The themes of board games in the 1970s ranged from destroying your opponent with guns and missiles to easy-breezy, race-to-the-finish-line-before-your-carrots-run-out sort of games. As you’ll see, the ideas were extremely eclectic. Most board games simulated real-life situations, while others were hypothetical scenarios (but exciting nonetheless).
During the ‘70s, board games were present in practically every house in America. But some board games were better than the others. Which ones? Well, we’ve rounded up the most interesting, challenging, fun, and thrilling games of the decade. Scroll to see if you recognize any of them.
Great for kids who loved airplanes, Air Charter was a fun family and children’s game with pretty simple rules. Invented and released in 1970 by Waddingtons, the game dealt with different air-freight companies flying cargoes between northern Australia and S.E. Asia. These were the rules:
You roll the dice to move. But things get tricky as you move across the board. There are specific rules for air-lanes, airfield circuits, load sizes, and fuel consumption, making the gameplay exciting and unpredictable. If you grew up in the ‘70s and were fascinated with aircraft of all sorts, you have surely played this before!
All The Kings Men
All the Kings Men is a chess-like board game that requires a whole lot of strategy. On the board, there are arrows that signal directions for where the next move should be taken. If you want to win, you really have to try and get in your opponent’s head.
It’s easier and quicker than playing chess but still has similar qualities. The board’s layout is just like a chessboard, and each player sets up their soldiers just like in chess. But unlike chess, the board for All the King’s Men has those arrows noted before, which are printed on each of the board’s squares.
Invented by Parker Brothers, Masterpiece is an auction-themed board game that deals with famous works of art. In the game, players must play against each other to bid on valuable paintings and negotiate with their opponents to trade some of the works, build a proper collector’s portfolio, amass money, and eventually win the game.
The highest price of a painting in the 1970 edition of the game is $1 million, and it sky-rocketed to $10 million in the 1996 edition. But getting the total value for the painting isn’t easy. It requires a good amount of luck to land on the right square on the board that allows you to sell it to the bank.
Matchwitz is a 1970 version of a Chinese game called ‘NIM. Released by the Milton Bradley Company, this American version is fit for players from the age of eight and above. The game goes as follows: First, you have to ensure that all pins are exposed on one side of the board.
Pins are organized in 3 rows. The top one has seven pins, the middle has five pins, and the bottom row has three pins. Each turn allows the player to push down any number of pegs in one row (they can’t touch more than one row at a time). The player who is forced to push down the last remaining peg loses the game.
Panzerblitz dealt with armored warfare on the Eastern Front in World War II, a groundbreaking board game perfect for war game enthusiasts. It became known as the first tactical-level board-based game. It pioneered ideas like open-ended design, allowing players to form their own combat situations rather than following some pre-structured scenario.
The game was designed to simulate a battle between two opposing regiments and provided a realistic “feel” for armored combat rather than an accurate simulation. It had geomorphic map boards which could be arranged in all sorts of combinations to create different battlefields.
Fit for two or four players, Ploy is an abstract strategy board game with a set of 15 pieces (2 handed) or nine pieces (4 handed game) per player. Like chess soldiers, Ploy’s pieces have different horizontal, vertical, or diagonal moves. But their movement is limited.
The game’s objective is to catch the opponent’s Commander (like the king in chess) or capture all of the other pieces. Marketed as a “space-age strategy game,” Ploy is considered one of the “better” chess variations in board game history.
Posse: Thirteen Against One
An abstract strategy game invented by Milton and Bradley, Posse: Thirteen Against One, is a simple movement game where the objective is to crowd the outlaw into a corner, making it impossible for him to move. First, you fill the lower end of the board with white pegs.
Then, the outlaw places its red peg on the opposite end of the board. All pieces can move in any direction along one line. The outlaw is the only one that can jump over one to land the space beyond. The piece that was jumped over is then removed from the board. Bottom line, you must crowd the outlaw with your posse to win.
Vector is a game perfect for abstract strategy enthusiasts. The fun thing about this game is that you have to bluff to get a high score. It was published in 1970 and consists of a board and one single movable piece – the Vector.
The Vector is placed in the middle of the squared board. Direction cards are played in turns. Then all players secretly choose what is called a Distance card. These cards are revealed simultaneously, and the Vector moves according to the Direction/Distance cards they played. Scores are totaled after 12 rounds of play.
