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Sure, board games still exist, but once upon a time they were huge. Parties, family get-togethers, sleepovers -- really any gathering in which it was considered inappropriate to have an orgy would eventually end up as a board game party. That's why for decades every movie, comic, and TV show had to have a tabletop version you could play with your friends, usually using dice and cards. As you can imagine, this worked better for some franchises than others.

The result was some deeply weird licensed board games that are probably still populating the backs of closets everywhere:

6
TMNT Game Includes A Detailed List Of The Turtles' Possible "Sexual Deviations"

Nickelodeon

Many kids grow up pretending to be their favorite Ninja Turtle and creating epic battle scenes in their minds. "Raphael is gonna throw a sai at the Foot Soldier!" "Krang fights back by stomping on the turtle van!" "Leonardo gets bonked on the head by a bo staff, and now he's gay!"

If you never imagined that last scenario, then you obviously didn't own the appropriately titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness role-playing game.


This came out before the Turtles discovered color-coding, or mercy.

In the first edition of the game, characters that underwent trauma had to roll dice on a neurosis table to find out what long-term mental damage had been inflicted. This could be something cartoonish like suddenly being afraid of animals (presumably, they'd just start screaming whenever they looked at their own hands), or something slightly more disturbing like becoming sexually attracted to corpses. We think we missed that episode; was it before or after Mikey battled the pizza toppings that came to life?


"I'm just gonna read the first three entries and assume they're all fine to associate
with our characters." -the game's editor

And, yes, homosexuality was lumped in there with stuff like pedophilia and dead-people-buggering, as a gentle reminder that the past was a shithole. At least they specified that a gay character could turn heterosexual if they had a traumatic brush with death, possibly caused by a laser. Don't let the religious right know that.

As most players (we hope) were more interested in anthropomorphic martial artist animal action than dealing with Raphael becoming a sexual exhibitionist, there was some fan outcry. The game's publisher removed the mental illness chart from later editions ... only to replace it with something even darker. The updated version included a detailed scenario where a group of farm animals get radioactive cattle feed and mutate. So, do the turtles need to beat them in a tractor race? Not exactly. The animals, led by Ferd The Bull, take a hundred schoolchildren hostage and threaten to kill a child every hour unless their demands are met. Was this game used to train FBI negotiators?


"Cowabunga, dudes! Better roll those dice well or kids get massacred. Bummer!"

5
The Aliens Adventure Game Is Exactly As Fun As Doing Your Taxes

20th Century Fox

The cover of the Aliens Adventure Game depicts two badass space marines holding giant guns, with the implicit promise of high-octane Xenomorph-butchering action.

Leading Edge Games
Sadly, not the last time this franchise would pull the old shit-switcheroo.

What you get instead is charts. Hundreds and hundreds of charts. In the movie, the act of shooting down an alien would take, like, three seconds at most (six if you yell something witty). In the game, you have to:

Consult the Action Time Table (4F) to find out how many feet your character can move.


The use of the word "action" here is an insult to James Cameron's oeuvre.

Check their range from the alien on the Odds Of Hitting Table (5A).


Meanwhile, your odds of ever getting laid again decrease
with every second you spend doing this.

Determine the accuracy of their gun and how long it takes to aim with the Shot Accuracy value from the Weapon Data Table (4A).

Leading Edge Games
Take the opportunity to pick the one you'll use on yourself to escape this torture.

But wait, your character is standing, so you also have to consult the Optional Modifiers Table (5C) to find out if they get an aiming bonus.

Leading Edge Games
"Your butt itches slightly: -13."

And you're using an automatic rifle, so naturally you have to bring up the Automatic Fire Table (5B).

Leading Edge Games
All the time you saved using an automatic weapon was just canceled out.

It's a hit! Now let's check the Alien Hit Location And Damage Table (6D) to see the impact. Remember to cross-index results if there were multiple hits.

Leading Edge Games
If you don't, you have to play your next 500 turns from space prison.

The alien takes 5 damage points from a glancing wound to his thigh. It's his turn! He begins by pulling up the Action Time Table (4F), then the Hand-To-Hand Damage Table (7D) ... and so on, forever.

