Review: Chipmunks superpopomatic 3-D Action Game
Publisher: Ideal
Year: 1984
Tagline: Join the Chipmunks and Chipettes in a frantic race to find the lost pirate treasures!

The cover shows an overview of the board at an angle

how we met

We picked this one up this summer at a random thrift shop. Bill remembered it from his youth, and it was only five bucks. Sold.

how it plays

I didn’t know at first! Our copy did not come with instructions and I was not lucky trying to find them online. Kudos to Matt Wilkins whose YouTube channel told us what we needed to know to play. If you enjoy vintage board games, I highly recommend tuning into Matt’s reviews and annual top 100 list. If his enthusiasm does not get you excited to check out some new old games, then probably nothing will.

Each player chooses a pawn. Traps are set up on the board. Treasure chests are mixed up and then placed randomly in the identified places on the board.

Pawns are images of the 3 chipmunks and 3 chipettes
Our heroes

One by one players enter the board at the enter space. From here, you will notice that the possible paths are indicated by dotted lines. Roll the die using the popomatic and move your pawn that many spaces.

An overview shot of the board
So you can maybe see in this photo how your path must follow the outlined (hard to see) paths. The start space is bottom row, four from the right, with the brown scroll looking thing.

One side of the die shows a red blast icon. If you roll this icon you can choose a trap to set off, which will endanger any pawns in the nearby spaces with skulls on them. For example, a pawn on the plank will be flipped and go back to start. A pawn near the sails will be knocked over and go back to start. A pawn near the palm tree will be knocked away by the falling tree and go back to start.

The plank trap
This one doesn’t work great. But if you slap it hard enough you can flip anything on it.
The plastic sails, that pivot
This trap just spins in its space and wipes out anything nearby in the skull zone (spaces on the board in danger have skulls on them)
The palm tree trap is a plastic palm tree that can close in half
A soft wind might cause this palm tree top half to drop down suddenly and everyone in the surrounding skull spaces must go back to start

The goal is for the players to eventually collect all of the treasure chests on the board between them. These chests remain closed until the very end of the game. Once all chests have been collected, crack them open! They will contain anywhere from one to three gold nuggets, except one single chest contains only a boot. The player that gets the boot gets no points, regardless of any other chests in their possession.

the chests, 3 open and 3 closed
This is what the chests look like, including that nasty chest containing a boot!

The player with the most gold nuggets and no boot wins!

how it went

I was excited to play Chipmunks superpopomatic 3-D Action Game. I never owned any of the Chipmunks board games as a kiddo, but I watched the movie The Chipmunk Adventure obsessively. I even wrote the lyrics from the song “My Mother” onto some shitty homemade paper as a gift for my mom on Mother’s Day one year, a million years ago.

Gameplay was pretty quick. But it was also really annoying. The play is clear and simple, but the plastic board blocks everything you need to see. You need to basically stand over and look down on the board closely to see where the dangerous spots are and even where your possible movement is. I wonder if the board was brighter and clearer years ago. Even if it was, I can’t imagine your path was easy to see at any kind of angle.

A side view of the board, like from where a player would be seeing it
You can kind of see the dashed lines, but not very well. Fail.

I enjoy the game’s traps. They are similar to 13 Dead End Drive in their nastiness. The plank trap doesn’t always work well, but it’s a pleasure to try.

And obviously the gambler in me loves having mystery treasure chests that may ruin my entire game, or help establish my victory. The game (at least my copy) came with 6 treasure chests but only 5 are placed on the board. There is an interesting consideration around whether obtaining more treasure chests just puts you in more danger of finding the dud, but that is mitigated even more by knowing it might not even be in play. In our play we just raced for as many as we could get.

Our play
A shot of our play

In the end, Bill was lucky enough to get the chest with three gold nuggets. Keri was unlucky enough to get the boot along with one other chest. At this point what John and I got didn’t matter, since we had one chest each and neither could have three gold nuggets. Bill won Chipmunks superpopomatic 3-D Action Game!

play or pass

Pass. My pass recommendation has less to do with the simplicity of the roll and move gameplay and more to do with how difficult it is to see where you can move, when you are in danger, how to set up the board. Although I enjoy opening any treasure chests I received at the end of the game, getting to that point is way more difficult than it should be.