with commentary by Nick Sauer and Herb Levy
There is not much to say that hasn’t already been said about this classic game. This is easily Sid’s most famous design. The wood piece set shown here is an early 3M printing of the game. The game would later be published by Avalon Hill and Hasbro in America and Schmidt in Germany.
One interesting note is a variant that Schmidt planned to publish but, never did. It would have been called Acquire ’97 and featured a modified board that was 12 by 10 spaces instead of the standard 12 by 9. The board was split into four quadrants of A1 through E6 each. Tiles were placed via a deck of cards that featured each space four times. Thus, a card gave a player four possible locations to play a tile at the start of the game. It would be nice to see this Sid approved variant published in the future. – NS
Before 3M settled on their standard bookshelf box size, they experimented with other sizes for many of their games. (For example, early editions of Oh Wah Ree, High Bid, Phlounder and Jumpin appeared in boxes shorter, fatter, smaller [depending on the game] from the standard bookshelf box.) Although carrying a year later copyright (1963 instead of 1962), the earliest Acquire came in a taller box (same box artwork as the version shown on the right, though) and was a “test market” edition, released in several cities to determine the viability of its production. This edition had wooden pieces as some of the other early editions had (but those wooden tiles were slightly larger). Besides the size of the box, what separates this edition from the others is the board/grid. The grid for the tiles displays a map of the world (hence it being known as the “World Map” edition) which gave the game an “international” flavor and “background” for merging hotel chains. This difference makes this game a very desirable addition for collectors of the 3M line of games as well as fans of the games of Sid Sackson. – HL
Acquire went through many editions. The new Avalon Hill (Avalon Hill/Hasbro) issued a new, deluxe, edition of Acquire in 1999 (shown on the right). The production was first rate with thick plastic tiles, a molded plastic grid to hold them and big, three-dimensional markers. Although game play (thankfully) remained the same, there were a few changes. The theme underwent a slight change. This was no longer a game of hotel mergers. Instead, in keeping with the times, this new edition became a game of CORPORATION mergers. Also, this edition awarded Sid a special recognition. One of the corporations in the game was renamed “Sackson”. – HL
A new edition of Acquire was released in 2016 by Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro Gaming which added a two player variant and changed the board from a 12 x 9 grid to a 10 x 10 grid. – HL
These were given out by Burger King as part of a kid’s meal give away in 1988. These are activity kits that include records, activity books, hand puppets, and games. The games were designed by Sid and are very much children’s fare. There were four sets in total. If anyone happens to have a copy of Alf’s Melmac Beach Party, I would be interested in acquiring it. – NS
For those who don’t remember, Alf was the star of a successful TV sitcom which carried his name that ran from 1986 to 1990 on American television. (Alf was short for “Alien Life Form”.) These items were a cross promotion between fast food giant Burger King and the TV show. In addition to Alf’s Melmac Beach Party, the titles (as seen at left) were Take Me, ALF, to the Ball Game, Cookin’ with ALF and Al’f’s Melmac Rock. All of these games came with small vinyl records that could be played on a turntable. (Remember those???) – HL
This game was first published by 3M in 1967. It has since been reprinted by Discovery Toys in America and by Parker Brothers, Schmidt and Klee in Germany. The most interesting version is the Germany PB edition which was retitled to Bierborse and featured beer bottle caps as opposed to the more standard trading stones. The game was originally designed by Sid to teach his children basic algebra and the game looks very much like this is the case. In spite of this it is an interesting and fun little trading game. The basic engine from this game would be used much later by Sid for the game Business by Relaxx in 1998.- NS
This was published by Schmidt in 1980. The story that I was told was that Schmidt apparently wanted to reprint Sid’s 3M classic Bazaar but, was unable to secure the rights to do so. Sid, being the accommodating designer that he was, told Schmidt that he could design them another game to be called Bazaar. They accepted and the rest is history. The game is a trading game that is not even remotely related to the original 3M title. Players move around a map buying, trading, and eventually selling goods. The first player to reach $5,000 wins the game. Abacus and Rio Grande Games would later reissue this as Samarkand with a number of changes made based upon their playtesting of the original game. (See the Samarkand entry for a more detailed description of the differences in the rules.) – NS
This was published as Sly by Amway in 1975 and later in Germany as Blockade by Butehorn in 1979 and by Hexagames in 1985. The game is actually six games that use the same board and pieces. The games are: Blockade, Empire, Gateway, Line Up, Sniggle, and Solitaire Sly. Sniggle would later be reissued as Flotte Krabbe by Abacus in 1991 in their white box line. Compare the board and pieces in this game to Realm (below) with which he collaborated with Phil Orbanes on two years earlier and you can see what Sid toyed with to make the games in Blockade. – NS
Played this in prototype form with Sid and Bernice. Business was an interesting application of the basic game mechanism of Bazaar but an application that gives the game its own character. Once again, players are required to exchange sets of colored disks for other sets. But in this case, the values of the other sets change based on when they appear on the board (which is only revealed a turn or two before they appear) so you have to think ahead to maximize your score. This was published by fellow game designer Roland Siegers under his “Relaxx” game imprint which, unfortunately, did not stay in business long, a circumstance that helped make this game appear and disappear all too quickly. While the box art isn’t bad, the rather bland and generic title didn’t help either! Why they changed the name of the game from the original title Sid devised for his prototype is beyond me. (You can check out the original title by trying out our quiz in the Sid Sackson Archives section.) This was the last “big box” original game designed by Sid and published during his lifetime. – HL
Interesting combination of money management and word building. Letters are given values (denoted by dots on the bottom of each letter). Players buy letters in order to make words to then sell the words to make more money to buy more letters to make more words. Short words can generate some money but longer words result in bigger payoffs. The game actually plays like simultaneous solitaire as you constantly challenge yourself to devise bigger words. Interaction is more subtle as you try to keep letters other players may need by outbidding them.
