Review: Pom Pom Game Publisher: Sears Year: 1963? Tagline: AGES 3 AND UP
how we met
Bill and I were popping around the few but mighty thrift options in our town in June, and there was Pom Pom Game.
There are plenty of vintage games that don’t resonate with me for whatever reason, and the older they get the less interested I often become. But Pom Pom Game was cheap and simple, has a funny old cover, and I haven’t played anything by Sears yet (to my knowledge). So I was sold.
how it plays
Each player is given seven balls of their color. When all players decide it’s time to start play, they try to flip their balls into the basket. After all seven balls of each color have been flipped one time, play stops and each player gets a point for each of their color ball landed in the basket. The player with the most balls in the basket wins!
how it went
We played Pom Pom Game twice during the July 4th holiday. The game requires almost no explanation, but it does require some learning as you start to play. There is a softness that has to go into flicking your Pom Pom into the basket without overshooting. And once you get it, you get it.
It is not uncommon for balls of another color to land in your launch zone. Even on the cover, the girl is clearly launching a red ball from the yellow player space. And she appears just as invested in the outcome as if that were a yellow ball. This does happen.
Our play did not contain a lot of memorable moments. We were flipping our balls into the basket as prudently as we could. Some of us had longer learning curves than others, but we equalized pretty quickly. We played twice, since play only takes moments.
Keri was the best at landing balls in the basket, and she won Pom Pom Game!
play or pass
Pass for sure. Pom Pom Game is light fun and does not claim any strategic depth. This is just flicking balls into a net and dealing with the aftermath of missing balls. But I feel lucky to have found it.
If you find Pom Pom Game at thrift pick it up. It is rare and some people want it. And then you can help the people that want Pom Pom Game, find it. And as long as the game is in decent condition, you can’t hurt it by doing a play through or two while it rests in your home.
Review: Lost Treasure Publisher: Parker Brothers Year: 1982 Tagline: ELECTRONIC DEEP-SEA DIVING GAME
how we met
Thrifting Minion Josh gave me a copy of Lost Treasure. He found it at thrift one day, and all of the other thrifting minions already had it. Lucky me, again.
how it plays
Lost Treasure is one of the most interesting vintage electronic games that you can still reasonably find. Your goal is to make $1,000,000 dollars. In order to make this amount you must dive for treasure and also secure the loot you find.
There are always two treasures in play, gold and silver, randomly placed on the game board by the ELECTRONIC DIVE CONTROL CENTER. The game gives you four pawns, or BUOYS, that represent what you know about the current location of each treasure. These start in the four corners of the board initially, when you know nothing.
NOTE: In my limited anecdotal play, I couldn’t see a difference between going for gold or going for silver in Lost Treasure. I suspect their values are random. Either the rules don’t say this or I keep missing it.
Players begin the game on one of the PORT spaces, indicated by red circles on the board. Each player receives $150,000. If you run out of money completely during play, you can stop at a PORT and get $150,000 more. PORTs are also where you turn treasure chests into cash. More on that soon.
NOTE: Everything that happens on the ELECTRONIC DIVE CONTROL CENTER is public knowledge, so no hiding it! Lost Treasure is hesitantly cooperative.
on your turn
A player may do any or all of the following on their turn, as long as they do these things in this order. None of these things are required:
1) Search for treasure: A player can punch in the number of the area they are currently on and ask the computer if either the gold or silver treasure is either east or west, or north or south of the player’s area. The ELECTRONIC DIVE CONTROL CENTER will blink to indicate the correct answer, and you would then move the corresponding BUOYS to narrow down your focus. If the compass blinks in the middle it means the treasure you asked about is in the same either row or column you are in, depending upon which you asked about.
2) Roll the dice and move your boat: You want to make your way toward the treasure, or at least toward a spot where you can ask questions to narrow down its location. You roll two dice and can move up to that number of spaces. You can move right, left, up, down, or diagonal; the only rule is you may not move to or through a space that has land on it. (You’re a boat!)
