Tag: Toys

8 Board Games I Love

Board games have long occupied space in closets and on book shelves, and have entertained families of all types and sizes for decades. While growing up, my brother and I spent many days and hours playing games, just like my daughters do today.

I admit, when the original Nintendo came along, I spent far less time with the conventional board game, and shifted most of my focus to video games. Even so, I have so many fond memories attached to board games, so here today I’m taking a trip down memory lane to look at six of my favorite board games from days gone by, and two more recent ones.


Monopoly

Monopoly

When I hear “board game”, Monopoly is the first thing that comes to mind. I would consider it the “Boardwalk” of board games, while all the others are “Vermont Ave” or “St. James Place”.

The current recognized version was first published in 1935 by Parker Brothers. It underwent a major resign in 2008 that saw Mediterranean and Baltic Avenues colors from purple to brown, and GO from red to black. It also changed the Income Tax to a flat $200, and upped Luxury Tax from the original $75 to $100.

When I was a kid, my family would play, but in the beginning, I was too young to be in on the game. When my time finally came, I instantly fell in love with it. I thought I was a big deal when I could barter my way to a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, or buy Oriental Ave. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand back then how the game worked and would usually be quickly put out of the game due to faulty business decisions.

As I grew older, I graduated from playing with family to playing with friends, where the playing field was a little more level. As an adult, my friends and I came up with a set of additional rules that we called “Survival Monopoly”. It threw in things like “everyone moves one chair to the left”, meaning that you now owned all of your neighbor’s property, and left yours behind to be taken over by someone else.

From the simple color schemes, to the simple rules, playing this board game these days always takes me back to another place in time. A place when I was sitting in front of the fire-place, with my brother and my folks enjoying the evening together. It’s one of the things that brings back some of the strongest feelings of nostalgia within me, and makes me ache to go back. But at the same time, the game helps me stay anchored in the present, as I love to play the game with my daughters. I see in their faces the same joys of playing the game that I have always experienced, and know that I am helping to create in them something that one day they will look back on with similar nostalgic feelings.

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Retro Round Table: Toys We Never Had

Toys We Never Had

It’s time once more for another Retro Round Table.  This time, my fellow Retro Knights have gathered around the table to talk about the cool old toys we always wanted by never had.  I like doing these round table discussions because I love to hear other people’s old memories just as much as I like sharing my own.

I’m joined again this week by Hoju Koolander of the SequelQuest Podcast, Jason Gross of Rediscover the 80’s, Spyda-Man from 20 Years Before 2000, and Eric Vardeman of Eric V Music and Retro Ramblings fame.  So let’s get into the discussion, and when you’re done reading, join the discussion in the comments by telling us what toy YOU always wanted but never had.  Also, if you ever had any of the the toys we mention here, we’d love to hear your thoughts and memories on them.  Let’s go!


X-Men Mutant Hall of Fame

As a kid, I was pretty moderate in my toy purchasing. I’d have a few He-Man figures, a single Visionaries knight and a couple of Food Fighters, but never put all my eggs into one toyline basket. Instead I made friends with “more fortunate” kids who had mountains of action figures and treated their homes as toy libraries. I’d spend an afternoon playing with Dino-Riders, move onto Police Academy figures and then throw a couple of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into the Sewer playset, it was heaven. Plus, if I waited long enough, I could always find somebody’s old toys at a garage sale cheap. That’s how I got the Real Ghostbusters Firehouse and even some G1 Transformers in the early 90s. As a result, I rarely had that feeling of disappointment that came from not getting any one toy. But if I had to pick one gaping hole in my childhood toy collection it would be the Toy Biz X-Men Mutant Hall of Fame collector’s set. I am fully aware that it was just 10 old figures (several of which I already owned) stuffed into a fancy new box, but the presentation was just so impressive. It gave new perceived value to these characters and I desperately wanted this displayed on my shelf. Sadly, I think the retail price at the time was like 50 bucks and there was no way I was talking my parents into forking over that much dough in a single shopping trip. So I just stared and dreamed. Today I can see it for the exploitative re-packaging trick it was, but at the time Toy Biz dangled a brightly colored molded plastic carrot in my face and I never got a bite.

– Hoju Koolander

You can follow along with all of Hoju’s retro shenanigans on his twitter feed, @hojukoolander, read a lot of his his fine writing on a variety of retro topics at Retro-Daze, keep up with him at PopGeeks, and listen to his awesomely fun pod cast at SequelQuest Podcast where he and his cohorts craft sequels that we never got to movies that we loved!  I highly recommend you stop back by here next week, as Hoju’s awesome review of the 80’s mat classic movie, Body Slam, drops as part of our Wrestlemania Week.