Played this in prototype form with Sid and Bernice. Sid told me that although he liked the game (as did others he played it with), he couldn’t get the game placed with any company. According to the “powers that be”, word games were not in demand and not worth publishing unless they were called Scrabble and Boggle! The game was finally published, posthumously, by Face 2 Face Games and was named Game of the Year by GAMES magazine! – HL
Strictly an abstract game with the only semblance of theme being that the pieces moved are triangular in shape so that they looked like what they are called in the rules: “tents”. The idea is to move your pieces so that NONE of them are adjacent, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The clever thing here is the movement. There is a “movement track”. Players know, in advance, the number of moves they will be able to make in a turn (ranging from 1 to 2 to 3) and can plan accordingly. (Part of the black and white boxed Abacus line.) – HL
This was published by Parker Brothers in 1980. While Parker Brothers dropped it after a few years due to a rapid fall off in sales, it has been pretty much continuously in print in Germany from manufacturers such as Franjos. This is one of Sid’s all time classic games. The game that it came from was published in The 6 Pack of Pencil and Paper Games as The Great Races in 1974. The major change from this earlier version is that players now may roll more than once and decide when they stop. In The Great Races, players got one roll on the four dice per turn. As small a change as it sounds, this completely changed the nature of the game to more of a risk management/gambling style game. I feel this simple alteration really made the game into the classic that it has become today. There was also a first and second place scoring system in The Great Races that was dropped in Can’t Stop. – NS
When the game was dropped from the Parker Brothers line, Sid was hopeful that the game would someday return to the Parker line as, at the time, Can’t Stop was Sid’s best selling game of all time (even topping Acquire)! Although Sid didn’t live to see it, this game was made, once again, available in the United States in a new edition from Face 2 Face Games and now from Gryphon Games. – HL
Can’t Stop Express:
This is the 2017 version of Sid’s classic dice game originally called Choice, issued without any modifications from the original game. Within the bright red box are five dice, a pencil and a scoring pad. While the game itself is one of the better dice games out there, there is absolutely no correlation between it and Can’t Stop (except for the fact that both use dice and come in red boxes). – – – – HL
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
This was published in England by Knopf in 1978. It comes in a cool format that folds into a book that looks like a large children’s book. The game play is rather amusing, on a dark sort of level, as the children move through the factory the players fight for control of them. At each of the large rooms on the map, one child is eliminated from the game just like in the book and movie. It’s a great simulation that is perhaps a bit too much for the children’s audience that the game is clearly intended for. Even though the game is manufactured in England, it seems to be harder to find in America than some of Sid’s German titles. – NS
This game was originally published as Intersection by Aladdin in 1974. Intersection featured a smaller five by five game board with cardboard markers. Corner, which is pictured here, was a much 1980. The board size was expanded to six by six and a plastic board and marbles replaced the cardboard pieces. This one of Sid’s games that I feel is very strongly in need of a reissue. If this is done, the game should really be increased to a seven by seven board as the six by six is a little to easy for modern gamers to analyze.- NS
Die Chinesische Mauer
Ever since Carcassonne appeared on the gaming scene in 2000, tile laying games have been extremely popular. But Carcassonne was not the first tile placement game. Sid put his own spin on tile play with this design from 1994! The title translates into “The Chinese Wall” and four players compete to build the longest wall (in their chosen color) and make connections to as many board borders as possible to score the most points. The graphics used in this game are pretty stark – starbursts in one or more of the four colors in play – giving the game a very abstract feel. The game would have benefited by better art to capture the Asian ambiance suggested by the title This is one of the few games done by Sid that never had an English language release. – HL
Originally released as Focus by Western Publishing in 1965. Milton Bradley would reprint the game in 1982 under the above name. This is an amazing two-player abstract game that still plays well even today. The game has a unique movement system for pieces that is directly impacted by capturing your opponent’s pieces. In addition, more advanced captures will remove your opponent’s piece from the game and/or give you pieces of your own that you can later use to paratroop back onto the game board. The game play is very dynamic and exciting as players vie back and forth for control of the game. One of Sid’s best designs. – NS
Domination also provided rules for a 3 player game (the original game only handled 2 or 4 players.) During the Holiday Season when it was released, Domination achieved a unique status: it became the only Sid Sackson game (at least as far as I know) that was featured in a television commercial! The commercial featured a military man urging the troops to “Dominate, dominate, dominate” in order to win! This was an attempt to give a theme to what is a very abstract game. – HL