3) Dive for treasure: If you think you landed at a numbered area with treasure, go ahead and try to dive. You have to pay $50,000 to obtain diving rights. As long as you stay in that area you are allowed to keep diving without paying again.
HINT: Remember that searching for treasure is optional. If it would help out your fellow players and not yourself based on your goals or where you are on the board, just skip it.
diving for treasure
Diving for treasure is super fun. When you get to an area that you think has treasure you pay your diving fees, punch in the number, and then press the AIR button. If you are right, you will hear and see your diving tanks fill with AIR. Keep your eyes on this meter, because you need to get to the surface again before your AIR runs out. And the clock starts right away once your AIR fills, so you should too.
Now you know there is treasure here, but you don’t know how much or where it is. Choose any of the nine numbers on the grid and hold it down to dive. You don’t need to be on that grid on the board, just in the general numbered area. You will hear a sound indicating whether you are ascending or descending and it will end in either a low bummer tone indicating no treasure or a fun little gleeful noise indicating you got something.
More info on the beeps and bops at our video on how to use the dive control center:
HINT: If another player is diving, be sure to pay attention to the numbers they are diving into. If you get there yourself you can use that info to limit your dive to remaining spaces.
After you explore one number in the grid, quickly decide if you want to keep going. Once you start to hit a number on the grid you must complete it to the end. You can’t change your mind. If you decide not to go for another one and just come up to the surface, hold down the UP button. Again the tones the control center makes will help determine whether you are successful. If you are not, you don’t die or anything. You just lose all the treasure you found in that dive, so you need to go back for it (or someone else can).
The ELECTRONIC DIVE CONTROL CENTER will indicate whether you found all the treasure in this area and how much treasure you get at the end of a successful dive. Treasure is received in treasure chests where each chest represents $50,000. You must get to a PORT in order to turn your treasure chests into cold, hard cash.
But the high seas are treacherous and your terrible friends are terrible. If another ship pawn lands next to you when you have treasure chests they can attempt to PIRATE you. This is merely a roll off; you each roll one die and the highest roll gets all treasure chests from the other ship. Once chests are converted to cash, the cash can’t be stolen. So treasure chests are a liability that you want to get to a PORT asap.
There are a couple of instances where you are allowed to roll the dice again and move on your turn, mostly to escape attacks. If you are successful in a treasure dive you can skedaddle to avoid any attacks, but you don’t have to. If enemies are not near or if you feel lucky and there is more treasure in that area you may want to stay put.
You can also roll again after a successful PIRATE win, whether you were attacking or defending. That allows you to get away from the enemy and keeps the treasure from going back and forth endlessly.
Once all of a treasure is found, another one is hidden somewhere new by the ELECTRONIC DIVE CONTROL CENTER. So if you dive and find all of the gold treasure, the ELECTRONIC DIVE CONTROL CENTER will automatically hide a new gold treasure. Reset the gold BUOYS and get hunting!
NOTE: In one of the games I played there were two instances where someone was diving for treasure and it was unclear whether it was the gold or the silver. This may not happen if you aren’t playing with gamblers like us, but just in case it does you may want to house rule asking the dive control center a question to settle it before you keep playing.
The first player to get $1,000,000 cash (not treasure chests) wins Lost Treasure!
how it went
I have played Lost Treasure a couple of times now, and only recently with my regular group. We had a grand time diving for treasures.
We only played with 3 players, and I think that’s a good number for Lost Treasure. The more people playing the faster you can usually deduce where treasure is, but then there’s also more pirating, more shenanigans, money split in more ways. The game only offers 2-4 players, but keep it on the light end for a reasonable length of gameplay.
In our play, John was some kind of treasure magnet. I would say at least half the time he asked the computer whether a treasure was east or west of him, the computer would beep, “It’s right in your column, buddy.” Or north and south, “You stay right where you are, we brought the treasure to you.” It was pretty funny. And, honestly, unexpected. I guess the same thing that draws John to coal chutes also draws diamonds to him.