A fun, spooky game with a board that represents a haunted house, Which Witch? was a hit when it came out in the ‘70s. The board (the house) has vertical walls and a chimney in the center. Surrounding it are four rooms: the Broom Room, the Witchin’ Kitchen, the Spell Cell, and the Bat’s Ballroom.
The game has four pieces colored in red, yellow, blue, and green. Each one is shaped like a child with four corresponding mouse tokens of the same color. In each turn, the player rolls a single dice to move them across the rooms. Some tiles are dangerous because they are in the path of the game’s “whammy ball,” a ball that is dropped randomly in the rooms. The Bat’s Ballroom’s last area is called the “Charmed Circle,” and the first one to reach it wins.
Alexander the Great
Published when board war-gaming was relatively new, Alexander the Great was designed by Gary Gygax and is a recreation of the Battle of Gaugamela that occurred in 331 BC between the Macedonians and the Macedon Persians.
The game goes like this: Players can be either Alexander the Great or King Darius III. Pieces on the board represent things like different weapons, chariots, and cavalry. A hexed-based game, it was published by Guidon until they went out of business. Then, Avalon Hill took over publishing rights.
Dunkirk: The Battle of France
Dunkirk: The Battle of France was a war game published by Guidon Games and centered around World War ll. It had four scenarios of play with Germans, Dutch, Belgians, British and French. Fortress Holland was considered the most challenging of all.
It was designed by Gary Gygax, who was quoted saying in 2004 that he would love to see the game on the computer: “Since originally designing it, I have done more research, corrected some errors I discovered in the German OB, and one day I would very much like to see the campaign in play as a computer game.”
Executive Decision was a negotiation game that involved selling finished goods. First, you decide what goods you want to sell and how many, based on the money you have. Based on that, you purchase the raw materials you need to make those finished goods.
You have to bid on the price of those raw materials and then sell the product you made for a profitable price. As in real life, prices drop when supply exceeds the demand and when demand exceeds supply, it rises.
A tactical board war game, Grunt: The Game of Tactical Level Combat in Vietnam, was released by SPI (Simulations Publications, Inc.). It’s a 2-player game that simulates combat between American forces and Viet Cong (VC) guerrilla forces.
The American player uses its forces to search the map for equipment and food. And the VC player needs to try and kill the American soldiers. The game comes with three scenarios, all of them taking only ten turns long.
Released by Parker Brothers in 1971, Landslide is a board game centered around the U.S. presidential elections. It’s a political board game where the players must play to get voted, and the person with the most electoral votes wins.
A board game for 2–4 players, it simulates an American presidential election. You reach your objective of getting as many votes as possible by bidding with “currency,” which is each player’s share of the popular vote.
The London Cabbie Game is a fun and unique board game where players drive cabs through the streets of London. Beautifully designed by David Drakes, the board is basically a map of the major streets of central London.
The game uses a deck of cards. Each player (up to six) takes a turn moving their taxi. Each player can move 20 spaces per turn. Drawing a passenger card determines where they need to go according to where the fare is to be picked up. The strategy is to decide where to go to get the most lucrative fares.
Mastermind was a huge hit in the ’70s. A two-player game invented by Mordecai Meirowitz, a telecommunications expert, the game requires logical thinking and sharp strategy. The game includes a decoding board with holes, a code of pegs of six different colors, and some key pegs.
One player becomes the codemaker, the other the codebreaker. The codemaker chooses a pattern, and the codebreaker needs to guess it within eight to twelve turns. The codemaker receives one point for each guess the codebreaker makes. The winner is the one with the most points.
Nebula 19 is a war game of interstellar combat. A two-player game, each player moves on separate maps to make hidden movements. Each map has two-dimensional X- and Y-axis coordinates. There’s also a Z-axis coordinate that indicates the unit’s altitude.
At the end of each turn, the players compare their positions and battle each other if ships are within range. Several scenarios are provided in the game, including four-player combat and naval fleet combat. While this might not be the BEST interstellar game, it’s still worth a shot.
A nice change of pace from all the war games, Speed Circuit, is a racing board game. Each player takes control of a Formula 1 race and distributes several points to Start Speed, Top Speed, Wear, and other attributes, with five points per lap.
