The World of Muppet Crap: Board Games

Published: February 26, 2016
Categories: Feature, Fun Stuff

The following article was written by Whitney Grace.  If you missed her previous installments of “The World of Muppet Crap,” click here to read about a one-of-a-kind Muppet tree, a strange Big Bird eggbeater, Skeksis-inspired clothing, and more.  Thanks for your dedication to weird Muppet stuff, Whitney!

Muppet Show Game 1979 Cover

Welcome to yet another installment of the World of Muppet Crap! Last edition I entertained you with my thoughts about a Mahna Mahna ripoff and sagging Swedish mammary glands, two things you never expected to see in the same sentence. As Muppet related material is usually deemed “family-friendly,” I decided to move away from female body parts and roll the dice on something more innocent: board games.

I love board games! I love playing them, but as I grew out of childhood, many of my friends thought board games were for babies and they were too old and refined to play them anymore. Fans at gaming conventions would say otherwise, but since none of my friends were as enlightened as those gamers, I was forced to play them by myself or with my imaginary friends. Well, I used to play with my imaginary friends, until we had a falling out about who was going to be the dog in Monopoly. I haven’t seen them since.

As you well know, merchandise is a major part of popular franchises, and board games used to be a huge part of merchandising campaigns. Any popular kid-related movie was transformed into a board game, and to a degree they still are. The Muppets were at the height of their popularity in the 1970s-1980s, so it goes without saying that our beloved Antron fleece friends were die-cast and made into little plastic pawns.

The world’s biggest garage sales Etsy and eBay (which is like that old game Mall Madness except you use real credit cards that can affect your credit rating) have many old Muppet board game listings.  Let’s see what’s out there!

We’ll start with everybody’s favorite thirty-minute variety show The Muppet Show. I bet you’re wondering how The Muppet Show can be turned into a board game — what would the objective be? Do you play as Statler and Waldorf trying to escape another entertainment torture session? Or do you have to find all the performers before the show because they got lost? Or maybe you help Gonzo collect enough dangerous explosives for his newest stunt?

Muppet Show Game 1977 Pieces

Parker Brothers released the first Muppet Show game in 1977.  It certainly is a colorful board, with spinners, cardboard players and scenery, and a rulebook. I’m scratching my head at how to play this, but the Muppet Wiki sheds a little light on possible game play: “The object of the game is to move your Muppets and scenery into the appropriate spots on the game board, while preventing your opponents from reaching their spots.” It sounds simple enough, but game play looks complicated based on how players move their pawns. They have to first spin the spinner, then look up how they’re supposed to move in a rulebook. When I play a board game, I want to move quickly, not stop to look information up every turn. Next!

Muppet Show Game 1979 Board

Parker Brothers released “The Muppet Show Board Game of the Stars” in 1979 with a similar but more creative concept. The box and game board are designed with awesome original art that would have been great in a Muppet comic book. After seeing the game board, I’m really hyped to play this game… then I read the objective (once more supplied by Muppet Wiki): “Players travel around the board seeking opportunities to audition for a spot on The Muppet Show, in front of judges Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Sweetums. The first player to receive seven stars from the judges is the winner.” How do pieces of cardboard and paper decide if you’re an all-star act? Tough Pigs’ own Ryan and Joe told me they’ve had the privilege of playing this one, and when I asked them about it, both said, “It was boring. Don’t bother.” Their review is enough for me.  Next!

Muppet Caper Game Board
The Great Muppet Caper was the only Muppet feature film to be converted into a board game. Out of all the movies, it has the best story for a board game: solve a crime and save the Baseball diamond. The Muppet Movie and Muppets Take Manhattan have the similar theme of putting on a show and becoming famous — not the best idea for a game. This game has a 3D board with actual special effects (not really). It reminds me of 13 Dead End Drive, except the object is to save the diamond and not pop someone off. The game sounds so awesome, I’m quoting Muppet wiki again:

“Join Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and the Great Gonzo on a wild romp through the streets of London. Your favorite Muppet friends are in search of four very hard-to-capture thieves who are trying to steal a legendary jewel called the “Baseball Diamond”. Join the Muppets on their adventure. If you’re the first player to catch the four thieves and save the “Baseball Diamond”, you’ll win the game.

Here’s some of the fun you’ll have: take a cab and a bus, both of which are controlled by hidden wheels underneath the game board… be careful, though… if you spin the wheel too much or too little, you’ll miss your bus or fail to hail a cab! Visit the Dubonnet Club, with its mysterious spinning room, and the Mallory Gallery, where the “Baseball Diamond” is hidden. To enter the Gallery, you must make a precarious climb up the side of the Gallery Building. Then before you can save the jewel, you must be sure you own four different Thief cards. If you own the four cards, turn the hidden dial in the Gallery hoping that the jewel will be set free and come rolling out the front door of the Gallery (the jewel will be dislodged only when this hidden dial is spun a certain number of times). The player who frees the jewel from its hiding place wins the game. Have fun!”