I mentioned already that we gambled a bit. If we had the treasure narrowed down to three or four or sometimes five spots, sometimes we would just pay the fee and dive lazily where we were. And sometimes that worked! But most of the time it didn’t. I don’t recommend that approach. It’s hard to lose $50,000, especially early in the game.
The game board is pretty large for three players, so we actually didn’t run into each other a whole lot. Especially since the treasure was constantly getting planted wherever John happened to be. There was not a lot of pirating in our game, but there was a bit.
I tended to go after the silver treasure because it usually fell way across the board from other pawns. Mostly I was diving for silver treasure alone, and one time I even completed it in one dive!
John was ahead most of our gameplay, with Keri following closely behind. I was way, way behind because deep dives with no returns was kind of my jam. But in the end Keri navigated to victory in Lost Treasure!
play or pass
Play. This game is so well executed. It brings deduction, take that, electronics, and racing to port all together in a game that will have you gasping for air. Okay maybe not literally. But it’s a pretty fun time, easy to learn, and the theme is very well applied.
Most Lost Treasure copies still work great. You can pick it up for a reasonable price, or even find it at thrift if you are patient. If your gameplay goes long, just lower the win condition of $1,000,000.
Review: Spy Alley Publisher: Spy Alley Partners LLP Year: 1992 Tagline: The Game of Suspense and Intrigue!
how we met
I was on the hunt for some two-person games, since my fiancé, HB, and I are usually on our own when it comes to games. Unfortunately, the thrift store didn’t have anything old and/or weird enough. But I’d never heard of this game (even though it’s a multiple-award winner!), and I liked the promise of “suspense and intrigue,” and it was for “2 to 6 spies.” Thus, it seemed worth a shot.
how it plays
The bare-bones gist: You—an international spy—need to collect your spy stuff and end up at your embassy before those other pesky spies learn what country you’re from.
The worst part about a new game is learning the rules, but this wasn’t so painful (considering it’s for ages 8 and up). In this roll-and-move game, you scoot around the board and land on squares that let you buy passwords, disguises, code books, and keys. You can do this via the following board spaces:
Those specifically labeled Disguises, Keys, Code Books, and Passwords
Free Gift, where you pick any item for free
Black Market, where you buy any one item of your choosing
Confiscate Materials, where you buy any item of your choice from a fellow player
However, you don’t want to get just your country’s spy gear, because that would give away your identity. All spies need to buy items from all the countries in an attempt to throw everyone else off their trail until it’s too late.
When you’ve got all your stuff, you’ve got to make your way to Spy Alley—a path cutting through the center of the board—and land on your country’s embassy before someone guesses who you are. Someone can make a guess about a spy’s identity at the start of his or her turn. If the guesser is correct, the player who is guessed is out of the game, and the guesser gets all that player’s money and items. If the guesser is incorrect, the guesser is out of the game and the guessed player gets all the stuff. You can also guess all players’ identities—without penalty to yourself—if you land on the Spy Eliminator space.
In short: It’s part Clue, part Monopoly Jr., part Mall Madness (with the buying stuff and putting pegs in a board).
how it went
We happened to play this on the rare occasion when we had a third player! HB, PC, and I poured ourselves some spiced rum over ice and got down to biz. I was the Russian spy, so when I saw PC buying the Russian key right off the bat, I thought, “LIAR!!!!”
PC (the American spy, who was predictably overweight) landed on the Spy Eliminator space and guessed HB and I were French. He was right regarding HB, but when he took HB’s items he forgot to keep the money. This is an example of just one of many hazards of drinking while playing. This was also good news for me, because I kept getting crappy rolls that forced me through Spy Alley, which is primarily comprised of embassies and too few options to get items.
