Board Games Part Two: Gumdrops and the O.R. (plus three more)

As promised, here's the follow-up story to my board games article from last week, when we discussed Monopoly, Clue, Life and Scrabble. I guess I'm feeling nostalgic today, because I feel like writing about the oldies-but-goodies – the games that entertained you when you were a little shaver. At least, they entertained me. By the way, does anyone know where the phrase "little shaver" comes from? Ah, at any rate:


A beloved game, to be sure, and a hard-to-resist brightly-colored game board with fun locations that make me think of Candy Mountain (Charlie the Unicorn, anyone??). Some trivia for you:

• The game was designed by Eleanor Abbott while she was recovering from polio in the '40s. She wanted children who were also suffering from the disease to have something fun to do to bide their time.
• The first version of the game was sold for a mere $1.00. The advertising said it fulfilled the "sweet tooth yearning of the younger set without the tummy ache aftereffects" and also "A sweet little game for sweet little folks".
• If you want to know the mathematical analysis of the length of a game (and who doesn't), you can!
• was registered for an adult Web site. Hasbro sued and won.
• Want to see a more, um, violent history of Candy Land? Here you go.
• Characters include: The Kids, The Gingerbread People, Mr. Mint, Gramma Nutt, King Kandy, Jolly, Plumpy (taken out of the most recent version of the game), Mama Ginger Tree (replaced Plumpy), Princess Lolly (renamed 'Lolly' after 2002 edition), Queen Frostine (renamed 'Princess Frostine' after 2002 edition), Lord Licorice, Gloppy the Molasses Monster (renamed Gloppy the Chocolate Monster). I love the idea of a bunch of executives in business suits at Hasbro sitting in a conference room discussing the change of these names.

Bob: "Based on recent surveys, we have found that children don't relate to 'Queen' Frostine. Based on the Disney 'princess' movement, we're seeing a paradigm shift in consumerism. I think we need to be proactive and leverage the movement for our own purposes and facilitate the title change to Princess Frostine."

Jim: "What about Princess Lolly? If Princess Frostine is going to be our cash cow, I'm not sure we should have another princess competing."

Tom: "That's a good point, Jim. Here's a thought. Going forward, what if we just call her 'Lolly?'"

Bob: "I think that's a home run, Tom. That's low-hanging fruit. Now, let me run this by you – how do you guys feel about 'Plumpy'? I'm not sure that's reflecting the diverse nature of our customers."

Jim: "You're right, Bob, I've been considering that. What I propose is a character that represents the audience who is actually responsible for the purchase of this product – the mothers. I was throwing some ideas against the wall to see what would stick and here's what I came up with – Mama Ginger Tree."

Tom: "Is that offensive to redheads?"

Sorry. I go off on tangents sometimes.


You know, in researching this, I realized I don't remember the actual rules of operation. I just remember trying to pull bits out of the "patient" without touching the edges. But, there are rules to it, and they go like this: Specialist cards are handed out to everyone at the beginning of the game. Then players take turns drawing doctor cards, which ask the players to remove a certain piece from the patient. If they fail, then whichever player has the corresponding Specialist card for the piece in question gets to have a go at it. If they succeed, they get double the money that the original player would have. The winner is the player with the most money at the end.

• The game was invented in 1965 by John Spinello and snatched up by Milton Bradley the same year.
• The "patient" is named Cavity Sam.
• The ailments are: Adam's Apple, Broken Heart, Wrenched Ankle, Butterflies in the Stomach, Spare Ribs, Water on the Knee, Funny Bone, Charley Horse, Writer's Cramp, The Ankle Bone's Connected to the Knee Bone (which is a rubber band, not a plastic piece like the others), Wish Bone and Bread Basket. At 1,000 points, the Bread Basket is worth the most.
• Fans voted to have a new piece added to the game in 2003 – the winner was Brain Freeze, an ice cream cone-shaped piece in the brain. Other contenders were Tennis Elbow and Growling Stomach.
• Other versions include Shrek, Spider-Man, SpongeBob SquarePants and the Simpsons.
• In 2007, a version was released with three different skill levels – and you're timed. Also, Cavity Sam has a heart monitor and you can give him oxygen to buy more time.

Guess Who

This one is a little more recent (1987, to be exact) but used to be one of my favorites. Flipping down the tiles was just so satisfying.

  • The comic book geek in your life can still enjoy Guess Who – the Marvel Heroes version, although the name is a little misleading because it includes both heroes and villains. In fact, here are the characters: Captain America, Thor, Cyclops, Dr. Octopus, Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, the Thing, Daredevil, Bullseye, Beast, the Hulk, She-Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Dr. Doom, Nightcrawler, Rogue, the Lizard, Juggernaut, Venom, Storm, the Green Goblin and Iron Man. I wonder if there are different rules to this game, because it seems to me that "Are his claws made of adamantium?" is a little too obvious. Or maybe not, since you would only eliminate one person if you were wrong.

