Ahh, board games. These playtime diversions gave families hours of fun back in a simpler age before new-fangled technological doodads came along and shifted the focus from a shared gaming experience to an individualized one. While current offerings like Apples to Apples and The Settlers of Catan are excellent and have dedicated fanbases of their own, the argument can easily be made that the golden age of board games as a communal pastime has passed. Bummer.
Most board game these days are just variations of pre-existing games with the image of a popular character slapped onto them. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a nice game of Spider-Man Monopoly or Don't Wake Hulk as much as the next guy. But sometimes these tie-in products just seem crass and wrongheaded. (Spider-Man Yahtzee, anyone?) It wasn't always this way. Which brings us to today's Daily List. Here we have ten terrific - and original - games based on popular superheroes. Some of these are weird/wonderful, while others are just a fitting tribute to their source material. However, they all possess a certain charm that will give you the warm fuzzies...or send you racing to eBay.
A quick word before we begin: Today's list would not be possible without the assistance of the Board Game Geek and Ken Eriksen's Comic Book Collection websites. These are the definitive online resource for collectible games, and most of the pictures herein come from their in-depth archives. That said, let's roll to see who goes first and get this list started already...
10) The Incredible Hulk: Smash
Despite a fine performance from Edward Norton, The Incredible Hulk remains the red-headed stepchild of the Marvel cinematic universe. (Hey, at least it didn't have Hulk Dogs). Perhaps the best thing to come from the film's release is this 3-D board game. To be clear, there have been several games based on the character over the years -- including one from Ideal that featured a motorized Hulk playing piece which appeared to be stricken with scoliosis.
This one is the best, though, because it gave players the opportunity to smash the crap out of Play-Doh cars and planes with a ridiculous Hulk fist! Even though the core concept was borrowed from previous board games based on Godzilla and, um, Hawaiian Punch, there is something oddly cathartic about playing The Incredible Hulk: Smash. So much so that you have to wonder if Norton ever played this after he learned of the public's fondness for Mark Ruffalo's Hulk.
9) Marvel Super Heroes Strategy Game
Milton Bradley unleashed this chess-like gem upon the public in 1980. Terrific gameplay mechanics aside, the real draw of this game is the playing pieces, which recreate various heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe in three inches of sturdy cardboard. If you got tired of the actual game, you could just use these to start your own Secret War. A win/win situation to be sure.
8) Captain America Game (Featuring Falcon and the Avengers)
Another Milton Bradley classic, the Captain America game features Ol' Winghead joined by the Falcon as they try to reach an orbital satellite before all hell breaks loose. As you can see in the photo above, to achieve their goal they must make their way across a fever dream of a board game that is the perfect representation of what the Marvel Universe would be like if it were spearheaded by Timothy Leary instead of Stan Lee. And is it just me, or is Modok absolutely adorable here?
7) Superman/Superboy Board Game
The Woodward and Bernstein of the board game world, this release blew the lid off the fact that toy companies could be giving us twice the fun if only they would shell out for double-sided printing. Sigh. On the first side, Superboy deals with such obstacles as monsters and volcanoes. The flip side has Superman punching, flying and posing his way towards rescuing the world from oblivion. Surprisingly, the two-sided board game trend didn't take off after this hit stores. I guess Superman is no match for all-powerful board game lobby groups.
6) The Amazing Spider-Man Game
In 1967, Milton Bradley released the first of what would be many Spider-Man board games that the company would offer. It came complete with artwork from Steve Ditko and a game board that featured images of Namor, Thor, Iron Man and The Hulk. (Because synergy). Pleasing the hardcore Spidey fans was one thing, but where this game really succeeded was in enjoyable gameplay which had participants racing around the board to capture Webhead's various foes. The concept was so successful that Milton Bradley released a revised version of this game a decade later as The Amazing Spider-Man Game with the Fantastic Four. After all, toy companies never met an idea that they couldn't recycle repeatedly.