Doorways to Adventure:
One of two games (the other is just underneath this entry) designed by Sid utilizing the then new technology of the video cassette recorder (VCR), precursor to DVDs and Blue-Rays. Great use was made of vintage film clips that enhanced the game play (which was actually quite good). Note the Indiana Jones style figure on the front cover to help tie in, without explicitly mentioning Indiana, to the wildly successful series of films that starred Harrison Ford as the famed adventurer. This game was reviewed by me at the time of its release in the pages of Gamers Alliance Report. (That review is reprinted as part of our Sid Sackson tribute issue in the Sackson Games Reviewed section.) – HL
Doorways to Horror:
The second VCR game designed by Sid. This game followed the same play pattern and again, vintage clips of films (this time horror movies, highlighted by a non-Bela Lugosi Dracula figure on the box) aided the ambiance of game play. Sid had already prepared the layout for a third game in the series titled Doorways to Mystery but sales of the two VCR games did not sufficiently motivate Pressman to move ahead with the third proposed entry. This game was also reviewed by me at the time of its release in the pages of Gamers Alliance Report. (That review is reprinted as part of our Sid Sackson tribute issue in the Sackson Games Reviewed section.) – HL
Ellery Queen: The Case of the Elusive Assassin:
One of a series of four games published by Ideal in the mid 1970s that shared several attributes: all came in large flat boxes and all were linked to a famous figure in the world of mysteries. The four games are Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None, Sherlock Holmes: Murder on the Orient Express (which was NOT the title of a Sherlock Holmes mystery but one written by Agatha Christie), Fu Manchu’s Hidden Hoard and the Ellery Queen game (the only one of the four designed by Sid). The game itself was a deduction game where players had to uncover the hidden position of the “elusive assassin”. Sid later took the core mechanism of the game and rethemed it to come up with Sleuth. (The irony, of course, is that although Ellery Queen was the detective linked to Elusive Assassin, the Sleuth game box features the unmistakable profile of Sherlock Holmes!) – HL
This was published in 1971 by 3M and was one of the half dozen Sid games they published. It is conceptually very similar to Avalon Hill’s earlier game Management (re-released as Business Strategy) in that players are buying raw materials to make products, which they ultimately compete with one another to sell on the open market. I haven’t played Executive Decision anywhere near as much as I would like because it never seems to go over well with any of the groups I have played it with. I guess it is too much like work for most gamers which is too bad as I think it is one of Sid’s more outstanding designs. – NS
Sid had originally proposed the game idea in a 1963 issue of the magazine Scientific American but the first published edition was by Western Publishing in 1965 (see photo at left). Sid originally conceived this on a regular checkerboard and blocked out a few of the end spaces. You can see the changed board in the photo as two children go head to head. It was a common advertising practice of the time for game companies to showcase children (and adults too) playing (and intensely enjoying) whatever game they were selling, the theory being that games are fun for the whole family and that people would be more disposed to buy thegame if they saw other people playing and enjoying it. Ironically, I think the photo does a disservice to the game. A cursory look would make you think that this is just a checkers variant instead of the brilliant game of abstract design that it was. So brilliant, in fact, that it won for Sid the Spiel des Jahres award back in 1981! (The Parker Europe edition of the game, shown at right, proudly sports the SdJ award sticker on the box.)
Sid really enjoyed this design. He once told me how he, like a chess master, had simultaneously played a bunch of Focus games at a game exhibition (possibly in Germany) and won every one! The game has been published in numerous editions under the Focus name (including a bootleg copy where Sid’s name was listed as “Sid Saxon” !) but Milton Bradley later (in 1982) tried to make the game feel more “dynamic” by renaming it Domination. (For more information on Domination, check out its entry in our Sackson Gallery,) – HL
Giant 30 Game Cube:
This was published by Athol Research Corp. (ARC) in 1976. It was reprinted in a second edition as Giant 30 Game Cube I because Athol later (in 1980) put out their Giant 30 Game Cube II which contained a different mix of games that does not include the two Sid designs released in the first one. The two Sid games in this are Chase and Nine Holes.
Chase: This is listed as a Backgammon variant but, it really is a unique game that happens to use a Backgammon board. It is a two-player abstract that is particularly vicious as Sackson games go in that a player wins by eliminating all of the pieces of their opponent. I am very much looking forward to trying this one out.
Nine Holes: This is played on the specialized Tic Tac Toe board (to the right in the picture). Each player has three pieces that they alternate placing on the board. Once all the pieces are on the board (and if neither player has already won) each player then takes turns moving one of their pieces one space orthogonally or diagonally. The first player to get their three pieces in a row or all on squares of the same color wins. I haven’t really looked to closely at this one yet because it looks way too solvable for my liking.
