The Crazy Stories Behind Your Favorite Board Games

With fall just around the corner, we are full speed ahead preparing for the Kickstarter launch of Name Dropping: The Frustratingly Fun Movie Card Game!

We know first-hand just how challenging the creation of a board game can be, and that got us thinking: What did other designers go through when creating their games? What challenges or setbacks did they experience? After researching the history of some of our favorite games, we learned that a great many of them have fascinating back stories, so fascinating that we thought you’d like to hear about it.

We’ve composed a short list of some of the most interesting stories behind three of the most iconic board games in history. Check it out and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Monopoly

Monopoly is the most popular board game of all time. It has sold hundreds of millions of copies, which is quite a feat, considering how challenging this iconic game can get. One of the factors that make the game so frustrating is the amount of time it takes to play (not to mention how often the people who control the bank steal money).

Monopoly on Name Dropping

Monopoly Game Board

How did “Monopoly” earn its place as the world’s most iconic board game? It’s all in the name: Parker Brothers monopolized the table-top game industry by buying out the competition.

In 1903, a woman by the name of Elizabeth Magie applied for a patent for a game she designed entitled The Landlord’s Game. Created for the purposes of educating players on the dangers of land monopolies, her game became popular among friends in Brentwood, Maryland before spreading to other areas of the country. She revised the game in 1924, applying for a second patent due in part to the previous patent expiring.

However, by this time, people were not only making their own copies of her game but also designing their own versions of it. Enter heater salesman Charles Darrow.

The Landlord's Game on Name Dropping

The Landlord’s Game

Having come across the game after being introduced to it by his friend Charles Todd, Darrow decided to self-publish his own version of the game, which he titled Monopoly.

Darrow eventually decided to present the game to Parker Brothers who initially rejected it but then reconsidered and bought the publishing rights. There was just one problem: Elizabeth Magie.

Not to be deterred, however, Parker Brothers purchased the patent from Magie for a measly $500, and the rest is history.

Before you go feeling too bad for Elizabeth, we should mention that she invented other games, which Parker Brothers also bought and distributed.

Unfortunately, Charles Darrow went down in history as the inventor of Monopoly when really all he did was publish a derivative version of The Landlord’s Game. Despite all that, Hasbro, which acquired Parker Brothers in 1991 credits Darrow as the sole creator of the game.

Trivial Pursuit

Here’s a little trivia question for you: How many times have the creators of Trivial Pursuit been sued for copyright infringement?

Answer: at least twice.

Trivial Pursuit board on Name Dropping

Trivial Pursuit board

In 1979, two young men were hitchhiking when they were picked up by another young man named Chris Haney. During the car ride, one of the hitchhikers, David Wall, began to share his idea for a new board game, describing it in detail. The driver then stole the idea, and Trivial Pursuit was born.

Well, at least that’s the story David Wall told when he sued the creators of Trivial Pursuit for stealing his idea. His mother even testified in court that she found papers and drawings in her home which detailed his idea for the game but said that the papers had since been destroyed. Unfortunately, Wall’s hitchhiker friend did not testify in court.

Without any real evidence to support his case and no one to corroborate the conversation they supposedly had during the ride, the case was dropped.

Trivial Pursuit on Name Dropping

Trivial Pursuit game piece

Chris Haney’s account of what happened was a bit different.

He claims that he and friend Scott Abbott came up with an idea for a game that would cater to your middle-aged uncle who thought he knew everything. Something fun for an audience that was too old for Chutes and Ladders and too young for Old Maid. The game was published in 1979 and released in ’81, but it wouldn’t hit its peak until 1984, when it sold over 20 million games.

Enter Fred Worth, the author of The Trivia Encyclopedia and Super Trivia.

Trivial Pursuit card on Name Dropping

Trivial Pursuit card

Worth discovered that over a quarter of the questions and answers in Trivial Pursuit’s Genus Edition came from books he himself had written, down to errors he purposely placed in his books to catch any copyright infringers. He filed a lawsuit against Haney and Abbott. Unfortunately for Worth, however, the court ruled that facts are not protected under copyright laws.

Who knew the creation of board games could get so dramatic?

Twister

In his book Right Brain Red, author Reyn Jr. takes credit for the creation of one of the most popular party games in the United States: Twister. But was he really the one who came up with the idea for the game?

Let’s go back in time to 1964, when a design company owned by Reyn Guyer Sr. was asked to create an in-store display for an upscale board game company. Reyn Jr. claims he suggested an idea to his father that involved using people as playing pieces on a life-sized game board. He called it Kings Footsie.

Twister on Name Dropping

Twister

Unfortunately, the client didn’t like the idea and it was scratched. However, inspired by his son’s idea, Reyn Sr. later added a division to the company in order to create new products. This new division was headed by Reyn Jr. who hired Charles F. Foley as toy designer. After joining the company, Foley then hired a new product designer by the name of Neil Rabens.

Foley, it’s been reported, is the one who came up with the idea of utilizing people as part of a game. But whether or not he got that idea from Reyn Jr., only Foley and Reyn really know. Still, both men claimed to have thought up the idea on their own.

Together, Foley and Rabens started designing the game, everything from the mat to the spinner to the color of the dots and how they should line up. They gave it the name Pretzel (yes, you read that right).

After the completion of the design, Mel Taft of Milton Bradley bought the game’s publishing rights and renamed it Twister. As the first game on store shelves to use players as playing pieces, Twister was not an immediate success, and Milton Bradley considered removing from store shelves after competitors accused the game publisher of selling “sex in a box.”

Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor playing Twister on The Tonight Show

Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor playing Twister on The Tonight Show

That was until one fateful evening, when Johnny Carson challenged celebrity guest Eva Gabor to a match on The Tonight Show. The day after the episode aired, Twister was flying off the shelves. The game would go on to win the award for best game of the year in 1967 and has been one of the longest-selling and most successful board games ever produced.

Updated versions are being created all the time, including versions for people who are legally blind and color blind.

So what did you think of our list? Are there any other games you’d like to learn the history of? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to our email list if you want to receive more articles, news on our game and information about our free monthly giveaways!

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