Afterward, each player moves based on their level of speed, and they can adjust their speed as they go. A bad roll of the dice could cause them to spin out or even crash out of the race. Who wins the game? The one who gets over the line first.
Stay Alive is a strategy game, where 2-4 players must keep their marbles from falling through holes in the board, but at the same time, they need to get their opponents’ marbles to fall through. The game board has horizontal and vertical slides, and each slide has a certain number of holes in it.
To begin, the players place their marbles onto the non-holed spaces. On each turn, the player changes a slider’s setting, and maybe, just maybe, they find new holes underneath opponents’ marbles. The last player to stay in the game wins.
When it was published in 1971, it was marketed as “the ultimate survival game.”
Voice of the Mummy
This unique game takes place in pharaoh’s tomb, which is made of a pathway scattered with jewels. Using a single die and narrated by a voice – that of the pharaoh’s mummy – the players (or explorers) travel up the steps surrounding a sarcophagus and collect jewels.
The player who arrives at the mummy that lies within the sarcophagus gets the “great jewel” as well as something called the “cobra’s spell.” Once they get it, the explorer has to try and get out of the tomb with the highest value of jewels in the game.
4000 A.D. is a futuristic game of strategy set two thousand years in the future, at a time when men have supposedly spread to the planets of other stars hundreds of light-years away from planet Earth. The subject of the game? An interstellar conflict between worlds.
It’s a game of pure strategy, with no dice-based elements or anything that might have to do with luck or chance. Players use spaceships to battle opposing forces and to claim stars. The last player to be eliminated from the game wins.
Boggle is a word game that is played with lettered dice. The players need to spot words in sequences of adjacent letters. They begin by shaking the tray of 16 cubic dice, each one with a different letter on each of its sides.
A three-minute sand timer kicks the game off, and all players simultaneously begin wording. Words need to be at least three letters long. When counting the score, each player reads off their list of discovered words. If two or more players write the same word, it’s removed from everyone’s list.
Another war game, Conquest, is set in ancient times and has players utilizing troops, cavalry, chariots, elephants, and ships to tear down the other player’s fortifications or occupy specific locations on the map.
The game has two versions, one map designed for four players and one designed only for two. It was self-published by a man named Donald Benge in 1972 and is considered by many as one of the best two-player board games of the decade.
Isolation, also known as the “Don’t Get Stranded” game, was released in 1972 and is one of Ravensburger’s Traveller-Series games. The game’s board is a 6 x 8 grid of removable squares. Fit for two players, each one moves their pawn one space when it’s their turn, and then they remove a square.
The objective is to isolate the opponent completely, so they can’t move. Isolation is also one of a series of two-player strategy games by Lakeside from the 1970s (other games include Overboard, Trespass and Blockade).
The London Game
A British game based on the London Underground, The London Game was released in 1972 by the company Condor. The game’s board shows all the available tube stations, and the gameplay itself has fairly simple rules – roll the die and move across the stations.
Each player has to work around random stations in the central area and return to the terminal they started from. But it’s not that easy! The player may stumble upon certain things like station blockages and hazard cards.
Stranded all on your own, you must survive the wilderness and escape the woods if you want to win the game. Outdoor Survival has five different scenarios, from a rescue party attempting to find a lost hiker to being the lost hiker yourself.
As a player, you will find yourself dealing with wild animals, having to scavenge for food and clean water, and trying to overcome more and more of mother nature’s many challenges. This game was more about the story and having fun rather than appealing to the serious tactical gaming crowd.
In this war game, the player gets to choose their aircraft (out of 32 different ones) and needs to outmaneuver their opponent’s airplane. Players can choose the type of situation they want to re-fly from out of one of the seven different scenarios.
They can also create their own scenario from the body of information available in the Instructions and Briefing Manual. Each airplane is unique and has a different operational ceiling, rate-of-climb, diving speed, firepower, and armament.
The Ungame has an interesting story behind its creation. A woman named Rhea Zakich suffered from Polyps on her vocal cords and could not speak for a few months. She had to use cards to communicate, which gave her the idea for this unique game.
