Aside from Parker Brothers, few board game manufacturers have come close to Milton Bradley's track record: Millions of players across multiple generations have put in serious time playing Twister, Yahtzee, The Game of Life, and Battleship.
But while games like Simon and Connect Four have kept up brand appearances over the decades, it’s possible that founder Milton Bradley (who died in 1911) might have flinched at some of the other titles that bear his name. The next time you arrange a game night, it’s probably best to keep these in the closet.
1. TOWN DUMP (1977)
2. BREAKER 19: THE CB TRUCKERS GAME (1976)
What could be a better premise for a game than '70s-era long-haul truckers who gobbled caffeine pills and forged driving logs so they could remain on the road for dangerously long periods of time? Players begin at a warehouse and draw cards to see what kind of cargo—live animals, eggs, office furniture—they need to deliver before a deadline; CB cards can either help or hinder the job. Upon completion, they return to the warehouse to collect their pay and kiss their families goodbye for another two weeks.
3. A DAY WITH ZIGGY (1977)
In a medium full of bland, inoffensive content, Ziggy might be the blandest, most inert comic strip of them all. The pimple-shaped, pants-less sad sack first appeared in 1971 and garnered enough notoriety for licensed products. Like the strip, the game is unburdened by any complications or ideas; players simply roll the dice and move forward or backward the appropriate number of spaces.
4. FEELEY MEELEY (1967)
With the success of Twister in 1966, Milton Bradley quickly caught on to the potential for party games. In Feeley Meeley, players are asked to draw a card describing an item and then fumble around in a dark box to see if they can retrieve it. While the game came with props like small forks and plastic animals, it also encouraged players to add their own. For households with cruel siblings, it’s hard to imagine that didn’t sometimes include bugs.
5. NO RESPECT: RODNEY DANGERFIELD’S GAME (1985)
Self-respect, not phony money, was the currency for this game based on the stand-up act of comedian Rodney Dangerfield. While collecting game tiles, players are advised not to "count on winning ’til you’ve won.” A sample of Dangerfield’s jokes (“As a kid … my yo-yo never came back”) are included inside the box.
6. LET’S BE SAFE (1986)
When it’s time to put away homework and settle in for some recreational time with a board game, the first thing kids look for is something with a lecture. Let’s be Safe disguises itself as a fun diversion, but before children realize what’s happening, the game is cleverly imparting lessons about street-crossing safety and stranger danger; the first player who makes it home in one piece wins. Television news anchor Joan Lunden acts as the game’s mascot.
7. STUFF YER FACE (1982)
A variation on their own Hungry Hungry Hippos, Stuff Yer Face features two warring clowns in a race to see who can inhale the most marbles. The ravenous circus employees are controlled by two joysticks that position their hands on the playing field; a clown caught eating one of the red marbles loses. Experienced players can try to hurl the forbidden orbs into the opposing clown’s mouth.
8. SQUATTER (1962)
Some board games turn up the tension so high you practically sweat through your clothes. Squatter, an Australian import which brings home the high-stakes world of sheep-herding, is probably not one of them. Players take turns corralling sheep through buying and selling tactics: The first to wrangle 6000 pieces of wool-encased inventory is the winner—but land on the wrong square and your "stud ram" may fall victim to plant poisoning, plummeting the population.
9. DURAN DURAN: INTO THE ARENA (1985)
Thrust into the pop culture limelight by MTV in the 1980s, Duran Duran made the most of their licensing opportunities. Shoulder-padded fans could jam to “Hungry Like the Wolf” while playing this game, in which they tried to match single titles with music videos to gain entry into the “inner circle.”
10. LOBBY: A CAPITAL GAME (1949)
“Here’s your chance to be a congressman! You can pass all your favorite bills and lobby against those you oppose.” Milton Bradley felt confident a game of governmental regulations and lobbying would be a hit with anyone “old enough to read a newspaper.”
11. DO THE URKEL! (1991)
Only Duran Duran’s neon-geometry game board could appear more dated. Do the Urkel! focused on the Fonzie of Family Matters, Steve Urkel. In the game, players roll dice and perform an action based on a card: snorting, hiking up their pants, or, in a worst-case scenario, doing “the Urkel” by wearing glasses and making a cardboard Jaleel White dance on the board.
12. BIG FOOT (1977)
The mythical woodland creature experienced a considerable amount of attention in the 1970s, including a memorable encounter with Steve Austin on The Six Million-Dollar Man. (Andre the Giant was cast in the fur suit.) A famous and non-copyrightable beast made a perfect premise for a game in which players assumed the roles of Alaskan gold prospectors who roll dice while trying to avoid the “footprints” made by the monster. Although Bigfoot looks affable enough on the game box, his plastic game piece appears to be anything but.
13. WHERE’S THE BEEF? (1984)
Advertising character fads tend to implode at a moment’s notice, so it’s probably not shocking that a board game based on a commercial catchphrase was destined for yard sales. Based on the Wendy’s campaign that had actress Clara Peller asking “Where’s the beef?” while in line for the competition’s burgers, this game has players jetting around tiles and collecting slices of ground meat.
14. TETRIS (1989)
Considering the tangled knot of licensing issues surrounding Tetris in the 1980s, it’s a wonder Milton Bradley was able to issue this analog version of the classic Game Boy title. The larger question is why they would want to. Two players try to arrange Tetris pieces from the bottom up before time expires; pieces can also be tossed in the opponent’s direction. Alternately, you can toss the entire thing out. Then everyone wins.