Transformers Soundwave

The first toy that popped into my head when this week’s topic was unveiled was Transformers Generation 1 Soundwave! I never owned this toy as a kid, but my neighbor did. I loved playing with it because not only was he a badass, Decepticon robot, but he was also a kickass Cassette Recorder! To a young boy in the 80’s those were 2 great things rolled into one amazing blue and chrome plastic package. I still remember the feel of pushing the eject button to reveal the deadly sidekick cassete robot he hid in his tape deck!  I do have to say that I did own 2 of those cassette tapes. We had Laserbeak and Ravage. They both were pretty awesome, but the lasting memory I have of those guys is when my teacher took Laserbeak away from me because I was playing with him while we were on a class trip to the local library. I was so upset, I could barely learn about the Dewey Decimal system! I still don’t understand it to this very day! Every now and then I find myself scrounging around Ebay looking for a Soundwave in solid condition, but the prices go fairly high on this toy. One of these days I’ll be able to grab one and add it to my collection, just not today.

– Spyda-Man

You can check out Spyda-Man’s retro home on the web at 20 Years Before 2000.  You can also follow him on twitter @20_Years_Before.


Huffy Bike

Mine isn’t exactly a toy, it’s a bike. Like every other boy in the 80’s, my main mode of transportation was a BMX bike. I rode a Huffy Pro Thunder. Jet black with yellow highlights and bright yellow rims that were made of actual lead. It was as heavy as a full grown grizzly bear and unwieldy as all get out. It had a coaster break (meaning you couldn’t pedal backwards) and no hand brakes. At that time, your bike was a sort of status symbol and Huffy was pretty much the bottom rung on the ladder. One of my best friends had a tricked out Kuwahara that was gorgeous and light but he came from money (whatever that meant in 1982 when I was twelve). A guy across town that I knew had a real life PK Ripper but he actually raced BMX bikes. I knew I’d never have either one of those.

Redline Bike

A little closer to earth and possibly my grasp, however, was the Redline 700. Oh she was gorgeous. As its name might suggest, the paint and rims were highlighted with red and the saddle and tires were red. In my daydreams, mine would also have Oakley III grips and a set of California Lite pads. All red, of course. Anytime we rode anywhere that had BMX magazines, I’d find pictures of it and drool. I actually rode one once at a local bike store. Somehow I talked the guy into letting me take it for a spin. It was light as a feather compare to my Huffy and, for a split second, I thought about riding off to Mexico with it never to be heard from again. Truth be told, it was out of my reach, monetarily, as well but that didn’t stop me from dreaming. I wonder what it was cost to build that bike now?

– Eric Vardeman

Give Eric a follow on Twitter at @Eric_Vardeman, and you can find his retro memories right here on Retro Ramblings!  His new weekly feature here on Retro Ramblings, Music Mondays, is awesome too.  He looks back at the songs gracing the Top 40 list from 35 years ago in 1983!  He’s also a talented singer/songwriter, and you should check out his music at EricVMusic


USS Flagg

I was pretty lucky as a ‘80s kid (some may say spoiled) to have several iconic toys. I mainly collected action figures and their vehicles/playsets. For instance, I had Castle Grayskull with several Masters of the Universe figures. Likewise, I had the Electronic Cat’s Lair and many Thundercats figures. I (still) have my diecast metal Voltron which I guarded from my friends like it was made of pure gold. I collected M.A.S.K., Rambo, The A-Team, Transformers, and Gobots. If I circled it in the Sears Wishbook, there was a good chance I was gonna see it under the Christmas that year.

Just based on cost and practical purposes (like most kids who lived in a normal size home), the one toy that eluded my collection was the G.I. Joe FLAGG aircraft carrier. I collected several Joes and vehicles like the Skystriker but the FLAGG always seemed out of reach. My childhood home did have a full basement and plenty of space for it but I’m not sure owning it just never seemed probable. This was still in a time when a good deal of playtime was outside so the FLAGG was easier to imagine during our army battles in the woods rather than owning and physically transporting the toy to friend’s houses. So while it would’ve been a dream come true to land my Skystriker on the FLAGG, I likely would’ve preferred as a kid to defend it with my plastic arsenal of weapons in my imagination.

– Jason Gross

Jason is the creative force behind Rediscover the 80’s and is always posting some of the best retro content you’ll find anywhere on the web.  His twitter feed is a heavenly slice of the 80’s, so you should give him a follow there at @rd80s.  He also hosts a fabulous podcast called, Memory Jogger, that you can find on iTunes and other fine podcasts sites.  He and I collaborated last year to compile out list of our ten favorite episodes of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.  Check out his five here, and then give my five favorites a look too!


