While I’ve been pretty on top of things when it comes to video games, board games have been getting the shaft lately and for that I apologize. To make up for it, we’re going to have a mandatory Board Game Week here at Toy-TMA, starting with a title I got excited for as a kid but completely forgot about until just a few days ago in the shower (many of my article epiphanies come from the shower). Let’s get this memory train rolling and look back on a game that may be more hidden in board game’s history: 13 Dead End Drive.
The year is 1993 (not really, but we’re on that memory-traveling trip here so pay attention), and Milton Bradley are doing what they always do, namely, producing board games. As a young and impressionable kid, easily swayed by commercials and the like, a TV ad for a new game called 13 Dead End Drive started playing, telling me that it was the end-all beat-all for board games and that I’d never be happy without it. Naturally, I ran right up to my mother and demanded it for Christmas.
Those unfamiliar with the game, I’d best describe it as Clue meets Mouse Trap. The premise is that a rich old woman named Aunt Agatha has died, leaving behind a massive fortune, and 12 other characters are potentially in line to inherit it all. The Mouse Trap aspect comes into play seeing as how there are moving parts to the game that are typically more fun than actually playing.
Since there are 12 characters vying for one ultimate prize, they each try to kill each other off using five different traps scattered throughout the board, shaped like a mansion more or less. Above the fireplace is a picture of Aunt Agatha, but 12 character portraits are shuffled and placed in the picture frame instead. Whichever character is displayed at any given time is the character favored to claim the money, meaning if they get out of the mansion alive, they win the game. All the while, a detective is walking up the front pathway during gameplay, and if he reaches the front door, whoever is displayed above the fireplace wins the game. The final way to win is to just kill everyone else.
As a kid, the coolest parts of the game were springing the traps on people, of which there was one that tossed a character off some stairs, one that toppled them from a ladder, one that knocked a suit of armor on them, one that hurled them into the fireplace, and one that dropped a chandelier on their head. Setting everything up was a pain, but once the game was up and running, it was all about using the traps.
Players were randomly assigned anonymous character cards determining which characters they were hoping would win, but any player could move any character’s pawn around the board regardless of whether they owned the corresponding character card. This placed the key gameplay mechanic around the act of deception, though every game played by kids would devolve into placing pawns under the traps and killing them. I can’t remember a single time I actually saw the game end by traditional methods.
I’m a little surprised this game was around at all, especially by the mid 90’s. These days I feel parents would go nuts if they heard about a game coming out where the goal was to kill off other players to inherit a huge sum of money, but it could come down to the terminology the manual and commercials implemented to circumvent this stigma. Instead of saying that you “killed” the other players, it was referred to as “getting bumped off” by each other. This totally worked on my childhood mind because in pitching the sale to my mother I told her, “no, you don’t kill anyone, you just bump them off.” She told me that meant the same thing and my mind imploded because, duh, that was obvious to anyone but the brainwashed children watching the commercials.
These days I don’t have the slightest inkling to break out 13 Dead End Drive, or even the spin-off 1313 Dead End Drive, for a game with my friends. We’ve got far better games to deal with that don’t involve killing off pretend pawns. Our games work far better when we kill each other off as we sit around the table playing Monopoly. At least, I assume they work better. I’ve never seen the end of a Monopoly game, either.
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