What are some vintage (board)games to buy and play?
April 26, 2016 7:50 AM   Subscribe

So, my boyfriend and his friends enjoy playing boardgames together, especially ones regarding strategy (Settlers of Catan, Risk, etc.).They own a lot of modern boardgames, so for a gift, I wanted to get him a few fun vintage ones that they probably won't have played before. What vintage boardgames or other games have you played that you enjoyed most, especially those that are uncommon or no longer available today (except on Ebay)?

Note that I just went on Ebay and bought a vintage version of Pit, the commodities trading card game from a century ago that I have fond memories of playing as a child with my elderly neighbor. What other games should I consider buying? Games that older children can join in on would be a plus. Retro games that evoke a particular past historical moment (WWII, Cold War, etc.) would be a plus too. Thanks!
posted by ClaireBear to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (39 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I have fond memories of playing Castle Risk in high school German class. Think Settlers (maybe Cities and Knights) combined with Risk.
posted by supercres at 7:55 AM on April 26, 2016

Bargain Hunter and Payday
posted by soelo at 8:04 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

My Girl Scout service unit is planning an "Old School Games" day for the end of May, so I'll be watching this thread with interest.

Suggestions that got thrown out when the idea was proposed at our last meeting: pick up sticks, jacks, hopscotch, Chinese jumprope (?? I've never heard of this but the women age 50-60 were all about it), dominoes.

Some games I have at home that were my mom's when she was a kid: Candyland, yahtzee, snakes and ladders, scrabble, Monopoly. But since those are all still available today that's really not a great answer to your question.
posted by phunniemee at 8:09 AM on April 26, 2016

Word of warning, a lot of vintage boardgames are fun to look at but much less fun to play than present-day boardgames. So, how strong of a criterion is the playability factor for you?

Offhand, I've had fun playing the original version of Escape from Atlantis, which has a very cool board. They've put out a modern version that probably plays better (I haven't played it) but with a less cool board.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:09 AM on April 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Original-flavor Axis & Allies, as long as they wouldn't be uncomfortable playing the Axis.
posted by praemunire at 8:09 AM on April 26, 2016

Schoko & Co
posted by michaelh at 8:12 AM on April 26, 2016

Careers! See if you can get one from the 1950s or so. It's a go-around-the-board type of game where the point is to be the first to achieve your chosen goals from a mix of money, fame, and happiness. Includes such wonderful 1950s themes like "prospecting for uranium" and "hitting on the secretary".

I believe it's still in print (or was in the past couple decades) but the newer versions are much more sanitized.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:13 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Axis and Allies

posted by General Malaise at 8:15 AM on April 26, 2016

The 1968 Memory game delights me and my adult friends. The images are fantastic.
posted by Riverine at 8:18 AM on April 26, 2016

I really love the game Masterpiece — it's an art auction game featuring paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago. If you want to go for the most retro version you could get the original 1970's version but I would actually recommend the 1996 re-issue which makes a few minor game-play updates that make the game more dynamic and 1996 is technically vintage now so...
posted by metaphorever at 8:45 AM on April 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

Rack-o is a fun game that is deceptively simple. We still play that, and I've introduced it to friends who also enjoy it.
posted by hydra77 at 8:49 AM on April 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Hero Quest. (80s is vintage, right?)
posted by Skyanth at 8:52 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

The boardgame Dungeon was the precursor to full D&D, moving character pieces through a map of rooms and rolling dice to fight monsters. It involved a hilarious number of small fiddly bits of paper, which my 80's geek dad wrote a program in BASIC to handle for us. It's got interesting historical significance in the timeline of gameplay types.