(As a side note, the reason I haven’t assembled this thing is that it will form an 18 inch cube that doesn’t look very easy to break down again. Given the size of the thing, it is a lot easier to store in it’s original packaging.) – NS
In this design, players attempt to loot gold bars from a vault, circulating around the board and using die rolls to capture the bars. The gold theme was not the original theme for this game, however. Sid originally designed this as a promotional game for Marlboro cigarettes with the title Marlboro Country (which was the tag line for that brand’s advertising at the time). In that version, players travelled from pasture to pasture rounding up stray steers! But when the cigarette company passed on the game, Sid, reluctant to see his hard work go to waste, renamed it as Maverick Country. He later rethemed it and came up with another success. Although a lesser known Sackson design in today’s world, the game was good enough at the time to garner a Spiel des Jahres recommendation back in 1992. – HL
Harry Lorayne Memory Game:
This was published by Reiss in 1976. This would win my award for the all time weakest Sackson design. Then again, it is a game about teaching all sorts of tricks to improve the player’s memory skills. I guess there was not a whole lot of room for creativity given those constraints. – NS
Harry Lorayne was a frequent talk show guest of the time who made his name teaching memory tricks. This game tied into that skill set and Sid was tied up in making a game fit the subject rather than the subject fit the game. – HL
High Spirits with Calvin and the Colonel:
This was Sid’s first professionally published game, put out by Milton Bradley in 1962. The original name of the game was just High Spirits but, MB added the Calvin and the Colonel license to boost sales. Ironically enough, the game proved more popular than the Saturday morning series as it stayed in production after the series was cancelled. The game is a style that Sid would later return to with Suit Yourself, Das Superblatt and Buried Treasure. A set of four columns of five cards each is set up and players on their turn choose one card from any of the cards on the bottom of a column. Two features in the game help prevent the game from turning into an easily solvable Nim variant. First, the scoring for the three suits changes at the end of each round. Second, in later rounds, cards are added which let you take cards from the other players. The game plays surprisingly well even by today’s standards. – NS
Sid’s game of world travel that handles up to EIGHT players! Players are dealt a hand of city cards which display tourist attractions in cities around the world. Each city also has a day of the week indicating the optimum time to visit. Players also begin with an equal amount of cash and bid for control of the ONE airplane that will take them to the various cities. The player bidding the most each turn directs the plane along indicated air routes. Once at a city, ALL players can play cards of that city and will earn a number of Victory Points depending on what day they have arrived. (The further away from your optimum day to visit, the fewer VPs earned.) An important consideration: you NEVER get more money so you need to balance the necessity of steering the plane in a certain direction with the amount of money you’re willing to spend as money is also worth Victory Points at the end of the game! (For more on Holiday, check out Nick’s entry on Maloney’s Inheritance.) – HL
I’m the Boss!
English language remake of Spiel des Jahres nominated Kohle, Knes & Knete. The game came in a big square box, as opposed to the rectangular box of the original, German, edition. Among the recognition given to Sid for this design was his name on the box (a practice that, at the time, was still uncommon on American issued games) and new artwork where one of the characters looked suspiciously like Sid. (You can see that character with glasses, dark hair and chewing on a cigar – although, in all the years I knew him, I never saw Sid smoke!) There was also some rules tweaking. (For a full rundown of the mostly minor changes, check out the review of the game in the Fall 2003 issue of Gamers Alliance Report). Fortunately, the minor changes kept the high quality design high quality. As the original edition of this was commanding collector prices, this release was a real coup for Face to Face Games and put the small, fledging company, on the map. – HL
I’m The Boss!: The Card Game:
After obtaining the rights to many Sid Sackson designs held by the defunct Face to Face Game Company, Gryphon Games did more research into the Sid Sackson papers (now lodged in the Strong Museum at Rochester, New York) and discovered a Sid Sackson card game that was the original version of what later became Kohle, Knes & Knete (which was renamed I’m the Boss!). Gryphon did some development work on Sid’s design (I was told the game was “80% Sackson, 20% Gryphon”), kept the artwork used in the Face to Face edition of I’m the Boss! (which features the same Sid Sackson-like character found in the boardgame) and came up with this. (They also released an “expansion” entitled Piece of the Action which was Sid’s original name for the game.) A valiant attempt to capture the flavor of the boardgame but nowhere near as successful in execution as the boardgame itself which was a Spiel des Jahres nominee. – HL
This is the second edition of the game that was published in 1974 by a Gamut of Games. Sid apparently collaborated pretty heavily on the reworking of this game. It is an interesting game where players score points based upon building solar systems and, ultimately, advanced civilizations. It was extremely popular in its day based upon articles I have read from the time period. – NS
This was another Phil Orbanes design from the time when he headed Gamut of Games. – HL
This is one of three games that Sid did for Hoyle/Stancraft in 1970. It is, in my opinion, the most interesting of the three he did.
