Games from Childhood

I know that we played a bunch of different boardgames when I was a kid, and I’m sure that we hit on all of the traditional classics, but there are some memories that have survived better than others in my hazy recollection. With this entry, I’m going to look back at some of the games I remember playing as a child, and a follow-up post will discuss some of the games I’ve been playing with my children over the past year, hoping to give them some boardgame memories of their own.

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As a child of the ’70s, I was the perfect age to be consumed by Star Wars when the movie released. Though my memories get a little foggier with each passing year, I still remember seeing the original release at the drive-in. Not only was I part of the target audience, I had a large Death Star-shaped bull’s eye on my head. That lead to collecting everything related to the movie, and the Escape from the Death Star boardgame certainly fell onto that list. Released the same year as the film, the game saw you navigate your two pieces through the Death Star, collecting good and bad Force cards. Once you had both pieces at the awaiting Millenium Falcon, you fought some Tie Fighters and escaped.

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I remember all sorts of spinner injuries related to finding the perfect method of flicking it to get the best result. Overall, the game was pretty simple, but it was Star Wars and I loved it, and never questioned why there’d be 4 sets of Luke & Leia’s running through the Death Star at the same time. Some lucky kids had the companion game – Destroy the Death Star – and were able to come back after escaping to finish the job.

There was another Star Wars-themed game that I have vague memories of from the early ’80s, but all I can recall were the excellent Millenium Falcon playing pieces. I don’t remember much else about the game, but I remember how fond I was of those miniature Corellian freighters…


Another game that got some play in my house was the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea game. This game had cool Nautilus submarine pieces that could be pulled apart to simulate diving underwater. You rolled differently-numbered dice to move depending on whether you were submerged or not – you’d go faster if you were on the surface, but be in danger of getting hit by gunboats. You would roll your die, move your Nautilus, and then take your turn rotating the island, which moved the gunboat obstacles around the board, potentially hitting your playing piece.


I don’t remember too much about that actual gameplay, but I do remember being fascinated by the two-part submarine tokens and the black die, which only had sides numbered 1, 2, and 3! Also, it was pretty fun to turn the island and make the boats fly around – the faster you turned, the better chance you had of making all of the pieces simply fly off the board.

In addition to these movie-themed games, we played many of the boardgame staples, and had many of the same issues that every household had. Monopoly usually had one player (in this case, my older and sneakier neighbor) who would act as the banker and would soon seem to have unlimited funds at his disposal. We’ve all played that game of operation that was neutered by younger siblings. In my case, my sister hated the buzzing sound that would result from a hand slip, so we often played the game without the batteries. Which pretty much makes it pointless, right?



A few years back, we managed to obtain a thrift store copy of this game. I broke it out to play with my girls, and it wasn’t long before we were taking the batteries out so that we could all enjoy “the quiet version” that held more appeal for my youngest daughter.

I played a lot of chess as a kid, but haven’t really played much since childhood, despite always thinking of it as a more “adult” game. We had two versions when I was a kid – a solid, wood board and pieces that prevented scratches with green felt on the bottom, and my personal set that was magnetic and portable. Two years ago, I asked for and received a themed chess set as a present – the Justice League set, featuring Superman and Wonderwoman as the light king and queen, and a dark side made up of comic book villains. I taught my wife how to play chess using this set, and enjoy the fact that all of her chess references are for Batman and Flash pieces – she isn’t familiar with rooks and bishops at all.


I also played a lot of cardgames as a child. I remember playing cribbage a lot when I was 10 and 11, but haven’t played in decades. While I don’t remember much of the rules or strategy of the game, I do remember playing once against a family friend who was dealt a perfect hand, earning the 29 points called out on our board.


According to the American Cribbage Congress, the odds of being dealt a Perfect Hand while playing against a single opponent are 1 in 216,580. Perhaps that’s the reason that I retired from cribbage at such a young age – I’d seen the perfect hand and everything was downhill from there?

My next entry will reveal some games I’ve been playing with my children, and games I’d like to introduce to them. In the meantime, feel free to comment with games fondly remembered from your youth, or games that you play with your family. I’m sure there are a lot of stories similar to my monopoly or Operation tales.

*all images taken from – the best site on the net for boardgame information. *

Posted in BLOGS, James On Games