Word of warning, a lot of vintage boardgames are fun to look at but much less fun to play than present-day boardgames. I have been in groups where that's half the fun. We entirely re-wrote the gameplay mechanics for Wine Cellar, and had an excellent time doing it, but that did involve playing at least half a game if not a full game under the original excruciating rules.
posted by aimedwander at 9:01 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Scotland Yard - map-based detective game
Cathedral - scratches the Tetris itch.
What about Go?
posted by carmicha at 9:01 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

If they are Euro style game (e.g. Ticket to Ride, Catan, Power Grid) snobs, there's a good chance they won't be interested in playing vintage board games because most of them are not good by the criteria that those games are judged by. Many of them simply haven't aged well compared to modern games. It's kind of like getting a foodie friend a cookbook from the 50s. There's a few classics that still hold up well, but a lot of old board games are the equivalent of jello molds or recipes that assume the only way you get spinach is from the freezer and oranges come in a can.

Acquire is the only one I can think of off the top of my head that I'll play. Civilization (not the Sid Meier one) is a genuine classic but is hard to find and takes an entire day to play. This list has a number of older games in it.

I would caution you on putting too much emphasis on childhood nostalgia, because that only works if they had similar experience. Unfortunately, if my girlfriend got me a copy of Pit, I'd react something like this review - I'd try to play it a few times for her sake but then bury it at the bottom of a drawer in hopes that it gets forgotten again.

It's easily possible that your boyfriend is less crotchety about games than I am, but I figured I'd offer some perspective. If you're simply trying to get them something they don't have already, heading to BGG and scooping something off the new hotness list may be worth considering.
posted by Candleman at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

We used to have fun playing Hotels - from what I remember game play was very similar to Monopoly though.

Also +1 for Rack-o, it is so much fun.
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 9:19 AM on April 26, 2016

Stock Market

Just look at the mid-century boxart. Oh man. You're on the trading floor with Don Draper's uncle, the stock trader.

We used to play the hell out of this game over at James Evans' house.
posted by notyou at 9:22 AM on April 26, 2016

Can't Stop is a lot of fun! My game and strategy loving husband loves it (me too...highly addictive!).
posted by I_love_the_rain at 9:46 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

What about Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective? It came out in 1981. There are also expansion packs and, apparently, a videogame!
posted by spelunkingplato at 9:57 AM on April 26, 2016

King Oil
Fireball Island (lots of fun, but hard to find and often $$$$$)
Dealer's Choice
Clue Master Detective
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:05 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs
Speed Circuit
Thunder Road
Money Card (a very retro travel game with cool kitchy graphics)
Survive! (This was out of print since the early 80's, but now there is a new edition out - fantastic, fun game that holds it's own with modern games)
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:13 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Depending on people's political bent, there is a game called Class Struggle which is sort of a Marxist version of Monopoly. Players are divided between capitalist and working classes, and the working classes have to cooperate to win.
posted by number9dream at 10:34 AM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Jäger und Späher

DruidenWalzer and Jäger und Späher are available only in German, but you can download instuctions in English. Lots of game geeks eventually end up in the German games.
posted by 26.2 at 10:41 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, how could I forget my absolute favorite game of all time! Clue: The Great Museum Caper!

It has nothing to do with Clue at all, apparently it was just a co-branding effort to increase sales. The game is a hidden-movement co-op versus game similar to Scotland Yard; one person plays the Art Thief and the rest play detectives/guards out to nab the thief before he/she absconds with the paintings. The goal for the thief is to enter the museum, grab as much loot as possible, and get out before getting apprehended.

-I love hidden movement games.
-Watching the look on your friends' faces as you pluck artwork off the board is so satisfying.
-THE BOARD. I mean, were you expecting your typical square of cardboard? ABSOLUTELY NOT! There is absolutely no reason for this game to have such a monstrous, plastic, 3-D board beyond sheer joy of excess behind it.