Players alternate making three space moves (orthogonal, diagonal or knight’s move) from the last peg placed. You earn points for the number of pegs adjacent to the piece you place. Players keep a running total and the highest total wins at the end of the game. An interesting side note is the screw up on the box ad copy. Under the name it reads: Two Challenging Games of Strategy in One. This confused me until I got Odd and Even which the ad copy was probably intended for as it is actually two games in one. – NS
This game was originally published by Research Games Inc. as Holiday in 1973. The more easily accessible version is the 1988 Ravensburger version of the game pictured here. Ravensburger added a number of new and sometimes random items to the game. Fortunately, the original version of the game can be played with a few modifications:
1) Don’t use the Joker cards or money bag pieces in the game.
2) Ignore the rules for the x2 days on the day track.
3) Ignore the special rules for Sunday (i.e. Sunday goes up for auction just like any other day).
The game was also later republished as Shang-hai by Ravensburger in 1997. Unfortunately, the game was so altered in this version that it would be impossible to play the original version of the game with it. – NS
The Major Battles and Campaigns of General Douglas MacArthur
This along with the Major Battles and Campaigns of General George S. Patton game are a pair of wargames published by Research Games Inc. in 1973. They were also published by Waddington’s House of Games in 1974. The map for the game is double sided and features a map for the Inchon game on the back. This is the bookshelf box that the games came in. They were also both released in large flat style boxes as well (see the entry for Patton below). – NS
The Major Battles and Campaigns of General George S. Patton:
This along with the MacArthur game are a pair of wargames published by Research Games Inc. in 1973. They were also published by Waddington’s House of Games in 1974. The map for the game is double sided and features a map for the Sicily game on the back. The map layout for Sicily can be seen in the upper left corner of the sheet in the box. This is the larger size box that the games came in. They were also both released in bookshelf style boxes as well (see the entry for The Major Battles and Campaigns of General Douglas MacArthur). – NS
This is a two-player abstract published in 1993 by Abacus in their white box game format. It was also published by them in a deluxe wooden box format. The game was originally published as a computer game (on a data cassette, no less) called Mind Thrust by Hayden Publications in 1981. The game is a weird kind of “test your psychic powers” game. Players can either place pieces on the board or attack. When a player attacks they secretly pick one stone (using their red marker on a miniature version of the game board hidden behind a screen). The defender then gets a number of defense pawns based upon the number of vulnerable pieces they have and secretly defends that number of pieces. Both players plans are revealed simultaneously. If the attacked piece was not defended, it is lost and replaced with one of the attacker’s stones and all of the defender’s adjacent stones are lost. The first player to connect both ends of the board with their stones wins. I am not a huge fan of simultaneously reveal style games but, this one is better than most. – NS
Players compete to build a city and earn points for doing so. Buildings (houses, factories, stores, schools, hospitals etc.) score points but WHERE a building is constructed can effect a drastic increase in its value. Another interesting aspect to play is that deals are allowed and encouraged. Players can exchange lots, build blocks together etc. and SHARE points for construction if a deal is struck. The “look” of the game is enhanced by the assortment of brightly colored plastic buildings that materialize on the board as the game develops.
The game has never been released in an English language edition. As a result, there have been several ambiguous (sometimes, incoherent) rules translations circulating. There has been talk for several years of a re-issue of this game (in English with, hopefully clear rules) but, so far, that has not yet happened. – HL
This is a trading game that was published by 3M in 1969. It was one of the 3M line that Avalon Hill never reprinted when they purchased 3M’s game line. The reason for this was probably because the game has a moderately annoying design flaw. Fortunately, this is easily fixed by adding an additional rule to the game that cards are only returned to their respective stacks after a player is done with their turn. Without this rule, it is very easy for a player to hoard the threes and effectively prevent anyone else from playing the game. – NS
Gryphon Games has released a new edition of this classic. – HL
Being a New Yorker (as was Sid), this is one of my favorites. Sid used a 7×7 grid of New York City (Broadway, Avenue of the Americas, Fifth Ave., Park Ave., Madison Ave., Lexington Ave. and the FDR Drive on one axis, 27th Street, 34th Street, 38th Street, 42nd Street, 49th Street, 57th Street and 65th Street as the other) as the setting for this game. (Good thing this game wasn’t used to teach geography. As New Yorkers know, Madison Ave. comes BEFORE Park Ave. and Broadway doesn’t stay straight. It actually crosses the Avenue of the Americas around 34th Street! Fortunately, this doesn’t affect game play.)