We spoke in horrific accents (which the game itself actively encourages you to do), often mixing them within the same sentence. It was surely my reliance on my dreadful Italian accent that led PC to guess that I was from Italy, but NO! So I won, and that was nice.
play or pass
Play, if you’re in the mood for something silly and relatively effortless (and you need an excuse to bust out a bad accent).
Review: Charge It! Publisher: Western Publishing Company Year: 1972 Tagline: THE FAMILY CREDIT-CARD GAME
how we met
I found Charge it! just recently for 50 cents. The cover is cute. I like the 70s colors. I looked Charge It! up on BGG and saw that most of the ratings are above-average and it is full of delightful art, so I thought I’d take a chance on it.
how it plays
Your goal in Charge it! is to be the first player to collect $50,000 in debt over the course of however many rounds it takes for someone to win.
Players begin the game with 6 cards in hand, and players should always have 6 cards in hand. On their turn, players first draw a card and then play a card. The gameplay is very similar to Mille Bornes.
NOTE: The rules state that a player can draw from the deck or from the discard pile, however we only allowed drawing from the deck. If a game allows drawing from the discard pile, the order in which things get discarded is very important. Since the instructions did not address this we just skipped the drawing from the discard part.
Your goal is to play CREDIT CARDs and charge those puppies up. There are four different CREDIT CARDs in the game, and you can only play one of each in front of you at a given time. Each card has a different credit limit.
Once you have a CREDIT CARD in front of you, you can start to charge merchandise to it! You do this by simply placing a MERCHANDISE CARD face down under the CREDIT CARD. But here’s the trick: you can’t look at that merchandise again once you have played it, so you have to remember all of your charges to make sure you don’t exceed your credit limit!
The game also has EXTENDED CREDIT if things are feeling tight, or if you aren’t sure you went over. These all extend credit $2,500 and are also played face down under a CREDIT CARD.
The game also has LOST CARDs that you can play on another player’s CREDIT CARD to cancel it! You must play the matching LOST CARD as the CREDIT CARD you are trying to cancel. That player must immediately play a matching CREDIT CARD or an INSURANCE CARD from their hand to save their card. The INSURANCE card would stay on the CREDIT CARD to protect it through the end of the round. There are only four INSURANCE CARDs in the whole deck.
After a player plays either a CREDIT CARD or INSURANCE CARD to protect their card, they would also draw right away to make sure they continue to have 6 cards in hand.
Once any player thinks they have accumulated at least $10,000 they end the round. All players count up the merchandise under their CREDIT CARDs. If a player went over their credit limit on any card then they receive no money points for that round.
The player that declared the end of the round gets a $2,000 bonus if they are over $10,000 and did not exceed any of their credit limits. If either of those terrible things happened, they get no points at all and no one gets the bonus!
The rules do not address whether play stops immediately when a player says they reached $10,000. We played as though play stops immediately and then the next round begins with the next player.
The first player to reach $50,000 wins Charge it!
how it went
We played Charge it! recently on a game night where Bill was absent, so we played 3 player. It took us five rounds until one of us hit $50,000 in winnings and won the game. So we had five separate, interesting rounds where different things were happening.
Keri set the tone every time she put a MERCHANDISE CARD under her CREDIT CARD and said something like, “Charge it!” or “I’ll put that on my Phoney Express!” or after losing her CREDIT CARD and drawing a new one declaring, “I reapplied!” I swear she is a professional cheerleader and just hasn’t told me yet.
In my first round, I had such a hard time finding a CREDIT CARD!! You need a CREDIT CARD in front of you before you can start to really participate in play – except for LOST cards – so lacking a CREDIT CARD is a drag. But I think I only had to discard one MERCHANDISE CARD because I had a tiny CREDIT CARD with EXTENDED CREDIT, rather than no CREDIT CARD at all.
