and eighties. During the writing of Proper Telly however, I have become utterly absorbed in the nostalgia of those times, which is why this blog is now dedicated to 70's/8o's culture, hence the site name change to The Retro Writer.

Never Bored with a Board Game

One of the great things about being a kid in the seventies was the great variety of toys and games available. In addition to my Action Man collection and my treasured Evel Knievel Stunt Bike, I used to love playing board games. I had a number of favourites as a kid, many of which I dearly wish I still owned today. Unfortunately, as I advanced into my teenage years, I decided to sell most of my board game collection, a decision I now deeply regret. A number of the games I sold are worth quite a decent amount of money now, although the market isn’t quite as buoyant as it was a couple of years ago. Mind you, it isn’t just the value that bothers me. It is the fact that a part of my childhood disappeared as soon as I sold those games over thirty years ago. I am sorely tempted to raid marketplaces such as eBay in order to buy back some of the classic games from my younger days.

Here are some of my favourites from that time. How many of these do you remember?

On the Buses

Officially licensed merchandise based on films and television programmes has always been a great money-spinner for manufacturers and usually a splendid source of fun and collectability for consumers. Back in the seventies, the ITV sitcom On The Buses was hugely popular, with three spin-off films also pulling in the crowds at cinemas. There was even an On the Buses board game.

Released in 1973, the box featured some wonderfully drawn cartoon caricatures of Stan, Jack and Inspector Blakey. The aim of the game was to drive your bus around the board, collecting passengers from bus stops along the way, all the time trying to avoid the wrath of Blakey. The first person to get three passengers back to the depot was declared the winner. I remember the game including four plastic buses, coloured red, green, blue and brown and also a number of plastic bus stops and little plastic passengers which stood in the top of your bus playing piece.

Escape from Colditz

First released in 1973, I recall Escape from Colditz being incredibly complicated, with single games sometimes taking up to three hours to complete. One player would take on the role of a German security officer while the rest of the players would each be one of a differing number of nationalities trying to get their prisoners out of the infamous Colditz Castle. The escapees would first have to assemble a complete escape kit before attempting to traverse their chosen escape route. I can remember playing Escape from Colditz with my older brother and his mates, who were seven years above me in age. I played the German security officer. As I was only about nine at the time and my brother and his mates were sixteen, they understood the complexities of the game far better than I did, leading to Colditz being totally devoid of prisoners at the end of the game!

The superb artwork on the front of the box featured a swastika next to the title when Escape from Colditz was first released. This would never happen today of course and later editions of the game saw the swastika replaced by an Imperial Eagle.

Game of Dracula

Released by industry veterans Waddingtons in 1977, the aim of Game of Dracula was to escape from Dracula’s castle while being chased by the fiendish Count himself. If you were caught by Dracula or one of his vampires, their figures would slot over your playing piece, completely engulfing you. A great little innovation I remember from Game of Dracula was the inclusion of a green vampire bat mask. The first player to be bitten in the game would have to don the cardboard mask and then hunt down the other players via the green vampire playing piece. There was also a blue vampire piece, while the plastic figure of Dracula was red. 

The Fastest Gun

I have always had a fascination with the wild west and this great game combined standard board game play, involving action cards and Monopoly-style money, with gunfights in a western town. With the western genre currently out of fashion, The Fastest Gun would never be produced today. Back in the seventies though, with westerns still having a place in audience affections, the game was hugely popular.

I loved the idea of the gunfights in this game. The centre of the game board resembled the main street of a typical town in the old west, complete with cardboard buildings either side. Plastic gunmen would be placed in little holes on the board, while a cardboard wheel underneath the board would then be rotated. Once the surface underneath your gunman disappeared and he fell, the gunfight would be lost.

A great idea and loads of fun.

Bermuda Triangle

I must confess I can't remember too much about the actual game play involved in this one but I do recall playing it as a kid. I think it must have been my brother's game originally before being passed down to me.

As with a lot of the board games in the seventies, the concept of Bermuda Triangle was simple but innovative. Players took turns to negotiate the shipping lanes of the Atlantic ocean, while trying to avoid the huge, menacing cloud which prowls the area. If the cloud passed over your ship, it would mysteriously vanish never to be seen again (at least not until the game was over and you packed everything away). This was done by small magnets placed in the top of each ship being attracted to the underside of the cloud.


Car Capers

Not strictly a board game but I am going to include Car Capers here because I adored it when I was a kid. While writing about board games for the book, for the life of me I just could not remember the name of this game. I had memories of the game itself and what the game play involved but the name would not reveal itself in the retro part of my brain. Numerous searches on the internet were to no avail.

It was while visiting a motor museum in the Cotswolds that the answer was finally revealed. While browsing one of the showcases in the vintage toy section of the museum, my eye was drawn to a blue game box with a Rolls Royce on the front. There it was! Car Capers!

Once again, the idea of the game was simplicity itself but game play was nevertheless highly addictive. The idea was to complete as many cars as possible by throwing the dice and winning a part of the car that matched the numbers thrown. With the cars featured in the game being decidedly of their time (see the examples), Car Capers has an extra special nostalgia attached to it today.

I would love to hear your own memories of the board games from your childhood that you remember with fondness. You can leave a comment here on the blog or alternatively join me on Twitter Retro Writer Stuart Ball on Twitter


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