Hit Stix

Now while I don’t remember very much about this toy, I DO remember being super pumped when I saw the commercials. The producers did a very good job at making these things sound incredible. Supposedly, you could walk around playing “air drums” but actually produce drum sounds. Pretty cool concept.

They were a combo of fluorescent orange and yellow, a pretty extreme and eye catching color coordination back in the early 90’s. Each stick had a thin cord running from it to a sound box that you wore on a belt. All you had to do was make a striking motion in the air like you would while playing actual drums, and the sticks registered this “hit”, and sent a signal to the sound box that emitted a sound as if you had just rapped a snare drum.

I wanted these things so much. I could lay around and daydream about being the coolest kid in school if I had those things. Walking through the halls, playing a radical solo, with lots of girls following me and talking about how cool I was. Sigh. It just wasn’t meant to be I guess.

– Retro Rambler

As you should probably know, you can find me and my memories right here on Retro Ramblings, but you can also follow me on twitter @yesterdayville, like my Facebook page, and now you can see some cool retro videos over on the official Retro Ramblings YouTube Channel!

Don’t forget to let us know what toy YOU wanted by never had, and if you had any of this cool stuff we just talked about, share your thoughts and memories with us in the comments section below!

 

Catalog Pages: 1982 Sears Wish Book featuring G.I. Joe

I love going through old catalogs from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s to reminisce on the fashion trends, gadgets of the time, and especially the toys.  The Sears Christmas Wish Book is the jackpot of catalogs as far as all that is concerned.  They almost act as time capsules, taking you back in time for a look at how things were each year.

Today I’ve got a heck of a page from the 1982 Sears Wish Book, as it features almost all of the original toys from the G.I. Joe:  A Real American Hero line!  This G.I Joe line is my favorite toy line of all time, so it has been a lot of fun looking back at this page.  Let’s take a tour of it.

Sears Wish Book GI Joe

As you can see, this page has all the heavy hitters…with the exception of the HAL.  There are a couple of the larger action vehicles at the top, along with the exclusive Cobra Command Missile HQ, sets of different figures, the smaller vehicles and action sets, and a sweet G.I. Joe tent!  Let’s go in for a closer look.

Cobra Missile Command HQ

So here is a closer look at the Cobra Missile Command HQ, and from reading the description at the bottom of the page, it comes with the three Cobra figures in the box above, which means you get Cobra Commander, a Cobra Officer, and a Cobra trooper!  Seems like an absolute bargain for just $10.99 even for 1982

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M.U.S.C.L.E. Men Wrestling Toys

M.U.S.C.L.E. Men started out as a manga comic in the late seventies in Japan called Kinnikuman. It proved to be so popular, that an anime series of it was adapted and ran from 1983 – 1986, and focused around an intergalactic form of professional wrestling. Toy company Bandai quickly started producing the little two-inch figures as the show’s popularity soared. And like so many other things, when it became popular there, toy companies in the United States took notice, and Mattel launched its own line of the little pink warriors. Since the name Kinnikuman translates to “Muscle Man”, Mattel named the line M.U.S.C.L.E., as an acronym that stood for “Millions of Unusual Creatures Lurking Everywhere”. M.U.S.C.L.E. Men were produced from late 1985 – 1988 before finally fading from store shelves. Although their popularity was short-lived, it was impressive, as M.U.S.C.L.E. was listed as one of the 10 Best Selling Toys of 1986.

The little pink M.U.S.C.L.E. warriors were not really posable in any way, and were so small that you couldn’t really do much with them. But the fact that they came in multi-packs, and that they were marketed as “wrestlers” was enough to hook me initially. It was intriguing to see who would win in a fight between someone with a motorcycle for a body or a human with a ripped body and the head of a wild boar. Of course, who won that battle was up to the kid in control of the action. That is, until the Hard Knockin’ Rockin’ Ring Wrestling Arena came on the market.

It was a small yellowish-orange contraption with glorified rubber bands for ring ropes, and a plastic arm that held the two combatants. You and a friend would do battle by moving your wrestler side to side, Rock ’em Sock’em Robot style, in an attempt to knock your opponent off if his plastic control arm. If you did, you were the winner. The key was to find one whose body was slightly too big to fit in the controller, and then force him into it anyway. He would then be almost impossible to beat. My best friend and I would play this for a while, and each match, we would select a combatant. The winner would win the losing figure from its owner. Both his and my collection of these increased and decreased, depending on who had the better day of competition.