I find this one so much more satisfying than Scotland Yard because there's a purpose to the thief's movement beyond "get away from here". The game is supposed to involve a full round robin of each person playing the thief (most paintings captured wins), but it's usually enough for us to find the person with the most inflated ego on that particular day (usually me) and make them play the thief.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:55 AM on April 26, 2016

Omigod. You want The Mad Magazine Game for sure.
posted by town of cats at 11:22 AM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Avalon Hill had a bunch of strategy games in the 1970s that are weak precursors for the current German games. The only one I definitely recall playing is "France 1940". It's a lopsided game, where players quickly learn why the Maginot Line was such a bone-headed move. So there's that educational value, but you'd be unlikely to play that game again, so you shouldn't pay very much for it on ebay.

Vague good memories of playing Masterpiece in high school while listening to Pink Floyd.
posted by morspin at 11:52 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Iron Dragon. Just don't buy the one I'm watching on ebay.
posted by monologish at 12:16 PM on April 26, 2016

Slightly off-topic but I'm about to send the following games to Goodwill after just discovering them in my mom's old storage unit:

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Escape From Death Star
(I'm keeping Masterpiece!)

I think they are all pretty lousy games, but if you happen to be in Raleigh, NC you can memail me and they're all yours :-)

Also, I LOVED Awful Green Things, so I'd recommend that. And Acquire which despite the dull-sounding subject matter is actually really fun.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:27 PM on April 26, 2016

Mille Bornes
posted by Dansaman at 12:34 PM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had fun playing Stratego when I was younger. It's like a simplified version of Chess with some bluffing involved.
posted by ovvl at 1:29 PM on April 26, 2016

Crossbows and Catapults is, ah, not exactly a *board* game, more of a floor game... but it's one of my most fondly remembered games from my 1980s British childhood, along with Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs (Pteranodon Swoops! And the swamp monster! And the erupting volcano with its relentless flow of lava!), mentioned upthread, and Wild Life, in which players travel the world collecting animals for their zoos.

As for WWII... Escape from Colditz? Scores highly on the credibility front, having been devised by someone who actually did escape from Colditz.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:37 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

The first designer that came to mind for me is Sid Sackson, who made a ton of early games that introduced many of the mechanics commonly used in modern Eurogames. And indeed, I see a couple of his games suggested: Acquire (stock market) and Can't Stop (press your luck!). I'd add to that list Sleuth, a deduction game, and Executive Decision, an economic game.

Executive Decision was released as part of the 3M Bookcase game series. Another great game in that series (but not by Sid Sackson) is Facts in Five, which a trivia game that's kind of like Scattergories but more difficult and with richer gameplay - from an era where people considered Americans smart.
posted by aubilenon at 2:26 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

The MAD Magazine Game! So much fun and so weird. And this is pretty nuts, apparently someone created an online version of the game too. Example card instruction: "You are a ROCK. Act like one. If you're good, you lose $1,000. If you're not so good, you win a ROCK." And then all the other players will claim they can't tell you from a rock so you have to give up the $1k fake money. I thought this was hilarious when I was a kid.
posted by belau at 4:55 PM on April 26, 2016

There was recently a post on the blue about the vintage game Cosmic Encounter which made it seem very intriguing.
posted by alexei at 5:48 PM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

In the Risk/Axis & Allies vein, I always preferred Ikusa aka Shogun aka Samurai Swords.
posted by Pryde at 6:04 PM on April 26, 2016

I've always had a soft spot for 221 B Baker Street, a Sherlock Holmes game. You choose a case, wander around the map stopping at locations and try to piece together parts of the case. It's pretty simple and fun, although not eternally re-playable (once you've done all the cases, there's no more to play, although there are quite a few of them).
posted by vernondalhart at 5:42 AM on April 27, 2016

Thanks for the Wine Cellar suggestion, aimedwander. I just ordered a copy off eBay, and plan to enjoy it in Napa next month when we join my wine snob/Catan friends for an afternoon of... wine and games.
posted by notyou at 7:09 AM on April 27, 2016

If you can find the card game Pit, you get to yell a lot and pretend to be a Chicago commodities broker.

Also, there is the card game Rook. I think I have a new, unopened one at home somewhere.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:29 AM on May 2, 2016

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