Review: The Miss America Pageant Game
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1974
Tagline: (none)

Game cover showing three girls playing

how we met

I met The Miss America Pageant Game at an estate sale on Day 2 (50% off day). I found the game in the basement amongst all of the Christmas decorations that also had not sold. I had never heard of the game before and happily picked it up with nothing but $1 and the highest of hopes.

how it plays

The Miss America Pageant Game is a spin and move game where your goal is to promote your pageant gals through the ranks from contestant to semi-finalist to finalist to Miss America! You do this by spinning the spinner and moving around the board landing on spaces tied to Swimsuit, Talent, Personality and Evening Gown competitions.

Pile of several girl contestants

Girls, girls, girls

This spinner takes the shape of a television camera, a purple one, pointing down towards the table from up above it.

As a contestant, your goal is to gather one of each of the Swimsuit, Talent, Personality and Evening Gown cards. The cards themselves list the score that you will receive in that particular competition, which you can keep a secret from your fellow players until the semi-finalist round. You can have as many of these cards as you happen to land on, but as soon as you have at least one of each then you move that pawn to a semi-finalist position along with her cards.

Example cards of each category

Card examples for you, an all American girl

A few of the cards do not award points but just send your pawn immediately to the semi-finalist round with whatever cards you have (if any).

After placing a semi-finalist you simply choose another contestant from the pile and begin again. When the last of the three semi-finalists is placed then players add up the points of the semi-finalist cards and the pawn with the highest points moves to a finalist spot, which is one of the flat spaces on the weird, white flower-looking plastic piece at the base of the television camera. The other semi-finalists are banished from the game and all cards are returned to the bottoms of their respective decks.

Rinse and repeat. Once all five finalist spaces are filled then things really get anticlimactic. Players spin the spinner, and the first finalist that the spinner points to gets last place. Then it is spun again and the next finalist is next-runner up. This continues until one lucky pawn has not had the camera point at them. That pawn is Miss America and the player that controls that pawn is the winner!

how it went

Spinners are tough, right? If only they took the pointer in the spinner and lifted it into the air about two inches, then we could really learn to appreciate definitive things in life like coin flips and die rolls. The spinner has a small plastic piece that sticks out at the base to try and make reading the outcome easier, but its help was limited. The spinner is also placed to one side of the board rather than the center, probably to avoid blocking the semi-finalist view, so no one has a really good perspective of the far side of the spinner.

All that being said, this is The Miss America Pageant Game and you move by spinning a plastic, purple camera. Wonderfully on theme.

The television camera spinner

Is it a television camera? Is it a spinner? It’s both!

John of course managed to push the limits of the ridiculousness of the game. He had one contestant with an actual pile of cards, but who was ever-searching for an evening gown. It was almost sad and real and poetic. She was so strong in three of the four categories, and that just wasn’t good enough. She did finally find a gown, though, and was probably the most formidable semi-finalist this game had ever seen. And that mattered for exactly one moment to get her into a finalist spot.

Semi-finalist with several cards

John’s superstar semi-finalist can be seen on the right. Even the light favors her.

I have heard criticism of games where people say, “You might as well have just rolled a die at the beginning to see who wins.” Those people need a more fun game group, but this is the first game that made me wonder if I agree with that statement.

If you think finding the winner out of five finalists means four spins then you are sadly mistaken, dear reader. The finalists might be out of the running as they get targeted by that mean television camera, and you can even physically move them, but you still have five spots remaining and fewer of them are relevant. You have to spin enough times that the outcome is final.

So in summary, in order to win your pawn has to have successfully gathered all of the right cards, got the most amount of points in their semi-finalist round and then been lucky enough to get zero camera time through an endless series of spins for the crown.

play or pass

Pass. One of the things that bugged me about The Miss America Pageant Game was the seeming abandonment of the theme at the end. It makes no sense for camera time to put a finalist out of the running, or that the camera focuses on a finalist and then she is toast. Or that the winner is complete chance. I think even something as simple as each finalist spinning and then drawing that number of random cards and adding up the points at least gives some semblance of their performance behind it.