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The 1970s Board Games We Played: From Life To Sorry To Payday

Entertainment | May 8, 2018

Gene Hackman in the game closet of the Tenenbaum home in 'The Royal Tenenbaums.' How many of these do you recognize? Source: reddit

Kids have always loved games -- but games used to mean something different! We're talking about board games, which ruled kids' and family leisure time in the 1970s. Board games might not be as popular now, in the age of video games, but back in the day they were a way for families to spend time together. Imagine that! When it came to '70s board games, rivalries could be fierce -- one day you're sending your buddy all the way home with a sarcastic "Sorry!," but the next day you're the one wailing "You sank my battleship!"

The Classics Date From Well Before The '70s

Classic and iconic games including Monopoly, LIFE and Sorry! still enjoy epic popularity, still today. Life is the oldest, first published in 1860 by Milton Bradley. Monopoly dates from 1903, while Sorry! was first published by Parker Brothers in 1933.

Board games typically have a goal that a player strives to achieve. Early board games represented a battle between two armies.  While later and more modern board games are a bit different, they are still based on defeating opponents in terms of counters, winning position, or an accumulation of points.

Early board games represented real-life situations that ranged from having no innate theme, like the game of Checkers, to having a specific theme and story, like Chess. Rules could range from the very simple, like in Tic-tac-toe, to games describing a universe in great detail, like Dungeons & Dragons.

Many of the latter games were role-playing games where the board is actually secondary to the game. This, however, only serves to help visualize the actual game scenario. The amount of time required to learn to play or master a game varies greatly from game to game but is not necessarily correlated with the number or complexity of rules. Games like Chess, however, have relatively simple rules, but have excessive strategic depth.


Source: reddit

Typically, games are considered to be a fun and recreational activity -- but the game of Trouble was and is more of a frustration. Trouble is a board game in which players compete to be the first send their game pieces all the way around the game board. Game pieces are moved according to the chance roll of a die. The game of Trouble was developed by the Kohner Brothers and initially manufactured by Irwin Toy Ltd., and later by Milton Bradley (now part of Hasbro). The game was released in the United States in 1965.

The most notable feature of Trouble is the iconic "Pop-O-Matic" die container. The Pop-O-Matic device is a clear plastic hemisphere containing the die, placed over a flexible sheet. Players roll the die by pressing down quickly on the bubble, which flexes the sheet and causes the die to tumble upon its rebound. The Pop-O-Matic container emits a popping sound when it is used, and, by design, prevents the die from being lost (as well as keeping players from cheating by improper rolling). It allows for quick die rolls, and players' turns can be performed in rapid succession. The die is imprinted with numbers rather than the traditional circular dots.



Battleship was introduced in 1967 by Milton Bradley, and was basically a combination of bingo and naval warfare. One of the attractions was the game setup itself -- the ships and the plastic pegs that fit into a grid. In the famous commercials, the losing player called out "you sunk my battleship!" Did nobody teach these people grammar? The proper phrasing would be "you sank my battleship." But who has time for grammar when the game is this fun? "You sunk my battleship" is one of the most memorable board-game catchphrases, along with "pretty sneaky, sis," from the Connect Four commercial.


Source: reddit

Sorry! is another board game based on chance. Players try to travel around the board with their pieces ahead of all other players.

Most of the childhood games we remember were fun, although sometimes frustrating. Let’s not forget, though, the ones that were fun but disturbing at the same time. Just like anything else, games have crazes that come and go.

Scary board games of the era brought horror from the big screen to the small board! There were a lot of spooky games that challenged players. Do you remember playing any of these games?

Which Witch?

Which Witch? gave players a fright as they navigated the game in a house haunted by 3 witches; Ghoulish Gertie, Wanda the Wicked and Glenda the Good.


Séance was a game that was a somewhat dark in nature and dealt with some overtly "mature" issues. Players bid on dead Uncle Everett's belongings.  The person with the highest bid had to communicate with him to find out the value. After that, the player with the most money after estate taxes wins. Yes, this was a real game… not to mention that it was for players ages 7 and up.


If you played with competitive opponents, then most board games could eventually lead to some sort of a real headache. The game, Headache, was just the game to be nerve wracking enough to put the ailment in its title. It was kind of like the game of Sorry!, in which you had to land on other player's pieces to knock them out of the game.

King Oil

When this game came out it was a direct result of the television shows The Beverly Hillbillies and Dallas, which were popular and airing on primetime television at the time. Players of King Oil drilled for liquid gold while investing in property and accumulating (fictional) wealth. It was pretty much like the Monopoly of Texas.

Go For Broke!

The object of the game Go For Broke was to be the first player to spend all your money. Not too hard of a concept!


Payday was a game that was based on the exact opposite theory of the game Go for Broke. Players were challenged to manage their money over the course of a month -- from payday to payday. When we were kids, this was fun -- then we grew up and had to do the same thing in the real world, with real dollars. That was not so much fun.

Bermuda Triangle

Bermuda Triangle was a board game that pretty much guaranteed that no family would ever take a vacation to Bermuda. If you remember, that was the name of an unexplained mystery that had everyone on guard when considering visiting the Caribbean. The object of Bermuda Triangle was to operate a shipping company while dealing with the mysteries of the area.

Hands Down

Any board game involving physical contact in game play would usually end up in a slap fight between players by the end of the game. Hands Down was just such a game.

Stay Alive

Source: Reddit

Stay Alive was part Battleship and part Ker-Plunk; two very popular games of the era. In this game, staying alive meant keeping all your marbles on the board while plotting to make your opponent’s marbles fall through the cracks. Keeping all of your marbles is important not only in games but in real life too!

The Sinking Of The Titanic

The actual sinking of the Titanic was a historic tragedy. It was, however, far enough removed from the 1970s for it to be turned into a fun game. Players were challenged to make it off the Titanic before it sank, and before the fun was over, players then had to survive the open seas. The first player to reach the rescue boat won the game.

These games and others in the 1970’s brought the United States board game culture to new levels of excitement that spread across the country. In the '80s, Trivial Pursuit was the board-game phenomenon, while some board-based activities, like Ouija Board, weren't exactly "games" but they provided hours of fun.

Games For Little Kids


Some games required little to no skill -- like riding a bicycle with training wheels on, they got young kids to understand how board games worked. Uncle Wiggily, Candy Land, and Chutes & Ladders were all fun when you're six years old -- but play them as an adult and you might find yourself losing interest pretty quickly.

Tags: Board Games | Popular Lists Of Everything From The Groovy Era | Seance | Sorry! | The 1970s | Which Witch?

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.