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Top of the TV board games

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TV shows generate so much merchandise – from action figures to model cars, and even board games. And if you thought turning a successful TV show or movie into a board game to play at home would be quite a modern phenomenon, you’d be wrong. This has been a trend for decades, and it doesn’t seem to be limited to a particular genre.

Even classic comedies like Dad’s Army had its own spinoff game, which still changes hands for quite considerable sums on eBay. Naturally, quiz shows make some of the most straightforward transitions from the TV screen to the board game, because of their basic question and answer, victory and loss format. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable board games based on TV shows.

The Man From Uncle

You might know the title from the 2015 Guy Ritchie movie starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. But this was inspired by the American TV series that ran from 1964 till 1968 and which starred David Callum and Robert Vaughan as agents working for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement – or U.N.C.L.E. for short. Their key enemies were a shadowy organisation called Thrush.

In the board game version that was made in 1965, the players are U.N.C.L.E. agents who are set tasks to capture enemies and return them to headquarters. It’s pretty exciting for a board game of this kind as you’re actively involved in trying to disrupt other players’ plans by kidnapping their enemy agents and getting all the glory.

This was one of the very first TV series to exploit merchandise quite so comprehensively, therefore you might find that true fans have U.N.C.L.E. themed soundtracks and comic books, among other memorabilia.

Doctor Who, Time of the Daleks
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The famous Dr Who phonebox

As a TV series that has held generations in its grip for decades, the vintage episodes are still collectors’ items today, so it’s not surprising that Doctor Who has inspired a mountain of merchandise as well as a huge number of games, both video and board.

In fact it’s a natural for the latter as Doctor Who, Time of the Daleks proves. As the title suggests, it’s a battle against the Doctor’s oldest and deadliest enemies, the Daleks, who are hell bent on exterminating him (it was released before Jodie Whittaker took over the role) and conquering the whole universe.

Cleverly, it appeals to all generations of Whovians by letting you choose which one of the many manifestations of the Time Lord you want to be, from the original William Hartnell right up to Peter Capaldi. Just like the Tardis, the more that you get to know the game, the bigger it turns out to be so there are many hours of fun ahead for players who would like to see the Daleks’ reign of terror ended forever.

Deal Or No Deal

 

For many people the success of Deal Or No Deal was impossible to explain. There’s no doubt about it – between 2005 and 2016 the show was a huge TV phenomenon. Each day at around 4pm audiences of up to three million people tuned in to watch a lucky contestant try to finally reveal the box containing £250,000 – and it happened on just nine occasions in its 11-year run. However, falling viewing figures led to Channel 4 axing the series, ending Noel Edmonds’ and The Banker’s teatime antics.

However the game lives on in as a board game where fans get to play themselves. You start by laying the 22 money tokens that represent the prize amounts ranging from 1p to £250,000, then mix them up and place them at random into the boxes. Box by box, you narrow down your chances of winning and try to hold your nerve amid numerous banker offers.

Deal Or No Deal has also expanded into different areas of gaming, it is just one of many slot machine games based on game shows. Again, the bonus plays out just like it does on TV as you try to eliminate low bonus rewards to hope that a big payoff is left for you at the end. And unlike the board game, you actually stand to win some real money here.

Stranger Things Monopoly

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Pawns on a classic Monopoly board

Over the last couple of years Netflix has gone from being just a streaming service to a major programme and film producer. Among its most successful programmes has been Stranger Things, a mash-up ofteen fiction mixed in with sci-fi and horror. Set in the 1980s in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the first series centred on the story of a missing boy Will Byers. He had been abducted by a creature who has escaped from The Upside Down, an alternate dimension that has been accidentally created by a nearby US Government secret research laboratory.

The makers of that old favourite, Monopoly, have cleverly taken this premise and used it for a new version of the game. In this the aim isn’t to buy streets and develop them with houses and hotels, it’s to search for Will in Hawkins. You can buy, sell, and trade locations and vehicles featured in the show and in place of the traditional Chance and Community Chest cards there are Walkie-Talkie and Blinking Lights versions instead. And rather than houses and hotels you can buy Forts and Hideouts. All in all, it’s an ingenious reworking of the classic property game.

Pointless

We couldn’t have a rundown of great TV show games without at least one genuine quiz show – and that’s Pointless. This long-lasting favourite celebrates the contestants knowledge of the obscure by getting them to come up with the sorts of answers that no-one else would. Pointless ones, in fact.

With Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman at the helm it’s also a very witty show in which you always learn something new. The clever element of the board game is that you play it in conjunction with an app you can download onto a tablet or phone which then “counts down” the answer to reveal whether yours really is the one that the people who were surveyed failed to mention.

It might not be quite as addictive as other quiz classics like Trivial Pursuit but it’s certainly a great family game with the added excitement of the countdown.

 

As time goes on we can probably expect to see more and more TV and film-themed games using more and more complex tech like the Pointless app. But there’s also always going to be room in the mix for more classic board games. Because, just like Monopoly has shown with its Stranger Things version, all it takes is a little imagination to refresh even the oldest formats.

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