Review: The Family Ties Game
Publisher: AppleStreet
Year: 1986
Tagline: Play along with the Keatons for family fun.

Family Ties cover

how we met

The Family Ties Game is one of the many board games dug out of the basement of a shop near me (see Barnabas Collins game review). The box is in really rough shape and may have spent summers camping outside at one point, and with a low SPF. The board is massively warped to the extent that it sometimes affects your dice roll. But the game is complete and from 1986 and about Family Ties. Of course I bought it.

how it plays

In The Family Ties Game you are a Keaton that wants to surprise your family with a professional family photo! Your goal is to end one of your turns with each of your six family members in your hand as well as $100 to pay the photographer. Then you win!

Our play

Our play

Here’s the catch. Your neighbor Skippy is dealt to one of the players at the beginning of play and can’t be discarded. Your hand limit is six, so as long as you have Skippy you have a problem.

Skippy card

Skippy, presumably fresh from a spray tan

Each player starts the game with six SAY CHEESE cards, which is a card representing one of the family, and $50. The game itself is roll and move, where different spaces on the board may cause you to draw a SAY CHEESE card, a family member, or a DON’T BLINK card which can do any number of things but is often painful. Some DON’T BLINK cards can be held in hand and played as a Gotcha on another player. Other spaces on the board will get you money, others will take it away.

Say Cheese cards

SAY CHEESE cards. Are these images starting to look familiar yet?

Don't Blink cards


Landing on the image of one of the family allows you to steal a card (sight unseen) from any player you choose. I hope you know where Skippy is, you fool! Landing on the Skippy space causes you to unload him on a player of your choice if you have him or take custody of him if you do not have him.

And what roll and move with paper money would be complete without the obligatory go-like space that allows you to collect money when you pass it? In the case of this game, you get $10 allowance. And the game includes a free-parking-variant-like space called Lottery. Most times you pay in, sometimes you hit the jackpot!

how it went

We played this game after a long dinner at a Wisconsin supper club involving impractical coats, glittery lipsticks, turtlenecks with blazers, costume jewelry and peach eye shadow. And a Night Court t-shirt. We had all the ingredients for a fun evening, and The Family Ties Game was our closer.

The most amazing thing about The Family Ties Game is that the publisher seems to have gotten the rights to two photos to make the game. Literally two photos. And one of them is just Skippy. Their prize photo is used on the game cover, on the play money, on the game board, on the Say Cheese cards and all of the pawns are just cropped versions of the same photo. Our working theory is that the designers spite-designed the game after getting so few photo rights a la, “Oh you give me ONE photo? OK then the game concept is about taking a photo! And I will plaster my one photo on every flat surface!”

Family Ties money

I guess, why wouldn’t the picture be on the money?

The intro of the show that I remember best centers around a painting, but many of the later seasons focused on a photograph of the family instead. By focus I mean about six seconds of air-time. It does not seem to be a central plot-point for the show in general, and I feel pretty good about our theory. My attempts to learn more about AppleStreet, the publisher, were limited and ultimately led nowhere.

Anyway I had a lot of fun playing this game. I started in such good shape; I think my initial draw of six cards had five unique family members. But there’s a long way to go to meet winning conditions so your hand almost doesn’t matter until near the end.

The Skippy as a hot potato was a fun concept. Apparently my Skippy card’s blue background is very slightly different from the other cards, which is unfortunate. From one side of the table where the light was right you could make out which of a player’s cards were Skippy. From the other side of the table there was no way to tell as the cards were more shadowed. So we had to resort to closed-eye drawing once we figured that out. No biggie.

Face down Say Cheese cards

Which one is Skippy?

There is a ton of stealing cards and forced discards in the game. It is fun to come to terms with not getting attached to what is in your hand, ever.

play or pass

Play for sure! Our game went a bit long perhaps, but I cry-laughed at least once and we gained an entire new term for our gaming – Skippy! We were recently playing Arkham Horror and Keri rolled so poorly that all of my instincts wanted to hand her a Skippy card. Instead I heard Bill tell her, “Don’t get lippy, Skippy.” That’ll do.