Sometimes the simplest of challenges are the ones most frustrating, which pretty much encapsulates a little board game called Trouble. Introduced by Kohner in 1965, it brought out the competitiveness in everyone who played, sometimes raising their stress levels to the point that the game maker thought it wise to protect the lone die behind a globe of plastic, lest it get flung across the room.
Trouble is basically a race around a simple board. Four people can play and it requires little preparation, nor does a round take very long to complete. Each player has four color-coded pegs, each of which they can choose to advance with each roll. Should their roll allow them to land on a spot already occupied by an opponent, they can send said opponent all the way back to the beginning – and there lies the frustration, which was often taken out on the poor little globe in the center of the board.
That plastic enclosure is, of course, better known as a Pop-O-Matic, an ingenious little contraption that performed two functions – it rolled a single die automatically, and it made a really cool sound. So popular was the Pop-O-Matic that Kohner employed the same gadget in another board game, aptly titled Headache, a few years later. Pop-O-Matics were remarkably durable and offered a couple of side benefits. You never had to worry about losing the game die, and the device made it impossible to cheat. It might be one of the most beloved board game innovations of all time.
Trouble eventually found a new home at Milton Bradley, which is now owned by Hasbro. It is still available and still doing a fine job of frustrating anyone who dares to play, much as it has for the past four decades. It might not be the most cerebral of board games ever devised, but this classic still has plenty of charm. Or as they say, plenty of pop.
If you were a fan of Trouble or Headache as a kid, and harbor fond memories of pouncing on the Pop-O-Matic, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your memories in our comments section.