Players compete for control of the 49 buildings trying to get the largest group of contiguous buildings by playing street cards. There are two decks of cards (red for the horizontal avenues, blue for the vertical streets). Players can “take over” buildings of another player – but they have to PAY for them – and money counts as Victory Points at the end! The game also comes with “variant cards” for the advanced game that add a bit of unpredictability and “take that” to the game. Surprisingly, especially with New York as the theme, the game has never appeared in an English language edition. One interesting note: the graphic on the back of the card decks depicts what was then one of the city’s most famous landmarks: The World Trade Center. – HL
Odd or Even:
This is one of three games that Sid did for Hoyle/Stancraft in 1970. Two games use the same basic system in one box. After the first two pegs are placed, players have to then place pegs that are adjacent to either an even (if they are playing Even) number of pieces or odd (if they are playing Odd) number of pieces. The first player who can not make a legal move loses. This struck me as a neat idea for a game but I was concerned that replay value would be low. This is because it struck me that there would end up being a trivial solution to both games. An interesting side note is to look at the ad copy under the title which reads: ” A Novel Game of Skill in Scoring” which clearly describes the game Interplay. – NS
P.E.G.S. (The Parker Electronic Games System):
This was an early two-player electronic game was published by Parker Brothers in 1978. It actually features 15 games, of which seven are designed by Sid. These games include: Battle of the Blobs, Border Patrol, Football, Rapid Transit, Soccer, Space Attack, and Tank Blitz. According to Bob Finn, this product was an in house Parker design and, Sid was brought in fairly late in the design cycle. Looking at the other games, it is somewhat obvious why as a good percentage of the other games are Battleship variants or just not very entertaining games. – NS
I had actually never heard of this design until, at a birthday party I had, Sid gave me a copy for a present! – HL
Piece of the Action:
Not a game, in and of itself, but rather a 21 card expansion to the I’m the Boss Card Game that allows players to play the card game exactly how Sid envisioned his original design before he developed it into the board game: Kohle, Knes & Knete (later named I’m the Boss!). Sid originally proposed a distribution of 1112233 for the Move cards but later Sid revised the distribution to 1111223 which was adopted for this expansion’s release. Interesting as a glance into the mind of a genius as you can see how Sid took this promising idea and built it into one of his finest designs. – HL
Originally appearing in the February 1946 issue of Esquire magazine in an article entitled “Two Can Play at Poke“. The byline of the article reads as the more formal “Sidney Sackson” rather than the more familiar (and friendlier) Sid Sackson which was the way his name appeared in the credits of nearly all of his later games. As you might suspect from the name, this game combines elements of Poker with trick-taking and adds scoring which bears some resemblance to Bridge. (No surprise there. Sid once told me that Bridge was his favorite game!) The game was later included in Sid’s own book “A Gamut of Games” over 20 years later in 1969. – HL
This was published by Aladdin in 1974. As Sid games go this one is pretty weird. Players set up the board by tile edge color as shown in the picture. Players then take turns pushing rows of tiles and occasionally dropping one tile out of the grid. The player freeing such a tile keeps it. Play continues until one tile remains. The players then add their black tile points and subtract red tile points. The player with the most points wins. This is one Sid’s least interesting titles (second only to The Harry Lorayne Memory Game) in my opinion. – NS.
Sid participated in a 24 volume set of books called “The Family Creative Workshop” published in 1976. Sid’s contribution was a section in Volume 19 (covering “Sundials to Tatting”) on “Tabletop Games” featuring a variety of classic and newer games including Mancala, Mill, Jungle Game, Anagrams, Lasca and, only one of his own designs, Quick Trip. – HL
This was published by Gamut of Games in 1973. While not a Sid design, he did some collaborative work with Phil Orbanes on the version of the game rules displayed in the photograph. There are a number of sets of rules for the game inside the cover which opens like a book. What is especially interesting about this game is to look at the pieces and then check out Blockade (above). – NS
Realm was also published in a second edition (1974), appearing in a long flat box. – HL
This was published by Abacus/Rio Grande games in 1998. This was nominally a reissue of the Schmidt game Bazaar (Bazaar II) however a number of changes were made. According to Joe Nikisch at Abacus, all of the changes were created in house based upon their playing of the original Schmidt game. A free expansion for the game called Isfahan (pictured separately below) was later released that brought the game more in line with the original version. Samarkand, for me, is a really neat game that we don’t play anywhere near as much as the game probably deserves. I suspect that this is because the game is a little too dry for some player’s tastes.
For those who want to try out the original Bazaar II version of the game here is how to convert Samarkand to Bazaar:
First of all, you will need a copy of the Isfahan expansion which used to be given out free by Rio Grande. This switches the commodities that can be sold in each city throughout the game and, is how these spaces originally worked in Bazaar.
Next, replace the special die with a regular six sided die. This die is rolled for movement on a player’s turn and the player moves the number of spaces indicated on the die following the arrows (at no cost).
The numbers of commodity types are different in Bazaar. The number of each type of commodity in Bazaar is 26 Grain, 24 Fruit, 21 Copper, 19 Carpet, 16 Camels, and 14 Jewels. (Actually, in Bazaar they are just colored tokens.) This is pretty close to the spread in Samarkand so, unless one feels the need to rush out and buy a second copy of Samarkand, you can probably just use the card mix as is.
You will also need one Piaster notes. In Bazaar, everything was an order of magnitude more expensive (players started with 2,000 and won by getting 5,000). Abacus wisely decided to divide all of the costs by ten but, they also rounded the lowest cost for anything in the game to 5. I am going to divide the Bazaar amounts by ten also but you will need one Piaster notes to play.
The spaces on the board had some changed and some left the same.
The Nomad Camps in Samarkand work identical to those in Bazaar (where they are called Barter Markets).
