Gnarly History

17 of the most iconic board games from the 70s

Entertainment | May 8, 2018

Family with two children (8-9) playing checkers (Getty Images).

Remember the days when kids weren’t distracted by video games or mobile apps? On rainy days, the only thing to keep us entertained was the television, which got 3 channels at best, or a good old-fashioned board game.

A board game is a tabletop game.  A board game is one that involves pieces, or tokens, that are moved or placed on a pre-marked surface or “board,” according to a set of rules. Some games are based on pure strategy, but many contain an element of chance.


Some board games are based purely on chance, with no element of skill.


Classic and iconic games including Monopoly, LIFE and Sorry! enjoy epic popularity, still today!

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.

There are countless varieties of board games.

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/are 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.

Classic board games were among the many games that have evolved over the years.

Typically, games are considered to be a fun and recreational activity. That being said, 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.


Sorry! was/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.

Uncle Wigley and Candy Land are an entirely different genre of game than some of the more disturbing games that toy manufacturers thought we might have enjoyed back in the day. Many games have stood the test of time, but many have not.

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? 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.


Some games were just plain eerie!

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 their money. Not too hard of a concept!


Pay Day

Pay Day was a game that was based on the exact opposite theory of the game,  Go for Broke.


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 case and point for this concept!

Stay Alive was part Battleship and part Ker-Plunk; 2 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 Sinking of the Titanic ship, was an historic tragedy. It was, however, far enough removed from the 1970’s for it to be turned into a fun game. Players were challenged to make it off the Titanic before it sank. Make no mistake though… 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. They actually spread like wildfire including games like Trivial Pursuit, and the Ouija Board. All of this before the age of electronics. This was an era not to be matched!

NEXT: U.S. Presidents that Served in the White House During the 60s and 70s

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Jackson Hall

Jackson Hall

Jackson Hall is one of the best writers of our generation. He has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list three different times and nominated multiple time for best Memoir on Goodreads. He studied history at Yale and became obsessed with the 70s. Now he focuses on digging up stories nobody has written about to help grow our extensive knowledge of the past. He is the glue to our company and we are so lucky to have him on the team.

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