Review: Elvis Presley ‘King of Rock’ Game
Publisher: Lee / Raymond & Assoc., Inc. / Stephen Wilson
Year: 1978
Tagline: “Television, movies, records, and concerts…just as they were when Elvis became the King.”

Game cover showing drawing of Elvis and part of the board

how we met

I found Elvis Presley ‘King of Rock’ Game on the top of the game shelf at one of my super secret, magical thrift stores where I always find games I want to buy. Someone must have pulled it off the shelf and discarded it up above, but I have no idea why. Nor do I care.

Normally at a thrift shop anything Elvis-related would be overpriced as a rule. But this was $1.99. I did the math. Elvis Presley death 1977 + Elvis Presley ‘King of Rock’ Game 1978 = cynical cash grab. And I grabbed it. For all of us.

how it plays

Elvis Presley ‘King of Rock’ Game is a roll and move game where the object is to, well, get to the end. In order to do this you collect ALBUM SINGLES, represented by small certificates, as you go round and round the board, ultimately with the goal of trading five ALBUM SINGLES for one GOLD RECORD. Once you have at least one GOLD RECORD and you land on a STAR space by exact count, you can move to the middle of the board and try to reach the end of the game.

The game board has four different Gracelands, one in each corner, and players start in their respective Gracelands. Graceland is similar to Go in that you collect $5,000 when you pass your own Graceland. Technically the rule reads, “Collect $5,000 each time pass ‘home’ Graceland.”

An overview of the board showing cards, guitar images and Gracelands in the corners

You get a Graceland! You get a Graceland! And you get a Graceland!

Each player starts the game with $1,000,000. (You read that right. You start with a million and get five thousand when you pass go.) There are four decks of cards, one for each section: Television, Movies, Records and Concerts.

Elvis money including 5k, 10k, 50k, 100k, 500k

This is the money in order of how likely you are to ever touch it. That 500k. So sweet, so distant

If you land on another player’s Graceland then you pay that player $10,000. Players can’t share the same space, so if you would land on another player they are sent back home to their Graceland.

The board also contains SAFE spaces where you are safe and can’t be knocked back to your Graceland.

There are four small tracks that go into the middle of the board representing either Television, Movies, Records or Concerts. In order to enter these tracks you must land by exact count on a STAR space. Then, on your next turn, you can choose to roll only one die instead of the usual two and enter that track. The tracks are the best shot you have to draw chance cards, and those are your best bet to get an opportunity to purchase ALBUM SINGLES. You can also lose a lot on these small tracks, so tread carefully and roll well.

These show a variety of paying in and getting paid

Example chance cards

These chance cards can also allow you to steal ALBUM SINGLES. Those suckers will trade hands. You are not likely to become too attached to them since they could easily list different, actual album single tracks but do not. They are all the same. So who cares really.

Example gold albums and album singles which just look like basic certificates and are all the same

The game comes with about seven more GOLD RECORDs than you will ever need

Other spaces on the board will indicate what you do – usually collect some money, forfeit some money, etc. Many of these spaces contain (trying-to-be) fun facts about Elvis and specific events and performances that lead to whatever outcome you have by landing there.

The goal is to enter the GOLD RECORD DISC middle portion of the board with one or more GOLD RECORDs and win the game. This middle portion is the same as one of the four small tracks in that you roll one die and can win or lose big. This portion of the board is full of “Forfeit one gold record” spaces, so the more GOLD RECORDs you have prior to entering, the more likely you are to win the game. But if you get to the end, you are the ‘King of Rock’ and you win!

how it went

Our play was long, slow, frustrating.. but we will get there soon enough. First let me share some of our observations.

Elvis Presley ‘King of Rock’ Game was one of two games I had purchased in that past week with a seemingly similar past (stay tuned for the next review for the other cynical cash in played that evening). If you explore Elvis Presley ‘King of Rock’ Game on Board Game Geek, there are two different versions and the game is credited as 1979. So I got the early terrible one that they rushed to print before updating the cover. The gameplay description seems the same, but they may have adjusted some rules to balance play. We can hope.

I liked Bill’s description of the game when he said, “You can see all the fingerprints.” As in, you can see the imperfections. Every single component feels like it is tiptoeing around the fact that the game is about Elvis. The image on the cover is not a photo but just a drawing, the ALBUM SINGLES do not list any actual songs, the objective is to become the “King of Rock” and not the “King of Rock and Roll,” the facts are distant and ordinary. The real objective of the game seems to be cashing in on a tragic event – but also not getting sued.

Facts include Pearl Harbor Benefit 3/25/61, Off screen romance with leading lady, 1st Sun Record "That's All Right (Mama)" July 6, 1954, Entertainer of the year 1968

Showing Elvis as he has never been seen before

Anyway, let’s move on to our actual gameplay which can be summed up with words from a well-known Elvis song lyric: “We’re caught in a trap.” We played Elvis Presley ‘King of Rock’ Game diligently, but it was not easy. Players are frequently sent back to their Graceland so progress can be time-consuming and painful. There seemed to be as many cards allowing opponents to steal ALBUM SINGLES as there were allowing you to actually purchase one, so players were often knocked back by that too.

A yellow pawn in Graceland

A shot of me returned to my Graceland for the 5,000th time

You might have seen this one coming from the game play description, but players did not get enough money. Every so often you may land on a space or draw a card that allows you to collect money, but frequently you are paying in and being stolen from. The $5,000 you get if you happen to make an entire lap of the board (which I barely did) feels like getting sung to in a restaurant on your birthday. I know I’m supposed to be grateful, but, like, fuck you.

Purchasing ALBUM SINGLES is difficult both due to cash flow and opportunity. Because of this hardship, many of our singles were passed from player to player as steals happened. Eventually both Keri and John had five ALBUM SINGLES. Keri ended up losing one and John traded his for our game’s first GOLD RECORD! Eventually he landed on a STAR space by exact count and entered the glorified GOLD RECORD DISC in the middle of the board.

The blue pawn entering the GOLD RECORD DISC center!

C’mon c’mon no whammy!

From here, a couple of his turns went well. Then he landed on a RETURN TO GRACELAND space, and we all ignored it and kept playing. Then he landed on a FORFEIT ONE GOLD RECORD space, and we all ignored that as well. Trust me, you would have looked the other way too.

The next turn John got to the middle, was declared the ‘King of Rock’ and became our winner!

play or pass

Hard pass. A lot of people do not like roll and move games, and I get it. We play quite a few of them to varying degrees of enjoyment. But Elvis Presley ‘King of Rock’ Game would push any human being to their breaking point, and try to make up for it by giving them $5,000 three or four times an hour during play when they need $250,000. What if Elvis fans bought this game and thought that’s what board games are like?

What do you think? Can a board game that is an obvious cynical cash-in also be tasteful and well done? Personally I’m not sure I have seen enough data to be able to answer that one just yet. But I do feel confident saying it does not have to be a steaming pile of crap.