In the fourth round, I had a fully maxed A-LA CREDIT CARD with an EXTENDED LIMIT, so $8,500. I had a couple of other CREDIT CARDs too, but the funny thing about this round was that I kept drawing that same CREDIT CARD! I am not complaining, but it was so funny. I was holding what I think must be most of the high limit CREDIT CARDs in the game, in my hand. At one point John tried to cancel my super card, and all of the cards in my hand were face down in front of me. I mixed them up and drew one, showing the high-limit card and canceling his LOST CARD, and being grossly smug. When you play a card to cancel a LOST CARD you have to draw again right away, and I drew another high limit card. It was insane.
This same round Keri had a tough time. She could not find even a single CREDIT CARD to allow her to play any MERCHANDISE CARDs. She had to discard multiple items, cheerily asking, who needs a Player Piano? Who needs a truck full of sod?
Finally Keri had a $2,000 limit CREDIT CARD that she lovingly played. John immediately tried to cancel it, even though it had no purchases under it. This was perhaps my favorite part of the game. Keri yelled, “$&^@ you! Eat a #&$%!” and played an INSURANCE CARD on her only, empty CREDIT CARD.
John meanwhile seemed to be a magnet for INSURANCE CARDs. His CREDIT CARDs were unstoppable, but his luck drawing larger MERCHANDISE CARDs was less dependable.
The rounds varied quite a lot for us.
I was ahead most of the rounds, so I only needed a small amount of money to win during the fifth round. But Lady Luck certainly made me work for it. In this round I had more high level CREDIT CARDs, so I could play one somewhat safely. But I became alarmed as play continued and instead of drawing MERCHANDISE CARDs, I drew LOST after LOST after LOST CARD.
I don’t want to play LOST CARDs all willy nilly. Ideally a LOST CARD can be played strategically instead of played-or-discarded. But that round, I seemed to only have and only draw LOST CARDs. What’s a terrible friend to do? I came clean by saying to my friends, “This game wants me to rain hellfire down on you.”
I have an awful memory, as you know, but I actually did pretty well in this game. I tried to wait until I could make even bursts of $1,000 whether it took a combination of cards or not. There was only one round where I was uncertain whether I hit $10,000 so I waited for what felt like a $1,000 buffer, but I only squeaked by with just $10,000. So that was a close one.
And I won Charge it!
play or pass
Play. There is inherent humor in a 1972 game encouraging you to play and charge up as many credit cards as you can, and to be the first to hit $50,000 in debt. I can see gameplay becoming too long, but as with all games where you play to a specific dollar goal, you can just lower the goal to shorten gameplay.
In addition to playing like Mille Bornes, this game reminds me of Burger Battle which we play every so often. Both require you to draw and then play one card on your turn. Both have nasty “take that” cards that extend gameplay. Both have fun art. The differences are that Burger Battle explicitly addresses discarding, and drawing from the discard pile can be important. That game also has an explosive game-resetting card. And Charge it! introduces the memory aspect of gameplay that Burger Battle does not. But for the record, I recommend both going on your credit card.
Review: Gargoyles Publisher: Milton Bradley Year: 1994 Tagline: WINGED WARRIORS FIGHT A WORLD OF CRIME
how we met
Bill and I found Gargoyles for $2 in our local town. For some reason, I knew this was a game and recognized it when I saw it. But I have never seen and am wholly unfamiliar with Gargoyles the show.
I watched the opening theme as my homework for this review. I can’t do anymore. But that theme was pretty awesome.
how it plays
The object of Gargoyles is to save Elisa by defeating any enemies in your path and finally the big boss Xanatos at the top of the tower.
All pawns move on a pre-determined path, gliding from roof to roof, leading up to the building and up floor by floor until they reach the top! Each player begins the game with 2 GOLIATH tokens. These tokens can be spent during gameplay to give you an edge in battle.
Setup is important in the game. The instructions will tell you where to put the Demona, Goliath, and Bronx pawns. Elisa and Xanatos go on the top of the tower. Then the 3 THE PACK pawns Hyena/Dingo, Wolf/Jackal, and Fox are placed according to the instruction book.