The Oasis (called Shopping Markets in Bazaar) had a different cost for cards and allowed you to purchase from 1 to 4 commodities. Like Samarkand, there were three different types of Oasis spaces. The chart below gives the conversion from Samarkand to Bazaar:
4c = 20 1c = 1, 2c = 4, 3c = 9, 4c = 16
4c = 25 1c = 2, 2c = 6, 3c = 12, 4c = 20
4c = 30 1c = 3, 2c = 8, 3c = 15, 4c = 24
There was no penalty for not being able to buy on an Oasis space in Bazaar.
The Cities (called Bazaars in Bazaar, go figure) are probably the most different due to the rotating commodities accepted in each city (as per the Isfahan expansion mentioned earlier) and, because of the very different sales chart. The penalty was also different. In Bazaar, if you could not sell, you had to take the shortest route possible to an Oasis and had to buy something there.
The original sales chart for Bazaar is:
Commodity: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Grain 2 4 8 16 30 60 120
Fruit 3 6 12 24 50 100 –
Copper 4 8 16 32 65 130 –
Carpets 5 10 20 40 80 160 –
Camels 6 12 24 50 100 200 –
Jewels 7 14 30 60 120 240 –
Mixed 2 5 12 28 65 – –
Everything else works the same as per the Samarkand rules. Enjoy! – NS
The 6 Pack of Pencil and Paper Games:
Published by Gamut of Games in 1974. This was a collaborative project with Phil Orbanes. According to Phil, The Great Races was pretty much completely Sid’s and Pay off was Phil’s. Phil’s recollection was that Financier and Oil Strike were Sid initiated ideas and Spy and Words Times Three were initiated by him. However, he said all four were solidly collaborative efforts. The games are covered individually below.
The Great Races: This is interesting as it is the direct precursor game to Can’t Stop. The major differences are that players get to roll the four dice only once on their turn and, there are scores for first as well as second place in each of the column.
I’ll cover the other games as I get to them but Oil Strike looks particularly promising. – NS.
Spy was later published in GAMES magazine with sole credit being given to Sid. However, as Phil Orbanes recalls, ” I think the reason GAMES gave him sole credit is because I was at Ideal (or Parker) at the time and was concerned my employer would think i was moonlighting.” – HL
From Sid’s early days as a game designer, this is one of the few games that Sid privately printed. This 1951 game was published in the form of a small booklet and was a two player bidding game inspired by Bridge (a game that Sid told me was his favorite). You have to smile at the primitive printing as this was, obviously, originally done on a typewriter and some of the printing can be seen through the thin paper. The credit on the booklet is S. (and not Sid) Sackson. – HL
This was originally published as The Case of the Elusive Assassin by Ideal in 1967. It was later picked up by 3M and published as part of their line in 1971. It has since been published by Avalon Hill in America and by Schmidt in Germany under both it’s regular name and as Diamantenjagd (Diamond Hunt).
This is Sid’s spin on the classic deductive logic style game (Clue being the most famous of this type of game). The game itself features a number of gem cards (players have to figure out which is missing, as one is removed from the deck upon set-up). However, the really interesting feature is that there are also question cards which specify the types of information a player can ask of his opponent’s hands. Furthermore, each player’s question cards are kept face-up in front of the player. This little twist is very important because it allows a player to decide who to direct a specific question at based upon what questions they know their opponents are capable of asking. Of course, there is some luck (I completely walked into the solution within the first few turns of one game) but, for the most part, good players will be right on top of each other at the end of the game. This is an outstanding game that has been reprinted by Face 2 Face Games. – NS
And currently available in a new edition from Gryphon Games. – HL
Now, adding this game to our listings is a bit of a stretch; you can argue that this is not a Sid Sackson design – and you’d be correct. (Design credit goes to Lenny Glynn and John Prados). But Sid did have input in shaping the finished product. Sid did lots of work for SPI (the publisher), writing a column in their Strategy & Tactics magazine for many years, and, of course, Sid’s reputation in game design was well known. Evidently, there was an issue with end game balance so SPI decided to take advantage of Sid’s expertise and Sid was consulted to fix the problem. And he did. Although both Brad Hessel and Redmond Simonsen received “game development credit” on the box, Sid did not. His name is absent, not on the box nor in the rules. – HL
This game, published by Gamescience/ Renwal in 1969, is the precursor to Sid’s later game Fields of Action. It is basically a multiplayer version of Fields of Action. The two main differences being the unusual board layout (as seen in the photo) and, the initial set-up of the game pieces being random instead of fixed. – NS
The idea of movement ability based on the number of surrounding pieces is brilliant. A more vibrant graphic design coupled with a theme would make this a game worth reprinting. – HL
This two-player game was published by Renwal in 1969. It is a very abstract game with a dice rolling game system that is very close in feel to Can’t Stop and Solitaire Dice. I like it but am concerned that it might have a runaway leader problem. – NS
Like Take 5 (above), Renwal devoted little expense in components. Both of these games are really bare bones when it comes to graphic design. A more vibrant and creative presentation would certainly have helped these games find a bigger audience. – HL
This was published in 1983 by a company called Market Force for AT&T Information Systems. I gather that Market Force was a sort of vanity press company that happened to do board games. The game was a training tool for AT&T sales personnel and, was not generally released to the public. Given that when I started working for Bell Labs it was still part of AT&T, you would think that it would have been easy for me to acquire a copy of this game. You would be wrong.
