Not since the days of the historical chocolate and peanut butter merge has there ever been a pairing so heavenly as that of board game and candy. Images of gooey confections, locales that would bring a diabetic to their knees, all wrapped in an easy-to-play board game – is it any wonder that it caught on with the little ones?
The story of Candyland is a tale of ingenuity bred from compassion. A victim of polio, Eleanor Abbot was thinking of the youngest sufferers of the disease, confined to their hospital beds, when she came upon a wonderful idea – a simple board game that could be played by any kid without a need to do math or memorize a list of instructions. All you had to do was be able to recognize colors and you were on your way down a path lined with gumdrops, candy canes and plenty of other sugar-filled treats.
Drawing from a stack of color-coded cards, you would advance to the next space on the board that matched the color on the card. Simple as that – no decision making, no strategy required. Well, maybe not so simple. Cards didn’t only have colors on them; some had locations, places with inviting names such as Peppermint Stick Forest, Gum Drop Mountains, Lollipop Woods and Gingerbread Plum Tree. Draw one of these cards and move to that location – which might be good, if the location was ahead of you, or bad, if you had to go back to it. Also, some of the cards had black dots. The unlikely drawer of such a card couldn’t progress on their journey until they were lucky enough to draw another card of the same color. If these obstacles weren’t enough, you also had Molasses Swamp, a frustrating location you adhered to until you were able to choose the correct color and free yourself. Given all these obstacles, winning a game of Candyland wasn’t quite as simple as it might appear – nor was the victory necessarily a swift one.
In 1949, Milton Bradley bought the rights to distribute Candyland. It was so popular that it was number one in popularity on the list of games introduced during the entire 1940s decade. Of course, like any successful product, spin-offs were inevitable and Candyland was no exception. From an electronic hand-held version and Candyland Bingo, to a CD-Rom game and even a special Winnie the Pooh version of the game, Candyland has proven that it will remain on the game landscape for many years to come. It’s an easy-to-master, sweet-tooth-taunting adventure through a confectionary world that, to some, inspires visions of what heaven must be like.
If some of your first board game experiences involved a waltz through Candyland, we welcome your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this beloved board game.