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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Boardgame marketing in the 1960s

3M edition, 1968
A few weeks ago, our friend Jeff invited my wife Kathy and me over for dinner and a boardgame along with our friends Rebecca and Sheila.  Rebecca had expressed an interest in playing Acquire (designer Sid Sackson), and I had obtained a copy on eBay of the 1968 edition published by 3M, so after dinner, we pulled it out and started to set it up.  When Sheila saw the box, she commented on the atmosphere that the cover art conveyed, a sophisticated 1960s image.  The connotation was very strong - almost like a Sean Connery 007 film - and very different from the typical boardgame published today.

Parker Brothers, 1964
The next afternoon, our 17- and 12-year-old sons joined Kathy and me for a family game of our tried-and-true favorite word game, Probe (Parker Brothers).  I was struck by the same kind of image conveyed in the box cover photograph - four adults in ties and cocktail dresses playing the game in a sophisticated social setting.  The coincidence got me thinking about similar games that we have on our shelf - Stocks and Bonds (3M) and The Mill Game (Hoyle Game Company) - which made me wonder how pervasive this 1960s image marketing effort might have extended.  Was it industry-wide, or a niche marketing effort by a couple of companies seeking to distinguish themselves among adult consumers from "kid game publishers" like Milton Bradley and Hasbro?

Parker Brothers, 1971
3M, 1964
It didn't take me long to rediscover another old family favorite from when I was growing up, the French card game Mille Bornes (designer Arthur "Edmond" Dujardin, artist Joseph le Callennac, publisher Winning Moves).  The 1971 box cover art depicts the game on a wood grain table and four adult faceless players, three of whom are wearing long-sleeved cuffed dress shirts.  Not quite as sophisticated and formal as the ties and cocktail dresses of the 1964 Probe, but definitely not the casual, informal family game style of more modern editions of Mille Bornes.
3M, 1967

3M, 1962
But from what I've been able to find, the 3M bookcase series of games, more than any other, conveyed the mature sophistication that we recognized in Acquire at Jeff's dinner party.  Some depict a modern mature air:

  • Stocks and Bonds
  • Twixt
  • Foil
  • Jati
  • Breakthru
  • 3M, 1965
  • High-bid
  • Mr. President
3M, 1967
3M, 1963

3M, 1965
3M, 1965
3M, 1968
3M, 1962
3M, 1964
Others evoked more exotic places and times:
  • Bazaar
  • Facts in Five
  • Oh-Wah-Ree
  • Quinto
  • JumPin
    3M, 1964

    3M, 1964

So it is very interesting to take a trip back and see the marketing images that governed boardgame cover art half a century ago.

4 comments:

  1. Somehow I am reminded of "Mad Men" on AMC.

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  2. Yes, I've never seen that show, but that's the kind of image I'm reminded of, too.

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  3. Nice post. And you didn't even mention 3M games' faux leather slipcases with the vertical name on the spine, perfect for displaying proudly on one's bookcase.

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  4. Gregarius, you're right, half the appeal of these games is the tactile element, the sheer physical quality of these games that you could comfortably display alongside your Encyclopaedia Britannica and your National Geographics.

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