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Kate Erbland

20 Board Games Based on ’70s and ’80s TV Shows

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Kate Erbland

Better than trading cards, less useful than a lunchbox, and perfect for weekend collecting, there are a staggering number of board games based on classic television shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s still knocking around. Here are 20 of the very best. 

1. Happy Days

An almost totally Fonzie-focused endeavor, the entire aim of the Happy Days game is to collect enough “cool points” to impress the Fonz. Along the way, points are tallied by lighting up Arnold’s jukebox and time passes by finding “sumthin’ to do.”

2. Cheers

How’s your Cheers knowledge pool? Not too deep? Don’t worry, you can almost wing it with this trivia-based game—if you pay enough attention to hints about how the various bar occupants acted on the show, which pepper gameplay. Watch out for “Normie’s Olympics,” though, a mini-game that uses the sort of skills that only a drunk dude could master (it involves both balance and total carelessness).

3. Barney Miller

The Barney Miller board game has a few surprises up its cardboard sleeves—no one gets to play the eponymous cop and it’s essentially a bettor’s version of the match game. Is this how cops actually do their job? Perhaps—at least on television.

4. Knight Rider

This “high speed adventure game” doesn’t come with a tiny David Hasselhoff cutout, but it does require players to travel an admittedly “never-ending road” without getting hijacked. Clear “Trouble Spots” and hope that your robot car doesn’t get stolen—something you’d think K.I.T.T. would be far too clever to allow anyway.

5. The Fall Guy

A shockingly simple spin on the classic television show that asks players to accomplish exactly what star Lee Majors did in the popular series—complete dangerous movie stunts and capture bail jumpers. Sadly, the box doesn’t play the Majors-trilled theme song upon opening, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bust out with your own version.

6. The A Team

We pity the fool who doesn’t feel instantly compelled to play the board game version of The A Team once they hear what it’s about. Curiously focused on a mission to retrieve a stolen soda recipe from an evil band of apparently very weird baddies, the goofy action of the classic show is in full effect in this one-dimensional quest.

7. Welcome Back, Kotter

Intent on capitalizing on its trademark “up your nose with a rubber hose” tagline, the Welcome Back, Kotter game is entirely centered on said hose. The aim of the game is to use cards to spell out the entire phrase, and the “winner” ultimately gets a small piece of, you guessed it, rubber hose to celebrate their victory.

8. CHiPS


It would be pretty unsafe to attempt to replicate the highway hijinks of CHiPS the show, so this board game will have to suffice. Each player takes on the role of a motorcycle cop, bound for the sort of glory that will only come after capturing no less than four vehicular baddies and sticking to the rules of the road. And, no, the speeding criminals don’t need to obey any traffic laws, leading to some seriously rough road ahead.

9. The Bionic Woman


Aimed at the younger set, The Bionic Woman game is relatively straightforward—cards dole out assignments and points, dice rolls determine board movement. There are no bionic limb-shaped game pieces and the board design is weirdly reminiscent of “Candy Land.” Perfect for the Lindsay Wagner-obsessed child in your life.

10. Alf


Sticking charmingly close to the dramas of the original show (yes, there were dramas in a show about a foul-mouthed alien), the Alf board game sees players taking on the mantle of the furry beast from Melmac and moving through the Tanner house, all in pursuit of a tasty feline treat. Running from the ALFs and their hungry bellies? Cat owner Mrs. Ochmonek, desperate to keep kitty Lucky from being, well, not so lucky.

11. Columbo


A surefire disappointment for fans of the curmudgeonly detective, Milton Bradley simply repurposed and repackaged their “Why” game to suit the television show. Fans of Alfred Hitchcock should be pleased with the game, though, as the murder mystery “Why” was originally branded as his own brainchild.

12. Family Ties


Casting players as one of the beloved Keaton clan is a classy move—and smart enough to ensure that no one flips out at the complicated game play. The aim is to gather one hundred bucks and for every member of the family (not you, Skippy!) to sit for a family portrait. It’s not easy, what with all the Keatons constantly flitting off in different directions, but if you can get all the Keaton family pawns together at once, the result could just be picture perfect.

13. Charlie’s Angels


Requiring teamwork to conclude, the Charlie’s Angels board game not only provides valuable life lessons, but it also draws upon some of the big themes of the show. Charlie dispatches his three beauties to take down a baddie, and all must use their own skills and work together to effectively trap a villain. It looks good!

14. The Six Million Dollar Man


An inventive spin on the show, The Six Million Dollar Man game casts all its players as the powerful Steve Austin—sort of. The point of the game is to prove, by way of handily accomplished assignments that increase your strength, that you're the real Six Million Dollar Man. Or at least the player to navigate around the board first.

15. All in the Family


A great way to bring your family closer together—or rip them irrevocably apart—the All in the Family board game requires one player to read off queries from the provided answer book, with everyone else answering via written response, leading to a guessing match as to who said what. For fun, “responses” from Archie and Edith are included, and players can guess about those, too. Learn about how different you are from the rest of your family with one handy game!

16. Archie Bunker’s Card Game


If you are an All in the Family fan who doesn’t want to start World War III with a simple board game, Archie Bunker’s Card Game offers up some more relaxed entertainment. A complicated combination of suits, tricks, and even a “Ding Bat Tally” wheel, it’s fun for (most of?) the whole family!

17. The Dukes of Hazzard


Hopefully no one will be shocked to learn that The Dukes of Hazzard board game is a wild road race that asks players to decide between going the safe way (the highway) or tearing it up on backcountry roads. Players can throw some wrenches into the plans of their competitors by way of roadblocks and bumper slams. Sure, it’s not safe, but it is just a game.

18. Kojak


A classic “roll and move” game sets players up as competing detectives, all bent on making the most criminal collars of four big cases. Relatively simple, sure, but few other games could make “move your car into the correct car park for a surveillance operation” sound quite so fun.

19. Fantasy Island


While a tiny plane is not included, the Fantasy Island game comes packed with various fantasies (obviously) for players to indulge in. Of course, those fantasies don’t always play out in the most pleasurable of manners, but if you can collect enough kisses, adventures, and cash and get to the main house first, you can win (at least for that week and until another batch of clients hit the beach).

20. Mork & Mindy


Amusingly styled as an Orkan game, the Mork & Mindy game is packed with all sorts of fun alien words and rules. Sure, it may seem a bit “out of this world” (tee hee) at first, but it’s really just a classic dice rolling game with funny rules to gussy it up.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Sponsor Content: BarkBox
8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.