This Friday sees the release of 'Battleship' - notorious for being a big-budget, alien invasion movie somehow based on a simple board game. But what about when the tables are turned and really crappy board games are based on some really good movies? It seems like the days of "the board game tie-in" are mostly over, but back in the 70s and 80s, it was all the rage, with many of the hottest properties being adapted into a game board, cards and a few pieces. We take a look back through time at some ill-advised board games that were probably better off left as movies...
Object: Be the first player to get one of your Astronauts into the space shuttle Narcissus. You also use your Alien to eliminate the astronauts of the other players. A board game for kids based on the intense, R-rated horror film 'Alien' seems like a horrible idea. Yet somehow the people at Kenner sent this out into the real world. What kids were actually allowed to see this movie? And why would it be OK to let kids play as an alien eating astronauts?
Escape From New York
Object: Players begin with weapons and equipment cards used to help fight enemies and find clues. Cards can be lost in fights or gained at landmark spaces. Turn in matching clue cards at the corresponding location to rescue the president or his important tape. To escape, you still need to find a glider or a map to the mine fields. Another game based on an R-rated movie. And this one includes weapon cards that include a pistol with a scope attached. Strangely the manufacturer's suggested age range was 10-and-up, the perfect age to fight your way out of a post-apocalyptic New York City. But hey, it's probably the only board game in existence that features Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes and Harry Dean Stanton as in-game characters.
Object: Something like a shark version of the classic game Operation, Jaws featured a large, plastic shark set with a timer on its jaws. You filled the toy with assorted stuff you might find in a shark belly (including a human skull...) and had to fish the items out of his open mouth before the jaws snapped shut. Does the concept sound a little gross and inappropriate? That's because it kind of is. Sure, 'Jaws' was rated PG, but the movie was (and still is) terrifying for children.
Milton Bradley, 1995
Object: Your objective here is to find the Laser Diamond in the City of Zinj. Using spinners and dice and life energy dials, evade danger long enough to get the diamond and proclaim yourself the winner of a game based on a movie where a gorilla talks through a computer voice. But who wants those bragging rights? There was a time after 'Jurassic Park' when people thought the next film from author Michael Crichton would be huge. It was not and 'Congo' was not a very good movie (it was nominated for seven Razzie awards). But with the hopes that 'Congo', like 'Jurassic Park,' could appeal to kids, Milton Bradley developed this board game. The game includes laser diamonds, life energy dials, hippos, earthquakes and gray gorillas. It was a game just as boring as the movie.
Milton Bradley, 1995
Object: The premise is simple -- be the first person to discover dry land by collecting cards (enola, guns, rope, and trimaran supplies). But that's not all! Then you have to destroy the Deez to get the compass which will lead you to dry land. If you're scratching your head, so are we. In the 1995 film Kevin Costner is a renegade mutant out to find dry land and save people from outlaw tyrants who control all the clean water. We imagine the game is pretty fun if you run around screaming, "Dry land is not a myth!" Still, what did Universal think kids would find appealing about this game? Or the movie, even?
Milton Bradley, 1993
Object: Much like the climax of the film, the goal of the 'Jurassic Park' board game is to be the first to reach the Visitor Center, with the aid of a set of cards you can re-stock on certain safe spaces. Capitalizing on the popularity of 'Jurassic Park' with games and toys seems like a no-brainer. The film, which found a group of scientists splicing dino DNA with frogs to revive the extinct reptiles for a tourist attraction was a huge hit with kids and grown-ups alike. Why play the board game when you can dig out your dino toys and re-enact the film yourself? This board game just seems like a big old bore.
Dawn of the Dead
Object: Based on George Romero's zombie classic, 'Dawn of the Dead,' this game can be played by up to four people or by yourself, since you'll probably be hard-pressed to find someone willing to play a game that's part Mall Madness, part zombie apocalypse. (Clearly, you need new friends.) The goal is for the zombie to kill the humans, or for the humans to secure the mall entrances. 1978's 'Dawn of the Dead' isn't a film for kids. At all. It's a gnarly, gore fest with dramatic heft that doesn't really even appeal to those kids looking to sneak in some scares behind their parents' backs. A board game is even more confounding, considering this one eliminates the only thing that might appeal to kids -- the gooey stuff.
Parker Brothers, 1982
Object: Here's a straight-forward board game adaptation of Steven Spielberg's sci-fi classic 'E.T.,' in which you have to get the titular alien to his spaceship so he can phone home. 'E.T.' was a family-friendly film, but the board game ditches all the qualities that made it magical. The infamous bicycle in the sky bit is replicated here with playing cards, taking a heart-warming adventure and rendering it a dull, lifeless exercise in monotony.
James Bond 007: Thunderball
Milton Bradley, 1965
Object: The object here is about as boring as you'd think for a kids' game based on a James Bond film -- roll the dice and get to the end. That's probably how most kids felt when their parents made them watch the movie. What on earth is appealing to a child about James Bond? He's a stylish secret agent with an affinity for martinis and sexy women. Not exactly child-friendly material, nor something that a kid is going to seek out in board game format. Perhaps this 'Thunderball' board game was created for wealthy British children?
Parker Brothers, 1989
Object: In this game based on Paul Verhoeven's 1987 cult classic, players collect "hero medals" and vehicle cards while capturing thugs. The person with the most medals and cards wins -- Detroit is still the loser. 'RoboCop' is a gritty film about a half-human, half-robot police officer (Peter Weller) tasked with cleaning up the mean, crime-soaked streets of Detroit. Maybe the makers of the game were banking on Detroit being the next escapist fantasy for children, like Narnia, and thought they could just ignore the whole drugs and violence thing.