And if your Colonial Marine does get wounded in combat, you better hope it's an instant death -- otherwise, you get the joy of figuring out exactly how bad it hurts. Are you getting first aid in the middle of nowhere, at an aid station, or a field hospital? Oh, you made it to a trauma center! Is that trauma center on an outpost, colony, or a major world? All of these levels of medical care have their own statistics. You can't even lose consciousness without checking a Knockout Value Table.

Leading Edge Games
This was so much easier in Punch-Out!!.

Again, this madness was for ONE ROUND of combat that involved only two characters who weren't using acid attacks, explosives, or flying a spaceship, all of which would have required additional tables. A simple battle would take several hours to play, turning the exciting interstellar battles from the movie into what's basically an accountant simulator. It was too much even for Dungeons & Dragons players, so we're guessing most Aliens fans who bought this ended up quoting Private Hudson and throwing it in the trash.

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4
Murder, She Wrote Game Confirms Angela Lansbury Was A Serial Killer

NBCUniversal Television Distribution

Murder, She Wrote was a TV series that old people liked in the 1980s. It was about a mystery novelist (Jessica Fletcher, played by Angela Lansbury) who solved real-life murders that just happened to occur in her proximity (an astonishing 274 of them, in a town of only 3,000 people). The running joke among fans was that Fletcher was secretly a serial killer using the novelist thing as cover, and the board game pretty much takes that idea and runs with it.

Warren Company
The artist who drew her face on the box also seemed fully on board.

In this game, all participants play as Fletcher, because otherwise there would be fistfights over who gets to portray her, and in that case, you might as well play Monopoly. The Jessica clones have to scour the town of Cabot Cove to solve a series of murders -- with the Shyamalan-esque twist that the murderer is secretly one of them. You play by rolling the dice to visit different witnesses around the game board and check if they're still alive (if you're a good Jessica) or make sure they're not (if you're the evil one). Either way, you should probably knock before going into this guy's house:

Warren Company
Ah, Mr. Dalrymple, from the classic episode "Murder At Buttnaked Beach."

It takes a lot of strategy on the part of the murderer to keep a good kill streak going without being immediately discovered by the others. Thankfully, the game rules provide helpful psychopath tips like: "HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER: Act like Jessica. Follow the other players into locations as if you are suspicious of them!" So that's how she did it all those years. Our only question now is: Are the other Jessicas really trying to catch their rogue duplicate, or are the denizens of the town simply pawns to be slaughtered for the amusement of the clones as they play out their sick fantasy?

BoardGameGeek
Catching herself killing someone is the only way she can achieve orgasm anymore.

Murderer Jessica wins the game by killing off five witnesses and making her escape before the others can reach the "accuse" space and call her out. A similar system was later used in the Battlestar Galactica board game to great acclaim, despite the fact that they inexplicably changed the unassuming old ladies for killer robots.

3
The Adventures Of Indiana Jones: Whoever Picks First Wins

Lucasfilm

The Indiana Jones franchise seems like it would be a fine property to turn into a tabletop role-playing game, but it has the same fatal flaw that other licensed Indy products keep running into. Here's a typical play session: You start by picking characters, and whoever goes first always takes Indy. It's your turn next, so you go with ... uh, Belloq? At least he's an archaeologist. But, nope, can't pick villains. That leaves you with some pretty pitiful options:

TSR
You can now support Indy by screaming a lot and reinforcing cruel racial/gender stereotypes!

If you don't wanna be a sidekick, you can also pick Indy's (dead) friend Wu Han, master of the arcane art of driving. Or, hey, how about Indy's pilot? His entire personality is "owns a biplane."

TSR
Jock's appeal is low because he keeps trying to slip people his snake.

There's also Marion, Sallah, and that's it. There are a total of seven playable characters, with no option to create your own. On the other hand, the villains include exciting characters like Satipo the evil Peruvian and everyone's favorite baddie, Nazi(TM).

TSR
It's a little-known fact that Lucasfilm Ltd. owns the very concept of National Socialism.

The Indy character is objectively better than all the others in almost all his stats, so if you do get to pick him, you're probably gonna want to make the most of it. Good thing, then, that the game's designers took the time to think up rules for binge-drinking, shooting into crowds, and resorting to petty crime.