 

The big drawing point for me was two-fold. First, their small size made them easily transportable. It was quite easy to stuff several in each pocket and head off somewhere and take the action with me. The second part was the cheapness of the toys. For a kid with a light allowance, being able to pick up multiple little M.U.S.C.L.E. warriors in one package was quite the draw. They were typically available in cardboard and plastic pack of four figures for around $1. Then there was the clear trash can stuffed with 10 mighty M.U.S.C.L.E. Men for the low price of $3. So as you can see, a kid could grow their collection quickly with minimum allowance spent.

 

A Collection of Masters of the Universe Toy Commercials

If you’re on this site, then I probably don’t need to tell you just how big He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was back in the 80’s.  FOr a couple of years there, you couldn’t get through life without being bombarded with He-Man merchandise.  I know I certainly fell victim to the never ending stream of advertisements and tie-ins, and I’m better off for it since He-Man remains one of my favorite toys of all-time.  So here today, I’m just taking a look back at some of the old commercials for the toys, and reliving those great times.

So this is supposedly the first commercial aired for the toy line.  I have no way of verifying that, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.  It features He-Man, Skeletor, and Castle Grayskull.  Whether it’s the first commercial or not, it certainly is from very early in the run as there are no other figures mentioned or shown in the ad.

Another video from early in the run, once again featuring He-Man and Skeletor, but also introducing the Attack Trak vehicle this time.  I had the Attack Trak, but I sure don’t remember it working quite like it shows in this commercial.  I seem to remember mine having a hard time makig it’s way through the carpeting in our house and getting stuck.  Maybe it was not so much that the Attack Trak didn’t work as advertised.  Maybe it was the fact we still had thick shag carpet in our home at that point.

Ah, Point Dread and the Talon Fighter.  What an awesome toy this was.  Point Dread was actually designed to fit atop the tower on Castle Grayskull, so when you had both, it extended the playability of both.  In the cartoon, Zodiak was kind of synonymous with the Talon Fighter, so that’s how I used it in my play.  I remember getting both Point Dread and the Talon Fighter, as well as Zodiak for my sixth birthday.  That was an awesome combo right there.  However, I don’t recall the storybook and record combo that came with the toy though.  Maybe my mind is slipping.

Now this commercial is kind of the cream of the crop, because it pimps so many different aspects from the overall toy line.  You get to see not only He-Man and Skeletor, but all their friends on each side of the ongoing battle.  It also makes sure to pimp Castle Grayskull, Point Dread and the Talon Fighter, and some other vehicles including the Attack Trak again.  You could tell that they knew they had a hit toy on their hands, as the commercial is busting at the seems with numerous toys showing how they were ramping up the line pretty heftily.

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Nintendo Nostalgia: Game Genie

Game Genie

Now I don’t know about you, but the Game Genie did more to change my video gaming experience than any other device with the exception of the Nintendo itself.  Once I got my hands on it, it was in use every single time I played a Nintendo Game.  My best friend at the time, Geoffrey, was one of those kids that got whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it.  He saw the commercial for this thing and went nuts.  I still remember the conversation we had on the phone that fateful night.  He said he had pitched such a huge fit wanting it, that his Dad drove him the half hour to the nearest department store and bought it for him.

The next day at school, he looked like a hungover zombie, as he had stayed up all night playing Nintendo.  I knew that I just had to make the trip to his house that weekend for a sleepover and check it out myself.  Sure enough, I had the chance that weekend, and was blown away with just how awesome that thing was.

More Nintendo Nostalgia | My Earliest Video Game Memories

I started saving my allowances immediately, and doing chores for folks around the neighborhood to earn extra money.  It actually didn’t take too long to get enough scratch together to go get one for myself.  Man, that thing revolutionized my game play.  Games that had previously had parts that I go so frustrated with that I quit playing the game, were now easily navigated, and I pulled those old suckers out and gave them new life.

It was some of the best money I’ve ever spent in my life.  And yes, I can say that still today.  It was revolutionary to be able to have unlimited lives, or unlimited ammo, or be able to make super jumps.  Now I know in all reality, it was cheating, but it made crappy games fun, and made fun games incredible.  Even now when playing roms on an emulator, I still google those old Game Genie codes and put them in play.

Looking Back at Electric Football

Electric Football

 

With the Superbowl coming up this weekend, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at a time before video game systems emulated the fun of football inside the home.  A time when you really had to work to set up your plays, and then hope that everything worked perfectly, and the little football players actually went where you wanted them to.  So here’s a look back at what “playing football” was like before things like Coleco Football, Tecmo Bowl, and Madden football games came along…..

Ever since enterprising toymakers hit on the gimmick of combining electricity and sports, many a fan has whiled his rainy-day hours away over miniaturized electric versions of his favorite outdoor games. Few U.S. sports are as popular as American football, so it came as no surprise when electric football became the king of this toy trend. These games have been popular for over five decades and continue to enjoy a fervent following today.

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