I've finally managed to get together another collection oddity post. If you've read the oddities featured in this blog previously, you'll notice that we collect a wide of variety of strange objects from our various fandoms. One of the weirdest things that are more than a one-off bad marketing move (I'm looking at you crazy Irwin Sailor Moon toys), are Board games based on video games. There are lots of these based on games from pacman to Myst. Like most other things we feature in these weird little spotlights, it was most likely a bid to capitalize on the latest craze by branding as much varied merchandise as possible and hoping some of it resonated with the public. Outside of some game branded remakes of classics ( Uno, Risk, Monopoly and Jenga that I can think of), this trend seemed to have mostly died out in the late eighties/early nineties. Apparently most consumers didn't think moving video games to the tabletop was desirable, in fact it probably seemed more than a little ridiculous. If you check out our other oddities posts you'll note that ridiculous is right up our alley when it comes to collecting so these are perfect for us.
Collecting them is only half the fun though, to truly appreciate these monuments to corporate greed, you've got to play them. So one lonely night we decided to break out the Donkey Kong Card Game licensed by Nintendo, made by Milton Bradely.
First we've got the box cover, it's based on the original arcade graphics and says that it's "Based on the thrill a minute arcade game". Most of us weren't lucky enough to be able to have an arcade machine at home, and this was in 1981 so Donkey Kong was not yet available for home play. So naturally you'd want all the fun of Donkey Kong in the comfort of your own home with fewer quarters involved. So any arcade junkie would have rushed to snap this up and prepare for hours of in home fun with their friends and neighbors. Sure it's hard to imagine an insanely exciting board game, but this was marketed to geeks after all the same people who were playing D&D, people who know how to enjoy tabletop fun. So let's get the box open and start the fun!
Contents include 4 Mario pawns, a Donkey Kong, girder cards, a base girder and the instructions. Not very exciting looking for this angle, but hey we haven't gotten started yet so let's get started. The first step in getting started is of course to read the instructions. Here we hit a definite snag, the instructions are incredibly complex and confusing. There are a lot of important details left out. However if you approach it like a logic problem, you'll eventually figure out what to do in most situations. If not just make up your own rules as you go, to my knowledge tournaments aren't held for this game so it's unlikely you're going to run into any opposition regarding any rules you may have had to fudge.
The object of the game is to build a series of ladders and girders using the cards in your hand. You then roll the dice to determine how many spaces along the girders you can move (indicated by little dots). Once you get to the third girder you place donkey Kong at the top and try to be the first player to reach him so you can end his barrel throwing mayhem and be declared the hero. If you manage to build another girder above him, you place up one more, Donkey Kong is always placed on the top level. Making things a little harder are that you can place fire and barrel cards which the other players can not pass, if they hit one of these cards they have to go all the way back to the beginning unless they have a remedy card, which shows either Mario with a hammer or in a jumping motion, to cancel them out.
We started our fist game and as there were only two of us playing it went by pretty quickly if you don't count all the times we had to peek at the rules to see how something worked. For the second game we added another player and I'm not sure if it was because of the extra player, or just because of gameplay progressed, but things went much slower the second time around. The second game also yielded a much larger construction and much more competitive game. It's hard to tell in the small pictures but quite a number of "trap" cards and "remedy' cards were used. Overall I have to say that the game is surprisingly fun, especially if you make the arcade noises while doing certain actions. (Admittedly noisemaking might be reserved for advanced players/super nerds.) It is absolutely nothing like playing the arcade game, though who was really expecting it would be? It's a great piece of Nintendo history, and is actually a pretty fun vintage gaming collectible. You can enjoy it even if you don't love awful and ridiculous things that should have never made the market.
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