Given that it was designed to be a training tool first, it actually looks like it might have some potential as a real game as well. The movement system is unlike anything I have ever seen before in that each player has two pawns. One moves on the outer “race track” and the other moves through the central office squares. On their turn, a player rolls two dice and decides which die roll to apply to each pawn so, you have a little more control over your movement than in a standard “race track” style game. The basic idea of the game is to collect orders (read: money) to upgrade your office phone system which, in turn, enables you to collect more orders. One of the neat things is that the game includes cards that are purely color markers for each player to show what color they are playing. There is also a card to show which player is the manager (bank). I would like to try this one out at some point as I was left wondering whether or not this had been a real game that Sid was working on prior to him selling it to AT&T. – NS
This is one of several games with advertising tie-ins (see the Alf games, for example) designed by Sid. – HL
This is one of three games that Sid did for Hoyle/Stancraft in 1970. This is an interesting game of capturing pieces where your piece’s ability to move and capture is based upon its position relative to both you and your opponent’s other pieces. The first player who can not make a legal move loses. I think it’s a neat concept but, seeing what pieces can move and how is really difficult unless you play the game on a regular basis. What adds to this is that the corner pieces have a set of special rules for their opening move that makes me wonder why they just weren’t left out of the game in the first place. – NS
This was published by Western Publishing in 1982. The game is a fairly straightforward variant of standard poker that allows the players to buy cards (stay in the hand, is actually a probably more accurate description) for steeper and steeper prices. It is a lost Sid classic and in my opinion is desperately in need of reprinting. – NS
This was published by Aladdin in 1974. This is another Sid game that I like but find problematic getting people to play. That problem, specifically, would be math. The idea of the game is that one player takes a set of their number tiles and, all the other players then take the same matching set from theirs as well. After this, two number cards are flipped up and the timer turned. Players then have until thetimer runs out to build a crossword style pattern with their numbers. Each row and column must sum to one of the two revealed numbers. The scoring system strongly encourages players to make maximum use of their tiles by penalizing them for unused tiles. A number of such rounds are played and, the first player to 500 points wins. It’s a really neat game. The other thing I love about the game is the completely sexist cover art that no game company in their right mind would use today. – NS
An oddity here. The rules state that there are 30 square tiles per player and an example used in the rules shows four 1 tiles. However, the copies I have had are complete with 3 tiles each running from 1 to 10! (That makes 30.) There is no fourth 1 tile! This might be an example of either a later edition or a rules change in the game that didn’t catch up with the written rules on the box. – HL
A neat little two player game first published by Hoyle in 1971. It is a pattern matching game where players exchange colored stones to try and form one of four distinct patterns to score points. There is a really interesting mechanism for stone trading that prevents players from undoing their opponent’s previous play. – NS
The wide array of colored stones makes for a beautiful presentation, a nice change from typical plastic of the time. – HL
This was a game self published by Sid Sackson in 1957. It was the third game “published” by him chronologically. Poke was published in Esquire Magazine in 1946 and he published Slam! himself in 1951. Slam, since it has more rules, came in an approximately 2 by 4 inch white paper booklet. Both of these games would be reprinted in Sid’s book A Gamut of Games in 1969. Triad would not become available (except by getting it from Sid directly) until it was published in GAMES magazine in 1986. It is a double sided piece of green paperboard as seen above.
The game itself is similar to Mah Jongg but, uses a special deck made from two decks of cards using the ace through 8 of each suit only. For four players a third set of cards is added. The card mostly details scoring for the various hands that can be formed. – NS
Originally published as Score-Up in GAMES magazine. Players move their pieces up the board and score by maneuvering their pieces into the scoring slots in the scoring zone. The catch here is that movement is based on the number of pieces in the horizontal row of the piece that you want to move. The game works for 2 to 4 players but can also be played as a solitaire puzzle as one player tries to maximize his score. The boxed edition is beautifully produced (wood components) and is part of the Inventors’ Collection, an idea from designer Maureen Hiron to showcase quality abstract game designs and give them a first rate production. (The collection included Oska and Hiron’s own design, Quadwrangle). – HL
A card game published by 3M in 1969 and ultimately reissued by Avalon Hill and published in Germany by both Schmidt and F.X. Schmid. It is a money making game where players compete to build the largest conglomerates in six different industries. One of the earliest Sid games I ever played and, still one of my personal favorites.- NS
And reissued by Gryphon Games in a new edition. – HL
The Winning Ticket:
This was published in 1977 by Ideal. In one of my phone conversations with Sid, he tried to steer me clear of getting a copy of this game as he felt that Ideal had hopelessly mangled it into an unplayable mess. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had already acquired a copy for 50 cents at a flea market. In any case, Sid’s warning was strong enough that I really haven’t taken a serious look at the game yet. If I ever do, I’ll update this entry. – NS
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