Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Play the show?: 11 baffling TV-to-board-game adaptations

(Photo: Mod Remod)

1. The All In The Family Game


The premises of some television shows lend themselves naturally to spin-off merchandise: The colorful characters of The Muppet Show were easily translated into plush toys and puppets; the wit and wisdom of The Simpsons once blanketed the United States in “Don’t have a cow, man” T-shirts. So what about the culture-clash comedy of All In The Family screamed “board game!” in 1972? Not much, aside from the can’t-miss profitability of a product based on the nation’s No. 1 primetime series—and that’s how Milton Bradley wound up marketing a precursor to Loaded Questions with the Bunkers and the Stivics on the box. The object of the game is to match fellow players to the responses they give to a series of questions, with the added twist that one of the responses is a pre-written answer from “Archie” or “Edith.” It would be a clever attempt to gamify one of All In The Family’s defining characteristics—Archie Bunker’s regressive politics—if not for one fatal flaw: The key to winning lies in passing your answer off as the Bunkers’. Satire is always in danger of inadvertently endorsing its targets; The All In The Family Game practically encouraged people to think like Archie Bunker. [EA]

2. The Love Boat World Cruise Game


Televsion megaproducer Aaron Spelling was in the business of escapism, and nothing represented that M.O. like the block of Spelling-produced series that ABC programmed on Saturdays in the late 1970s. The anchor of that lineup was The Love Boat, the star-studded quasi-anthology series that gave Gavin MacLeod a post-Mary Tyler Moore home and welcomed Charo into America’s living rooms. Escape is central to 1980’s The Love Boat World Cruise Game, too, but it’s an escape that comes with everyone’s least favorite way to unwind: A list of chores that amounts to a world-wide scavenger hunt. Players adopt one of several generic “star” personas, collecting “cruise” and “port” cards corresponding to their character as the Pacific Princess undertakes an ill-advised around-the-world expedition. (There’s no way Isaac stocked the bar for a trip of that length.) Of course, the truly misrepresentative portions of the game are obvious: The only thing guests really wanted to bring home from a Love Boat escape was a whopper about bedding another passenger. [EA]

3. The Family Ties Game


Give this much credit to the creators of The Family Ties Board Game: Positioning Irwin “Skippy” Handelman as an adversary to be avoided at all costs accurately captures the spirit of the ’80s NBC staple. As one of six Keaton family members—the game’s post-season-three release assured that youngest son Andrew is a playable character—players attempt to collect $100 and cards representing the other Keatons in order to complete a family portrait that suggests the Keatons have been together for a million years (and bets they’ll be together for a million more, sha na na na). The writing for the game conveys a familiarity with the feel-good sitcom and its reverse-All In The Family dynamics, though it represents the broadness of a multi-camera show in its twilight years. For example, players can lose Elyse from their deck if they draw a “Don’t Blink” card that says the former hippie “has to go to her ‘People Who Are Against People Who Are Against People’ meeting.” [EA]

4. M*A*S*H

From Transogram, manufacturer of Kabala (“The eye of Zohar has the answers”) and Betsy Ross And The Flag (“A thrilling historical game”) comes an exciting Korean War quest. Part of the retrospectively bizarre constellation of M*A*S*H merchandise aimed at children, the game finds players racing Hawkeye, Col. Blake, Hot Lips, or Radar around a base-themed board, acquiring transport and transfer orders back to the States along the way. Not to be confused with Milton Bradley’s M*A*S*H—in which the Army doctors of the 4077th are thinking about their patients rather than themselves—the Transogram game truly gets the “war is hell” satirical bent of the series. But what it couldn’t possibly have incorporated was Blake’s ultimate fate, in which McLean Stevenson’s beloved character was shot down over the Sea Of Japan—thus denied the release promised by the end of the M*A*S*H game. That sort of purgatorial cycle could be the game’s most accurate depiction of combat. [EA]


5. Sons Of Anarchy: Men Of Mayhem

The Sons Of Anarchy board game tries its best to replicate the drug-dealin’, gun-totin’ drama of the series, but when the actual characters are replaced by little figures (known officially as “dudes”), the whole thing becomes more like a game of Risk than a biker-gang soap opera. The object is to control and exploit more turf than your rival gangs, each based on a gang from the show. You collect cash, “contraband,” and guns, the last of which is good for when you have to battle for turf—using dice, like real gangs do. But don’t call too much attention to your crew or your “heat total” will rise and alert the cops. It all seems a little tame and complicated for the average Sons fan, but don’t tell showrunner Kurt Sutter that, or he’ll throw a little social-media fit. [JM]


