Mouse Trap (1963 – Present): The Most resilient board game (Rube Goldberg)

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For a board game to exist for over five decades, it must have some exciting mojo or something! Mouse Trap board game is one of those hard to ignore games when spotted on the mall's shelf. The Mouse Trap game has existed on the toy shelves for over 57 years and is still being bought now as it was back in the 90s.

This is undeniably among the most resilient board games to have ever existed. Ok, of courses after Scrabble and Chess, which have existed for centuries!

Board games come in many different shapes, sizes, and makes. But there is one thing that stands out in most board games – they all require some strategy. It is for this reason that most board games are branded "brain games." Here, chess takes the lead as the most brain engaging game, followed by Scrabble and monopoly.

Back in the 90s to mid-2000, I was a mad fan of board games. I could play board games with my family and sometimes neighbors all weekend long. Especially during winter, when playing outside was not an option.

During this time, the mousetrap game stood out from the rest because it was fun, and didn't have too much sibling rivalry compared to chess and scrabble. Let us take a walk back the memory lane and look at the genesis of this unique board game and why it has remained a kid’s favorite fame for over 57 years straight!

As an engineering student (aspiring at the time), I looked at the Rube Goldberg Mouse Trap board game as a genius engineering piece. The domino effect and the gear-like mechanism that was triggered by the ball spurred my romanticism with engineering back in the 90s.

Let’s jump back in time…

The background history of the Rube Goldberg Mouse Trap game.

Even though the game has, over the years, received an equal amount of love and hate. It still stands out as the best family game.
The board game "Mouse Trap" was invented in 1963. The aim of this game is to capture a mouse in order to test Rube Goldberg's method. It's unfortunate Ideal (the company behind the game) refused to pay him royalties back in the days.

The game can be played by two to four people. Its 3-dimensional version was produced en masse in the same year. Over the course of the game, players coordinate to build a working Rube Goldberg mouse trap.

Once a trap has been built, players attack each other, trying to capture the opponent’s game pieces.

Rube Goldberg Mousetrap Gameplay

The main concept behind the Mouse Trap has remained the same over the years, but the timing aspects of gameplay has changed. The concept was first invented by Marvin Glass and his company, Marvin Glass and Associates.
Marvin Glass, a “Speaker” and inventor, was granted a US patent for the game in 1967. The person behind the design of the original version of the game was Hank Kramer of Ideal Toy Company. He came in to improve on what Glass had done.

The game limits the decision-making ability of the players, unlike In other board games like chess, scrabble, Candyland, or Snakes and ladders.

In the Mouse Trap Game, players take turns moving their pieces around the board from one space to another. In this game, all that the players have to do is to arrange the elements in the desired way, with no direction on the board. Each trap is attached by a peg in a hole and locked in place.

The ending loop had additional space to build if the trap Is not complete. This is the position for the cheese that was placed under the trap's cage and "turn crank." If a player lands on the crank space when another player is on the “Cheese” space, the crank can be turned on the machine to launch it and trap that player. The last one remaining after all players are captured is then the winner.

Mouse Trap: New Version Gameplay.

Later on, around 1975, Sid Sackson re-designed the board game by adding cheeses and then allowing players to move opponents into the tap space.
Fast forward to 2004, an even newer version was released in America that featured three mousetraps (that had specific trigger working that works at random) and a completely different board and plastic components.

Another version of the game was introduced, which was a bit different from the original. Most of the features of the original were still in it, like cheese piece, a spin wheel, and dice. At the same time, some changes were made to the rules. Traps are built before players start the game, and you are allowed to build traps using arbitrary objects as housing. And, since I don't want to go into details, there were a lot of chances of winning on this new version.

In the early 2010s, Hasbro introduced the "Classic Mousetrap." This was a game created with several changes made to the previous version. In this game, the goal was to collect six pieces of cheese along the path.

Instead of being eliminated from a game when caught in the trap, the player would only forfeit a cheese piece to the opponent. Based on the original trap machine, the traps were modified such that they didn't require the cranking of gears to release; they were instead pulled with a plastic stoop sign.

Other games were invented. That was similar to the Mouse Trap Board Game.

The success of the Mouse Trap board game led to the development of even more related games. Like the Crazy Clock Game and the Fish Bait Game. Game designer Marvin Glass (and his company, Marvin Glass and Associates) was aware that the spirit of Rube Goldberg's illustration was present in the games they created. However, he politely declined to pay licensing fees to Rube Goldberg due to the abundant similarities between the two works.

After the release of the original game, its popularity spread rapidly, leading to three other game releases that were all based on Goldberg's design. Luckily, Goldberg was not interested in suing Glass for using his inventions. He was also old and nearing his retirement at the time; he thought he would not have many years to pursue the matter. Instead of sharing the rights to his toy designs with other toy companies, he instead decided to sell licensing rights for his drawings to some other toy company and receive loyalties.

Crazy Clock Game
Here, players would race to build a complex machine. You receive a pack of cards to help you put the machine together. The deck is shared with the players. The game will start with the first card, then players play as many cards as they can, then pass the card to the next player. They first assemble the device, and then everyone takes turns operating it. The winner is the one who is able to operate it first.

Fish Bait Game

The game of Fish Bait is easier than the game of Mouse Trap. Here, the player would build a machine to catch a man-eating fish. Each time a player land on a space board, a player must build part of the machine.

Other spaces can either allow the player to roll an extra die, skip his/her next turn, or go back one place. The game continues until the contraption is fully complete and a player lands on the FISH BAIT space, when they must take their piece on the plastic dock and encase the rubber band around the fish’s leg in order to capture it.

This is a game in which two players keep moving their playing piece until someone lands on the CATCH FISH space. Once caught, the player can't do anything to get themselves out.

Final Thought

The Mouse Trap remains one of the games that I still catch up with until today. On very slow days, I would play a game or two with my little cousins. Well, the new version doesn’t have the thrill that we used to enjoy on the original game, but still, it holds the nostalgia of the original game.

As the ball slides down the chute and creating a domino effect that knocks down things along its path, it is just satisfying. It is a win whether you trap the mouse or not. The ability to arrange the pieces to create a smooth transition for the ball from one stage to the other is the climax of enjoyment.

Did you get a chance to play the Mouse Trap game back In the days? What is your thought about the game?

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New Geeze
Sep 24, 2020
I never had the chance to play board game during my childhood, I recently jus started playing monopoly board game. This sounds so fun, I wish I could get one now
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