One game I remember my brother and I always playing in the 70’s was MasterMind. You might remember the game – one person hid four colored pegs behind a screen and you tried to guess what they were. The ‘hider’ gave you clues as to how accurate each guess was. A red peg meant you had the right color in the right spot, a white meant you had a color right and no peg meant…well…you weren’t even close. Through trial and error you should have eventually been able to determine the hidden color pattern in under 12 steps or your opponent won.
We owned no less than three different variations of Mastermind. The regular version, a “Super” version that used five hidden pegs (instead of four) and a travel version that we used quite often during our trips to a new home (government transfers).
This week we found another 70’s-era puzzle challenge that we had never seen before. If we had, I’m sure it would have been a favorite as well judging by the amount of time we’ve been playing it over the past week! Black Box by Parker Brothers takes the idea of figuring out what pattern the other person has created and added a number of unique methods of discovery.
Our version looked to have never been played since the factory-included crayon had never been used. One person takes the crayon and erasable board and picks four locations (or five for a harder game) in which to hide their balls (think Battleship).
The other person will try to determine the location of these by calling out a number on one of the edges of the playing field. The instructions call this using “imaginary rays”, but I found it easier to update the terminology and refer to them as lasers. The laser/ray enters the board from the called-out number and moves forward until something happens.
It either hits a ball (marked with a red chip), bounces around the center of the board before exiting elsewhere (marked with matching orange chips) or reflects back to the starting point (again, marked with a yellow chip). By sending in a few rays you can begin to pinpoint the exact locations of your opponent’s spheres. Once you feel you have honed in on them all, mark them on the board with the included yellow balls and check your score.
You receive one point for each chip on the board that you used. Each incorrectly placed ball also adds five to your final score. If you determine that your opponent gave you the wrong information about a ray, deduct five points from your total. If that incorrect information impacted the placement of one of the balls, you would not receive the corresponding addition.
Then switch sides and repeat the process. The person with the lowest score (who ultimately figured out the locations in the fewest moves) is declared the winner!
Black Box proved to be quite a bit of fun, and my girls enjoyed it much more than MasterMind (/cry). Judging by the ratings over on BoardGameGeek (6.36 stars), we’re obviously not the only ones to hold it in high regard. You can regularly find inexpensive copies over on eBay for around $11 shipped (of course there are a lot more listed much higher). If you spot a pristine copy, you won’t regret having it in your collection.