It’s a conversational game that “fosters listening skills as well as self-expression.” To play, each player rolls a die on their turn and moves his/her marker along the trail according to the number rolled. They then follow the instructions written on the space they landed on. Instructions include drawing from a deck that has a personal question written on each card.
Alien Space Battle Manual
A revamped version of the Star Trek Battle Manual, Alien Space Battle Manual, is pretty similar, except that it features eight different ship types instead of the original three. This board game is played on a big surface with pictures of ships and a compass circle.
A piece of thread is passed along the tiles, making knots at different feet marks. Players then move their ships around. During combat, each player estimates their firing angle. The string is then pulled along the angle, and the opponent’s ship is hit if the string touches it.
A board game that was made in response to Monopoly, Anti-Monopoly was eventually sued for using the name Monopoly in the title. As a result, some people referred to the game as simply “Anti.” The game’s board looks just like a Monopoly board, and the game begins as a monopolized state – the result of a completed Monopoly game.
Instead of public utilities, properties in Anti-Monopoly are already owned, but by one individual. Players then act as federal caseworkers who need to try and return the board to a free-market environment.
Atlanta Civil War Campaign
Atlanta Civil War Campaign Game is a war game released by Guidon Games in 1973. It simulates the string of battles that occurred in 1864, known as the Battle of Atlanta. A two-player or two-team game, this board game comes with a two-colored hex grid map.
The players can choose whether they want to play individual battles like Peachtree Creek, Kennesaw Mountain, or Pumpkin Vine Creek. Or they can decide to play all the battles as an extended campaign.
Bowl Bound is a sports-related board game originally marketed in 1973. The game had 32 NCAA I-A teams and a few Ivy League squads fighting against one other. Each team’s statistical grids were based on actual, specific team strengths.
The game was marketed as such: “Avalon Hill statisticians have scouted the top college football teams from out of the past. They make the play of this game fast … exciting … and true-to-life. However, YOUR decisions make the difference between winning and losing.”
A game involving greedy spies, Conspiracy is a thrilling board game that requires some bluffing. The focus of the game is one top-secret briefcase you ought to bring to your headquarters. Players can move their spy one space in each turn.
Each player has 10k, a sum they can use to bribe spies to move. If a player moves a spy, another player can challenge the move. Both players then reveal how much money they both used to bribe the spy in question. If one player is heading to victory, the other players must work together to stop them from winning.
Drang Nach Osten
Drang Nach Osten! is a historical game simulating the German invasion of the Soviet Union that occurred on June 22, 1941. This invasion led to the gates of Moscow and, ultimately, to the dismantling of the Wehrmacht and the fall of the Third Reich.
The game carries the Russian campaign in the summer of 1941 all the way to the end of the Soviet winter counteroffensive on March 1 of the following year. For war fanatics out there, a sequel to the game, Unentschieden (Europa II), continues the campaign through 1944-45.
Hare and Tortoise
Hare and Tortoise is the first winner of the Spiel des Jahres award, which they rightfully snatched in 1979. It’s considered a lovable classic where you have to race to the finish with the help of your carrots which serve as your fuel.
The farther you run, the more carrots you spend. There are a host of ways to gain or lose carrots as you move around the track. It’s a super clever exercise in arithmetic and one that has gained wide acclaim from boardgame fans all over the world.
Hue is a board war game that was released in 1973 and again in 1977 as Battle for Hue. A game centered around the Vietnam War, Hue is a tactical level game focused on the Battle of Hue, which was the battle over the capital of a Vietnamese province.
In the battle for Hue, a city was attacked with modern weapons, making it “a combination of World War II street fighting and medieval siege warfare.” This two-player game involved attacking with fully automatic weapons in a city that was way behind in practically everything.
NATO Operational Combat in Europe 1970s
NATO is a war game dealing with a hypothetical invasion of Western Europe by Russian forces during the mid-1970s. The game’s map shows a trail of Europe from East Germany to France and from Denmark to Switzerland.
The game was published by SPI (Simulations Publications, Inc.) and is considered a decent alternate history game. While it’s not based on a real battle, it still provides the players with the same level of excitement and curiosity.
Another hypothetical war game, NORAD, is about a Russian nuclear attack on America in 1962. The American player can hide the location of their fighters, and the Russian bombers can fly across the board.