Muppet Caper Game Board 1

That is awesome! This how a board game is supposed to be: interesting, absorbing, a little strategy, dynamic game board, and cool accessories. I definitely want to play this one!

Muppet Babies 1984 Cover

The Muppet Babies cartoon was very popular and was syndicated well into the 1990s, so it had a few board games. The 1984 Muppet Babies from Milton Bradley looks like a promising game with a new photo of the actual Muppet baby puppets as seen in The Muppets Take Manhattan. I would suppose this was an adventure game, except it turns out to be a wimpy matching game. Each player picks a character and the goal is to match colored discs with corresponding balloons. If you draw a disc with a bee on it, you have to return one of your discs to the center. Ho hum.  Next!

Muppet Babies 1985 Cover
A year later in 1985, Milton Bradley released “Muppet Babies: A Colorful Game of Dreams Come True,” and like the second Muppet Show game it has original art. The Muppet Wiki states that Guy Gilchrist, the cool artist behind the Muppets comic strip, drew these graphics. Milton Bradley really put more effort into this game with the art, the game pieces are actual character figurines, and the concept is compelling (for the target age group). Babies Piggy, Kermit, Skeeter, and Gonzo each have their own dreams: Skeeter wants to be an Olympic star, Kermit wants to be the King of the Sea, Gonzo wants to be a superhero, and Piggy wants to be a princess. Players move around the board by rolling a color-coded die and moving to the correct circle. They have to circle the board twice each time dropping a dream disc off in the nursery, to win they have to go around the board a third time and be the first player to reach their fantasy.

This would be a fast-paced game and you actually get to “be” your favorite Muppet baby, plus the other babies appear on the board. I question the game’s long-term ramifications, though, because Skeeter is the only one with an actual achievable dream. The others need to rethink their adult vocations.

Spanish Muppet Game Cover
I think the weirdest game I found on eBay was the one called “Jim Henson’s Muppets: Los Teleñecos de Merienda” (which translates to something like “The Muppets of Snack”).   You know how foreign markets will license a property, then manufacture a really weird product? This is one of those products from Spain. The game’s title doesn’t explain what the objective is, but the neat cover art alludes it has something to do with a picnic. This is my favorite cover art out of all the game boxes, because it shows candid Muppets enjoying themselves. The art lacks the sensationalism that pervades Muppet products since the Disney acquisition.

Spanish Muppet Game Rules
The game’s rules are simple according to the box: “Be the first player to collect four pieces of the cake and four different party favors. Then quickly return to your home to have the first picnic.” It looks like the party favors are laid around the board and the spinner tells the players how many spaces to move or collect a piece of cake. It’s a simple objective, but also generic and makes me wonder what other types of Muppet games were made in other countries. Anyway, next!

Monopoly 2003 Board
If none of these games get you to the home square, you can always rely on a classic staple in any game library: Monopoly, the Muppets version. While the classic buying and selling game play is fun, what makes Monopoly a big seller is that it can be reinvented for anyone and anything. I’m not kidding! Simply take out the trademark names and game pieces and replace them with Coca-Cola, The Simpsons, sports teams, or even your hometown. Themed games and customization have always been big sellers. USAopoly released two Muppet Monopoly games, one in 2003 called Monopoly: Jim Henson’s Muppets Collector’s Edition and the other, from 2010, was Monopoly: The Muppets Collector’s Edition. Both games use the traditional rules with Muppet names and characters replacing the usual property names, pieces, and money.   Both games have the same pewter game pieces, with the main changes in the board and card designs.

Muppet Chess 2

Finally, if Muppet Monopoly still doesn’t roll your doubles, then how about a classic game of chess? The Muppets were molded into PVC chess figurines in this uber-cool 3-D chess set. Miss Piggy, of course, is the queen, Kermit the king, Fozzie and the Swedish Chef are the bishops.  Statler and Waldorf are the rooks (my favorites), Animal and Gonzo are the knights, and Rizzo has been cloned as the pawns. What better way to play the ancient game than with the Muppets careening around the board out to conquer each other? Yeah, violence.

All of these games are out of print, so they are now officially collector’s items. You can find them either on Amazon seller stores, eBay, or Etsy. Most of them wouldn’t be super-fun to play and aren’t valuable, unless it’s your particular Muppet collectible niche or if you want to judge the game’s fun factor. The Muppet Monopoly games and the chess set are worth having if you’re an avid player of either game, especially the chess set with those figures. Where else are you going to find Animal riding a horse backwards? But if you come across the Great Muppet Caper game, buy it immediately. Not only does it look fun and has great art, but also it looks to be a rare collectible.

Click here to lose a turn on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Whitney Grace

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