6. Divorce Court


Based on the long-running reality show, as well as the premise that nothing’s more fun for the whole family than playing out the bitter dissolution of that family, the Divorce Court board game turns any living room into a broken home. Fittingly, playing Divorce Court is just as baffling and harrowing as divorce itself: Players must navigate a board crowded with indecipherable numbers and symbols, collecting poker chips and inching stickers across a corresponding tray for no discernible reason, all while rolling dice to land on spaces named for court appearances and the darkest depths of human misery. (For example: “Child Abuse,” “Battered Woman,” and “HIV Syndrome.”) Overseeing everything from the corner of the board, obviously, is a giant spider—known as “nature’s judge.” The experience proves so frustrating and upsetting that, if couples weren’t already divorced before playing Divorce Court, they soon will be. [SO]

7. Hogan’s Heroes: The Bluff Out Game

For everyone who’s ever wanted to experience the nonstop zaniness of a Nazi POW camp, the Hogan’s Heroes game puts you in the action as Col. Hogan himself, so you too can enjoy the madcap high jinks of Axis forces. Each player takes a turn as Hogan, helping your fellow prisoners collect money, a passport, and a map before sneaking them out under the nose of those beloved silly-billies, the SS guard. Adding to the all-ages fun, the pieces feature exact likenesses of sitcom stars like Bob Crane, whose addiction to taping his sexual encounters eventually led to his being bludgeoned to death—a grim chapter of American history that does not have its own board game, yet. [SO]


8. Gomer Pyle


The hit The Andy Griffith Show spinoff Gomer Pyle: U.S.M.C. was a military sitcom that was as blithe about the actual duties of war as its main character was about everything else. So it makes sense that its corresponding game would be as simple-minded—and nonsensical. Players of Gomer Pyle roll the dice so they can race to the finish and be the first to have all their men give a “grand salute” to Sgt. Carter, Gomer’s irascible drill instructor and a man who would likely receive a “grand salute” with the same indifference that Gomer Pyle: U.S.M.C. showed to the Vietnam era in which it aired. At least the game board, designed by legendary game designer Sid Sackson, has more grace than its subject ever did. [SO]

9. Welcome Back, Kotter: The Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose Game

Welcome Back, Kotter yielded not one but two games, and while one was a sensible card game that John Travolta and his faux-high school pals could have played while sitting in the back of a bus, the other, The Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose Game, sought to blend Go To The Head Of The Class desk-hopping madness with one of Kotter’s dumb catchphrases. Using wits, prowess, and cards featuring either Mr. Kotter or Assistant Principal Woodman, players attempt to reach the front desk in each row, thus gaining access to a different word, be it “up,” “your,” “nose,” or whatever. The first player to put those words together to make the phrase is the winner, earning a literal piece of rubber hose and, ideally, the opportunity to put it right up the loser’s nose. [ME]


10. Deadliest Catch Sea Adventure Board Game

Deadliest Catch, the TV show, is about professional fishermen struggling to catch crab in the Bering Sea, and that kind of hard, physical labor doesn’t seem like a natural fit for a sit-on-your-ass board game. The makers of Deadliest Catch Sea Adventure must not have thought so, however, as the game challenges players to drop pots, catch crab, and survive the sea’s perils, all from the comfort of their warm, dry living rooms. While a big catch in the game won’t result in the big money that the real deckhands earn, at least players (probably) aren’t risking life and limb flipping over cards at home. [ME]


11. Dexter: The Board Game

Nothing says “board game” like a serial killer. But this is not a game for young children. According to the box, Dexter: The Board Game is for the 17-and-up crowd—the people who never tortured animals, but still have the potential to become serial killers. As Dexter, players travel through the sunny streets of Miami in search of a slippery suspect to kill. As any cold-blooded killer can tell you, you need to keep up appearances, which is why—to keep nosy neighbors and the like off your trail—you must complete Blood Splatter Reports to earn a living and avoid all suspicion. Once you leave the office and the suspect has been nabbed, you grab all your tools and mini garbage bags (which you earn throughout the game by rolling a die), and it’s time to head to the marina and dump the body. Good job! Not only have you won the game, but you’re one step closer to becoming a genuine murderous sociopath. “Dexter who?” you’ll say, as your opponents bleed out on the family room floor. [BJ]


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