It’s always been hard to find that “family game” balance. Make it too hard, the little tykes wouldn’t get it. Make it too easy, and nobody else would want to play with the little tykes. But sometimes, that rare game got it right. Take, for example, the case of Aggravation, a board game marketed by Lakeside that bore a striking resemblance to the ancient game of Parcheesi.

Beginning in 1962, Aggravation managed to bring young and old together around the board for a “classic marble race.” Each player’s task was to take four marbles from Base to Home, but the journey was fraught with peril. This was a game of every marble for itself, and no space was big enough for two of them.

A die roll of 1 or 6 moved a single marble from Base onto the board proper, where the clockwise journey began in earnest. Marbles moved according to the die, with new marbles joining the trek as further 1’s and 6’s were rolled. Shortcuts and the elusive “super shortcut” sped up the voyage if your marble landed on the right spot, but it wasn’t all happy trails and speedy shortcuts?

The “aggravation” of the title came into play when an opponent’s marble landed on one of yours. In that unfortunate circumstance, your marble was “aggravated” all the way back to Base, forced to start anew. Numerous family arguments (a la sending an opponent’s ball “out” in croquet) began in this very fashion and many a marble has been spilled in anger over excessive aggravating.

The only safe havens were the four Home spaces, one for each of your marbles. When all four made it (on exact rolls only, mind you), a winner was declared, and someone earned the right to shout, “I am a marble god!” (this wasn’t mentioned in the rules specifically, just implied).

With its cross-generational appeal, Aggravation was as popular at sleepovers and birthday parties as it was on family game night. Deluxe Aggravation expanded the game from four players to six (which eventually became the standard on normal Aggravation), and gamemaker Lakeside even introduced a Split-Level Aggravation in the early 70s. The fancy two-plane version didn’t catch on, but original Aggravation still comes out of the game closet in many a home, carrying on the “classic marble race” that everyone can appreciate.

Did you gather with family or friends for a rousing game of Aggravation? We’d love to hear your memories of this classic board game in our comments section below.

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