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Did You Ever Play These Ridiculously Odd Board Games?

 Remember the good old days when we used to spend our summer and winter holidays playing hours of board games with friends and family? Before our lives were swaddled with smartphones and a plethora of streaming services, indulging in a variety of board games used to be the favorite pastime of many. Monopoly, Scrabble, Battleship, and Snakes and Ladders, among a host of other games, are remembered with great fondness even today.

While there are plenty of memorable board games that we have played, there have been quite a few strange, weird and even controversial board games that you might not be aware of. For every Monopoly and Scrabble, there were a number of ridiculous and bizarre board games that we would feel weird playing today. Looking at some of these board games now, one wonders how and why these odd creations were ever devised.

1. Capital Punishment (1981)

Weirdest Old Board Games Capital Punishment

Image source - BoardGameGeek

The name of the game itself was controversial. To think that a board game titled “Capital Punishment” could be launched for kids itself is bizarre. Apparently, the game was published for political reasons – to make a "political point". 

Made by Hammerhead Enterprises, this politically driven board game lets players roll the dice in a corrupt judicial system. The primary motive of the game, of course, is to get all four of your ‘criminals’ in the game life imprisonment, death row or the electric chair. Yes, you read that right! A player could also use two of his ‘liberals’ to remove the opposing players' criminals from the "Path of Justice" and back onto the street. The objective was to do this often enough so that you could turn all the 'Innocent Citizens' of the opponent into 'Victims' of violent crimes. The victims would go to heaven. 

This was obviously quite a controversial and weird game. One wonders whether it would have even been allowed to be launched today.

2. Public Assistance (1980)

Weirdest Old Board Games Public Assistance

Image source - BoardGameGeek

"Why bother working for a living?" That was literally the tagline for the board game named “Public Assistance” - designed in 1980 to mock the United States government's domestic policies in the most ridiculous way.

This roll-and-move type game required players to move around the board in two different tracks: "working person's rut" and "able-bodied welfare recipient's promenade." The purpose of the game was to show how one can freeload the most from the government. While playing, you could also end up with a lucrative government job or end up in jail. This attempted to show that you are trapped in a vicious system where you are forced to make the worst choices.

The game was met with severe criticism and there were calls to ban it. The makers, Hammerhead Enterprises, mentioned that it was only a parody of government and liberalism and should be seen as that.

3. The Bigfoot Game (1987)

Weirdest Old Board Games The Bigfoot Game

Image source - BoardGameGeek

One can understand the appeal this game must have had back when it was launched. Back in the late 70s, there was another similar game launched but the one made by Waddingtons in 1987 found great popularity. 

Bigfoot, as most of you would know, is the legendary and mythical larger-than-life creature who has fascinated people for ages. The game used that curiosity and made it an adventure for kids. 2-4 players could play this, where they attempted to find out the secret whereabouts of the Bigfoot in the mountains, through various obstacles. The creature will try to stop you by kicking a boulder in your path and only one player would succeed in reaching it. It was an odd, one-of-a-kind game in those times and it was actually quite successful. 

4. Lie, Cheat, & Steal - The Game Of Political Power (1971)Weirdest Old Board Games Lie, Cheat, & Steal - The Game Of Political Power

Image source - BoardGameGeek

This was another political simulation board game that was launched in the early 70s. The basic premise of the game was that the players had to lie, cheat, and steal their way into the government office by using any means necessary and collecting as many votes as they can. 

Published by Dynamic Game, 'Lie, Cheat, & Steal' was different than most politically-motivated games, as here the players needed to employ genuine political methods to progress to the office - like vote-buying, libel and under the table deals. In fact, you could even steal from the public treasury and call for investigations against your opponents. You also had to ensure that you don’t get caught with "black eye crimes" which could hurt your political ambitions. 

This was an interesting but rather strange game, as it was intended for kids. It was criticized as it literally encouraged indulging in lying and cheating to achieve your goals.

5. Smokers Wild (1978)

Weirdest Old Board Games Smokers Wild

Image source - BoardGameGeek

The idea of 'Smokers Wild' was novel – “this game will convince you not to smoke”, read the tagline. However, the way it was made was quite peculiar. Players had to try and gather money while avoiding addiction to cigarettes. To begin the game, each player had to pick a profession that was likely to benefit from the smoking of others (Doctor, Undertaker, Taxman, etc.). The concept of the game was quite simple – the more a player ends up smoking in the game, the faster they advance on the ‘Life-O-Metre’, which eventually results in their death, meaning elimination from the game. In theory, that might have put children off from smoking. 

Targeted at older kids, Smokers Wild was made by The Avalon Hill Game Co. and launched in 1978. The game’s anti-smoking message was unique for its times. Unfortunately, Smokers Wild didn’t have much impact on the games market and many people saw it as being too tasteless for their children.

6. Bombshell (1981)

Weirdest Old Board Games Bombshell (1981)

Image source - BoardGameGeek

While there were quite a few controversial board games launched during the 80s, very few had the kind of bad press and relentless media campaign against them like Bombshell did. This 1981 offering from Waddington was about four bomb disposal soldiers - Major Disaster, Sergeant Jimmy Jitters, Private Tommy Twitters, and Piper Willy Fumble – who attempt to dispose of a bomb before it explodes. This was a rare and strange kind of a game, as nothing of this sort had been targeted at kids before. The British press launched a furious campaign against it, calling it offensive.

What made matters worse for Bombshell was that a bomb disposal man was blown up by an IRA bomb just weeks after its launch. The game was taken off the shelves soon after, and to date has not been reissued. 

7. Town Dump (1977)

Weirdest Old Board Games Town Dump (1977)

Image source - BoardGameGeek

It’s a good idea to let your child be aware of the misuse of garbage through a board game. The 1977 Milton Bradley board game 'Town Dump', though, gave a rather mixed message. 

Two players could play this game where they had to wind up a miniature bulldozer that would move through pieces of trash and push them out of the way. So far, so good. However, the motive of the game appeared to be clearing waste out of your dump and pushing it into your rival’s property. This would be fun to play, but the knowledge it indirectly imparted on children was to push your discarded trash into someone else’s property and let it become their problem. 

Understandably, Town Dump upset a lot of parents and is not recalled with much fondness today.

8. The Sinking of the Titanic (1975)Weirdest Old Board Games The Sinking of the Titanic

Image source - BoardGameGeek

The sinking on the Titanic, a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912, is widely regarded as one of the greatest human disasters in history. It is a painful and sensitive subject for countless people for obvious reasons. It is hence curious that someone thought it wise to make a board game based on the subject. 

The 'Sinking of the Titanic' was a board game that was introduced in 1975 by Milton Bradley. The rules were simple: "The Titanic is sinking. Players must race around and rescue passengers from their staterooms and rush to the lifeboats before the ship sinks.” Once the ship sinks, the players were supposed to accumulate enough food and water by visiting islands or by drawing cards to stay alive until the rescue boats arrive. The first player to make it there wins.

There was a huge and expected outcry by those offended by the game in the United Kingdom. Later, the name was changed for U.K. distribution to ‘Abandon Ship’. However, they continued using the image of the Titanic on the cover. The unusual game turned many people off and eventually, The Sinking of the Titanic sank without a trace.


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