In truth, this solitaire, two-person game involved a lot of luck. A few changes were made over the years, but it remained pretty much the same except for a few small tweaks. It was a simple, easy, and fun game to pass the time.
In Perfection, the goal is to insert all the pieces into matching holes on the board before the time runs out. If the clock strikes 0, the board springs up, sending a lot of the pieces flying in different directions. The game has 25 pieces that need to be placed in the grid within 100 seconds.
The game’s “pop-up” mechanism was made of an ejector plate placed under the shaped holes. One point was scored for each piece that was placed in its correct hole. If all 25 pieces were inserted before the 60-second mark, more points were scored for each remaining second left on the clock.
PanzerArmee Afrika is a board war game published in 1973 that centers around the World War II North African Campaign that had forces commanded by Erwin Rommel fight against Allied forces. This is a two-player game that garnered a lot of attention from war fanatics.
The game has a 22” x 34″ paper hex grid map and has both players taking turns to move around and battle. Each turn represents a month of game time and is parted into four phases for the Allied force and the same phases for the Axis player.
Railway Rivals is a railroad-themed board game that was released in 1973. The objective of the game is to build railways and run trains along with them. The game is played in two stages – the first part has the players building allowance each turn and constructing the railway through difficult terrain (which costs more money to build).
Once all the cities surrounding the construction sites are joined by the railway tracks, the second part of the game commences. The players then have to race their trains along the tracks and, at times, have to pay each other to use elements of the other player’s track.
Sniper! First Edition
Sniper! also known as “House-to-House Fighting in World War II,” is a war game meant for two people and centers around man-to-man combat in cities during WWII. The game stood out for being the first tactical board war game dealing with man-to-man combat.
It was originally released in 1973 by Simulations Publications Inc., But a decade later, after TSR purchased SPI, they released an expanded edition of the game and followed it up several years later with more companion games and even an exciting videogame.
Space Hop was published in 1973 as an educational board game meant to teach children a thing or two about astronomy. This 2-4 player game had a board, which was the map of the solar system, three decks of cards (mission, hop, and SNC), and a clue decoder wheel.
The game also had dice, which players rolled to move around. The players navigate towards different destinations, collecting credits along the way. The one who collects 25 credits wins the game!
Strat-O-Matic Pro Basketball
The pro basketball (NBA) board game of the Strat-o-Matic series was absolutely addictive when it first came out, for obvious reasons – people are crazy about basketball. In the game, players are represented by cards (each card has different statistics).
The board vaguely resembles a basketball court, and plays from cards determine the actions across the court. A roll of the die determines the success or failure of the specific action. It sounds more like a game of chance than strategy, but it’s still a great way to pass the time!
Triplanetary is a science fiction war game originally published in 1973. The game simulates spaceship travel and combat within the universe in the early 21st Century (a time that was considered super-futuristic in the ‘70s).
The board was a map of the solar system, including the Sun, the Moon, the four largest Jovian moons, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and two huge asteroids. The moon near the Earth and Jovian Moons weren’t the same size.
Unentschieden! (Europa II) is a continuation of the game we noted before, Drang Nach Osten! (Europa I). Drang Nach Osten! carried the Russian campaign from June 1941 to the end of March 1942. And Unentschieden continues it through 1944-45.
The two games played one after the other comprise all of the war in the East during the years 1941-45. For those who played Drang Nach Osten (Europa I), purchasing Unentschieden! (Europa II) was an absolute must!
1776 is a two-player war game with a board as a hex grid map of the thirteen colonies and Canada. It centers around the military operations in the American Revolutionary War. The game includes several scenarios with numerous rules.
1776 has a basic version of play and an advanced one for the players who have progressed past certain war campaigns. The game involves dice rolling to move, but it’s not your average roll to move game. It requires a lot of thinking and strategic planning.
Balbo’s Chess Variant
Balbo’s game was invented by a man named M. (Monsieur) G. Balbo in 1974. It’s a variation of chess whose chessboard is comprised of 70 squares. Each player has a full army minus one pawn. In this game, most of the rules of chess apply.
One rule that doesn’t apply, however, is castling. The game itself was well accepted and was even featured in Le Courrier des Echecs magazine in September 1974. There are many chess variants to choose from, and Balbo’s is surely one of the best.