Just one glimpse of the elaborate mechanism, known as a Rube Goldberg Machine, is enough to get any kid begging for their parents to buy them a Mouse Trap game. Granted, it is perhaps the most inefficient way ever concocted to catch a mouse, but that’s really beside the point (or maybe it actually is the point.) Regardless, kids have been enjoying this simple game for almost five decades and its popularity shows no sign of slowing.
Introduced by Ideal Toys in 1963, Mouse Trap (originally called Mouse Trap Game) is a board game, highlighted by a fanciful contraption that is constructed in the center. Players, represented by small mice, travel along the board’s path and move forth a number of spaces indicated by the roll of a special six-sided die. Depending on where they land, they either assemble a piece of the complex machine or retrieve a piece of cheese.
The machine itself consists of a series of gears, ramps, rubber bands, a diving man and a bathtub. A series of events eventually causes a dome-shaped cage to fall down a noisy, notched pole and catch one of the rodents. As players reach the end of the game board, they each travel in a circle – either ending up on a space that instructs them to turn a crank and trip the trap, or having the misfortune of landing on the cheese underneath the cage, in which case they are trapped and therefore eliminated. The last person to remain free from the cage’s confines is the winner.
Care for a little more detail? Tripping the trap, as it were, unleashed a series of events that began with turning the crank. This proceeded to move the gears until they pushed a stop sign that kicked a bucket that released a marble. The marble would then roll down a series of stairs, into a drainpipe that caused a helping hand to prod a bowling ball, which proceeded to fall through a bathtub and land on a diving board. This action would catapult a diver into the washtub, which released the descending cage, ready to catch a rodent who had the misfortune of lying underneath at the time. There, it’s all coming back to you, isn’t it? Fans of the game will remember vividly that the area of the machine with the helping hand was unfortunately the part where the machine most often failed to operate properly, causing endless frustration for the players.
In 2006, the game (now made by Hasbro) was redesigned and looks quite different from the Mouse Trap of earlier eras. Not only do the board and plastic components look completely different, including a toilet that now sits atop the structure, but there are now, not one, but three mousetraps that await their victims. As a result, vintage games tend to fetch a higher price online – assuming you can find one that contains all of the pieces. With so many individual parts, it is far from uncommon to find games that are missing one of the components.
Mousetrap is perhaps one of the most fondly remembered games of youth, conjuring up vivid recollections of both victory and defeat, and most importantly, one of the niftiest contraptions to ever accompany a board game. If you spent many an hour playing this game, or simply built the contraption to watch it do it’s thing, we welcome your memories in our comments section.