  • • Guess Where? Is similar to Guess Who? On a house gameboard, eight family members are pets are randomly placed. Your opponent asks yes or no questions to determine who is where.
    • If you're like me, you always wanted to make your own version of Guess Who? Well, this girl did:

    Her version includes Gene Simmons, Marilyn Manson, Tom Petty, Sid Vicious, Annie Lennox, Janis Joplin, the lead singer from Flock of Seagulls, Avril Lavigne, Paris Hilton, Enrique Inglasias, Billy Idol, Slash, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Tommy Lee, Kurt Cobain, Shirley Manson, Sebastian Bach, Axel Rose, Amy Lee, Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler. and Ozzy.
    Here's how you can make your own, if you're Craftily-inclined.

    Chutes (or Snakes) and Ladders

    The version of this game most of us are probably thinking about is the Milton Bradley version that has been around since at least 1952. But the game itself is ancient. See for yourself:

    • The game was played in ancient India and was known then as Moksha Patamu. It's believed that the game has existed (in some version or another) since 2 B.C. Ladders represented good qualities like faith, humility, generosity, honesty. Snakes/chutes represented the flip side – lust, anger, theft, murder. The ideal was to reach salvation – Moksha – by doing good deeds, and bad deeds will send you backwards in life (Patamu). There were less ladders than snakes to remind everyone that being good is much harder than sinning.
    • By 1892, it made its way to Victorian England, where the good qualities and bad qualities changed to suit the times. Good = thrift and industry, Bad = indulgence and disobedience.
    • By the time the game reached the U.S., the morality was still there but was toned down a bit. The snakes were changed to chutes and the board was given a playground theme. At the top of chutes, there were pictures of children doing something bad or foolish. The chutes could lead all the way to the bottom of the game, where it shows children being punished. The bottom of the ladders show a kid doing some sort of a good deed and the top of the game showed children enjoying a reward. Honestly, I don't know that I ever made the connection – anyone else? Or was I a particularly unobservant child?
    • Some Canadian versions of the game use toboggan runs instead of chutes.

    Mouse Trap

    I didn't realize this, but Mouse Trap has been around since 1963. I loved this game when I had the patience to set up all of the pieces… which wasn't that often.

    • Here are all of the contraptions: The player turns the crank which rotates the gears, causing the lever to move and push the stop sign against the shoe, which tips the bucket holding the metal ball, which rolls downstairs and into the pipe, which leads it to hit the rod held by the hands, causing the bowling ball to fall from the top of the rod, roll down the groove, fall into and then out of the bottom of the bathtub, landing on the diving board. The weight of the bowling ball sends the diver through the air and into the bucket, making the cage fall from the post to trap the player who is on the spot under the cage. Whew.
    • The game was inspired by Rube Goldberg, who was famous for creating insanely complicated machines to perform an insanely menial task. Examples of Rube Goldberg machines include lots of Wallace's inventions in the Wallace and Gromit series, lots of contraptions in The Goonies and the device Ferris Bueller rigs up to fake his mom out when she comes home in the middle of the day to check on her ailing son. Oh, and Doc Brown makes use of multiple Rube Goldberg machines in at least a couple of the Back to the Futures.
  • Despite the similarities between the game and a Rube Goldberg drawing, the game designer, Marvin Glass, refused to pay royalties to Goldberg. He even went so far to design two other games "inspired" by Goldberg drawings – Crazy Clock and Fish Bait. Goldberg decided not to sue and sold his licensing rights to a rival toy company.

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    OMFG! - How can animals like Bernaldo Bicoy - who is a twice convicted child sex offender make bail?

    This punk faked himself as a lawyer and Venture Capital - VC Research Expert with a slippery tongue to win trust of adolescents. Out of all people, the gov released him out on bail!

    It's sad but the streets of Lake Forest are now dangerous. How can I petition?
    Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
    I not only own the standard Operation game (without the new brain freeze piece - I've had it a while), but the be all, end all to the Operation games: Alien Autopsy. Yep, instead of butterflies in the stomach, you get to remove radio implants and telepathy organs. And it doesn't buzz; it screams. Wheeee!
    Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
    If you liked Candyland, you'll LOVE Cartagena ( It's Candyland for grownups, full of delicious, take-that fun.
    And it's got pirates.
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    I always wanted Candyland, Operation, Guess Who?, and Mouse Trap. I hated Snakes and Ladders, though. It was so arbitrary... and I never got the connection with good vs. bad, either. It's a roll of the dice, for goodness sake!
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