Review: Heavenly Body
Publisher: MorPro, Inc.
Year: 1988
Tagline: A fun way for the whole family to battle the bulge.

how we met

You guys, this was love at first sight. The scene: a dusty, dark antique shop with a total of about seven board games. Amongst all the usual suspects I pull out Heavenly Body.

A game about nutrition and fitness? That sounds awful right up my alley. I look at the back of the box and see everything I never knew I wanted in a board game: human pawns wearing cloth jerseys that I fatten with soy beans! And wait, are some of them wearing Olympic medals around their necks? SOLD

FUN FACT: I would have happily paid the full $5 but the angel behind the counter inexplicably gave me half off. I think he could see this game would find a good forever home with me. It’s possible I was beaming. It’s possible he was high. It’s possible things just work out sometimes.

how it plays

This is a roll and move game. Your pawn starts the game with 20 lbs (=20 soy beans) and $200. As you move around the board your weight and purse will change: you may over-eat, injure yourself, buy new gym equipment, open a new business, try a new diet, etc. The goal is to have the most money in the end.

are these pawns amazing or what?

There are four areas of the board with corresponding decks of cards: COUNTRY CLUB, HEALTH CLUB, SPORTS and OLYMPICS. These, too, will be either positive, negative or neutral to your weight or purse. The OLYMPICS cards may award you a bronze, silver or gold medal that will be worth money at the end of the game.

sample cards

The board also includes spaces for BREAKFAST, LUNCH and DINNER. When landing here you roll two dice, look at the menu for the corresponding meal and read out the entry to learn the consequences of your meal.

spiral game board

The most dreaded space on the board was easily the BET YOUR STRENGTH space. The player who lands on this space is meant to bet how many of a specific exercise they can do, while other players can choose to bet against them. A player cannot bet in support of a player; they may only bet against the player or choose not to bet. If the player that bet their strength wins, all players that bet against them pay the bettor $50. The majority of our group politely chose to ignore this space and not bet their strength, but we did see a few sit-ups during game play.

Oh, and did I mention you have to guess your pawn’s weight at the end of the game? How many lbs (=soy beans) are you packing? A successful guess nets you $50.

After resolving your weight guess, you pay $20 per 1lb to remove all weight that you had when hitting the scale.

The game ends when all players land in the center and have gone through all necessary accounting: guessing their weight, paying to remove all weight and finally resolving Olympic medals. As in life, the player with the most money wins.

how it went

This game is a snapshot in time, and I love that. I will not sit here and argue that in 2017 we have nutrition figured out; that is demonstrably untrue. Still it is funny to read the weight effect of certain meals in this 1988 game. This led us to great fun by pitching our own meal ideas during the game just to illustrate this disconnect. Easily my favorite came from Bill when he offered, “You had cocaine and a watermelon. Gain 7 lbs.”

I admire the choice to add a period to the end of the tagline, a detail that was not lost on me. This game is a fun way for the whole family to battle the bulge. This is a fact. I like the passive confidence.

our play

Keeping track of your pawn’s weight is harder than it sounds – the spiral game board takes awhile to get through and it is difficult to focus on the weight enough to maintain a clear accounting in your head. I chose the “addition and subtraction” strategy but honestly I got very lucky with the least amount of weight change. Another player tried to start all initial 20 lbs in the front of the jersey and keeping changes to the rear side of the jersey, a strategy abandoned at some point due to storage limitations.

It might be worth noting that three of our four players were able to guess their pawn’s weight within the acceptable error margin of 3 lbs. In the fourth player’s defense, she was carrying ever so much weight. I am not sure her jersey would have fit much more in it.

The more creative of our players enjoyed moulding their extra weight. Although somewhat limited, you can definitely control the location of your curves to a certain degree, and it can even lead to crowding in the small spaces of the game board.

I was quite pleased with the weight loss of my own pawn. I was downright skinny at the end, which made tracking my weight a breeze. But alas, as the gods of weight loss smiled down on me, the gods of cash bestowed their gifts on another player. And the richest player wins.

The practice of adding and removing beans to represent weight was novel for our group. I do think Heavenly Body lost an opportunity by focusing on weight and nutrition but ultimately awarding the richest player. The weight becomes little more than taxation, and if you were able to save up enough money then eating poorly and not working out was of little consequence. And I am not sure that’s what the designer was trying to convey with this game.

play or pass

Play those pounds off! Heavenly Body is trying to do a lot: roll and move, betting but with real-life exercise (!), chance cards, random dice rolling, tracking your weight. This game is a mess, but more importantly it’s a treasure in the they-could-never-make-this-today kind of way. The journey to the scale is long and lends itself to repetition, but with the right crowd you will find laughter, wtf moments and the unsung challenge of safely removing soy beans from your jersey without losing them.