A few weeks ago I picked up another small-box game at our local thrift store that I had never seen before. I usually can find these for under a buck, but this time I had to spring double that. Once I confirmed all of the pieces were there and in good shape, I added it to my collection. Even at the higher price, we still believe this copy of Switchboard by Whitman / Western Publishing Company was well worth the price.
At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much to the game. 36 tiles with odd numbering, two dice and four pawns. There is nothing random about the start, the instructions give you the starting layout for all of the tiles (hint: 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, etc.).
And it appears to just be a simple roll-and-move game (yawn). But looking at the board there is no path to the finish line. I guess I’ll have to actually read the instructions…
Ah, so here’s the secret. On your turn you roll both dice and move your pawn forward (or backwards) the exact number. If you can’t move the full amount in either direction, you don’t move at all.
After you move, you then select one of the two tiles that match the number on your roll (eg. roll a one and six and choose either the 1-6 or 6-1 tile). You then get to place it anywhere on the table where its path would connect with another tile.
So as the game progresses, you’re building or destroying the path to the finish. You have to pay attention to anyone who rolls a seven with a 3-4 combination. This is the number on the tile with the finish spot. They will get to move it to a position that might be a certain win for them.
The colors of the dots also play into the game. Land on a yellow and nothing happens. Land on a red and lose your next turn. Green spots award you an extra turn right away!
And what would any game be without a bonus for landing on another player? Do so and you get to move their pawn to ANY yellow spot ANYWHERE! You can literally strand them, forcing them to build upon their own path. Plus once you put their pawn on a tile, you can also rotate that tile!
First person to get their pawn to the finish line by exact roll wins. For a game manufactured in 1976, this one had held up well. What appeared at first to be a quick play, it quickly developed into a “c’mon, hurry up with your turn” game due to the need to strategize about placement of tiles.
You might get lucky and find a copy on eBay, but you’ll probably be better off watching yard sales and thrift stores. First published in 1966 by Watkins Strathmore, our copy by Whitman was the last edition in 1976. We love finding true treasures like this one and keeping them out of the landfill.
What was your favorite (obscure) game growing up?