TSR
This might finally be enough to get him fired from teaching.

After the game's publisher lost the Indiana Jones license in the late '80s, they showed how much they cared for their own creation by burning all the unsold copies and turning the remains into a trophy: the Diana Jones Award For Excellence In Gaming. We're detecting a hint of irony there.

io9
It belongs in a toilet.

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2
The All My Children Board Game Makes You Frame, Seduce, Or Shoot Yourself

ABC

Every kid who got sick and stayed home from school in pre-cable days had their hopes of a television-watching bonanza dashed to pieces when they discovered daytime network TV is a hellhole of attractive rich people betraying each other, often in hospitals. This premise was also the basis of the All My Children board game, where fans could step into the shoes of fan favorites like Brooke English or Phoebe Tyler Wallingford. Finally.

TSR
"Mooom, my brother won't let me be Palmer Cortlandt!"
"You were Palmer Cortlandt yesterday, honey."

The game is a mashup of dice-rolling and card strategy -- sexy, backstabbing, card strategy. As you move around the board, you can pick up five types of cards: Dirty Deeds, Talk Of The Town, Affairs Of The Heart, Corporate Politics, and Crimes Of Passion. Some actions are tame Saved By The Bell antics, such as accusing Dottie of shoplifting or claiming Hillary cheated on her school exam. However, you can turn up the heat and frame Jesse for murder ... which is especially shocking when Jesse is you. You auto-traitorous bitch.

Flip the Table
Or you can stay home, run a bubble bath, and "slow dance" with yourself.

This isn't a glitch, by the way: The game actually encourages you to play cards that mention your character by name by giving you extra points. So, it's actually a pretty shrewd move for Adam to shoot himself in the back (he's extremely flexible) or for Tad to testify against himself in court. The game rules specifically mention that as an example, because that is so Tad.

TSR
"Tad plays the Throw Tad In The Incinerator card. Tad takes the lead."

To be honest, all this does sound like pretty good television.

1
He-Man Battles The Curse Of The Incomplete Rules

Mattel/DreamWorks Classics

The premise of The Masters Of The Universe Role Playing Game is that Skeletor has stolen gems from Eternia's royal family and it's up to He-Man and his allies to retrieve them. At long last, you can experience what it feels like to be Fisto as he reaches for the family jewels while going up and down Skeletor's massive snake.

FASA
If he wins, he's rewarded with a new name that doesn't incite juvenile jokes.

The gameplay consists of going through various rooms and rolling dice to battle monsters, but you quickly find out that the real monsters here are the people who made this game. For instance, remember Orko, He-Man's floating magical pal? For the first time ever, this game actually gives you a reason to want to play as him -- check out all the cool magic spells he can do!

FASA
The IQ of 36 actually seems a bit high.

So let's say you run into a giant spider and decide to stop it with Orko's Control Being spell. Except ... you can't seem to find that spell in the rule book. The same goes for nearly everything else that might make the little bastard usable. What you find instead is, essentially, a physical version of a 404 error:

FASA
"Sorry about selling you a broken game. Join our mailing list!"

The game promised to sell you the missing spell rules in The Masters Of The Universe ADVANCED Role Playing Game, available in the fall of 1986. It looks like they were going by Eternia's calendar, though, because this update has yet to come out. Oh well, maybe you can defeat that giant spider by using an item? You pick up something called Illusion Dust and check the rules to find out what it does, which is ... nothing. They forgot to give it any function. Even He-Man seems baffled at the item's uselessness:

FASA
The game's designers were too distracted snorting their own "illusion dust."

Eventually, you say, "Screw it, I'll just play as He-Man." Nobody has more strength than He-Man! Unfortunately, the Strength stat serves no purpose in the game. Same with the Agility stat. The game ended up being a complete mess that was playable only by gamers using their imagination. See, kids? In the old days the games were still broken; it's just that back then they never got patched.

Gavin's website is www.mojothreepwood.com, and his Twitter is @gavinjamieson.

Board games are great at destroying formerly strong bonds with family and friends. See what we mean in The 7 Best Board Games For Destroying Your Friendships and 6 Board Games That Ruined It For Everyone.

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