At the start of a player’s turn they begin with a BATTLE if there is an enemy on their tile. If there is no enemy, they spin the spinner and one of three things will happen:
GLIDE allows you to move your pawn to the next space on the board. If there is an enemy there, your turn ends. If the space is open then spin again.
BRONX allows you to move the BRONX pawn to any space not already occupied by a baddie. BRONX is like a bubble: enemies can’t be moved onto a space occupied by BRONX. You can move him to your own pawn for protection.
THE PACK requires you to move one of the three THE PACK pawns to any space on the board except a space occupied by BRONX. If someone from THE PACK was already defeated and removed from the game board then you must move them back onto the board rather than move a pawn from THE PACK already on the board. You keep knocking ‘em out and they keep comin’ right on back.
Demona is different than other enemy pawns. She never moves, and once she is defeated she stays off the board.
Xanatos is also different than other enemy pawns. I mean, Xanatos is the boss. When Xanatos is defeated, the game is over.
If you start your turn with an enemy on your space, you must BATTLE. You can BATTLE enemies in any order you choose if there is more than one on your space. To BATTLE, take the punch token and secretly choose whether you will throw a high punch or a low punch. The player to your left acts as the enemy and secretly chooses whether to have a high block or a low block using the block token.
Both players show their BATTLE tokens at the same time. For example if the active player throws a high punch, and the defending pawn has a high block, then that attack is blocked and the turn ends. However if the attack goes through, where the attack and the block do not match, the enemy pawn is moved off the board and that player may continue their turn either battling the next enemy on the player’s space or spinning the spinner.
If you summon Goliath to help you in BATTLE, he gets two chances to defeat an enemy, and if he defeats one he defeats all. He’s pretty badass if you remember to play him. He can be used on the bosses too.
The first player to successfully defeat Xanatos saves Elisa and wins Gargoyles!
how it went
This game blows. Look how much text it took to explain how to play, when BATTLE boils down to a 50/50 chance. You could house rule the game to require a successful rock, paper, scissors outcome in BATTLE and Gargoyles would be immediately more interesting. This game was so painful to play that Bill thinks I got the rules entirely wrong. But alas, this game blows.
Note: Bill did read through the rules as I wrote this review. He found the issue with the game where he was certain we played wrong, and it’s a good criticism that I have only implied so far. As a hero pawn, you never go backward. The worst thing that can happen to you is that your turn ends. If you are on the second floor of the tower, the stakes are identical to the second space from start. Most children’s games at least set you back a bit.
We played Gargoyles at the end of a long night. We were tired. We were hopeful. We built the building. We went through all the set up. Our youngest player went first. But Gargoyles was such a slog! You defeat enemies and they leave the board, but then they return. And return. And return. It’s like endless coin flipping.
FUN FACT: I have played a lot of Magic: The Gathering over the years and still have a box full of my decks. And of course I have a gambling deck. And of course everyone hates it…probably because it feels a lot like playing Gargoyles. Nice one, universe. You got me.
We hadn’t been playing long before we started just automatically placing THE PACK pawns on start, out of the way. Sometimes one of us would have to move a pawn from THE PACK when all were on the board, so we might embrace the “take that” aspect of gameplay. But that player would defeat that enemy, that enemy would be placed off the board, that enemy would get placed back on the board on the start space, and the cycle would begin again.
I do not have the winner recorded. I think Bill might have won.
play or pass
Pass like you have never passed before. Do not look directly at Gargoyles. Do not answer if Gargoyles knocks. Do not pick up the phone. Do not engage with Gargoyles. Playing Gargoyles hurt so much.
I am admittedly not very familiar with the cartoon, but even the opening theme felt dark and decent, where the game is one of the babiest of baby games. The game just doesn’t fit with even the glimpse I had of the show. I don’t get it.