Exploring Chutes and Ladders: The VCR Board Game

Folks, I’ve gone and done it! I located a board game I knew existed, mentioned, but could not find proof of…until a few days ago. Prepare thyself, we’re tackling the longest chutes and highest ladders of Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game!

Previously, on Retroist…

Like everything else nostalgic that I cram into the deepest recesses of my brain, I never forgot the video and its animation. So imagine my surprise when, after thirty years, I found a short clip on YouTube after mentioning this game briefly in a past Retroist article. Alas, I didn’t find the full video until recently.

Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game!

Milton Bradley released the Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game in 1986. It wasn’t their first VCR-adapted board game, and it wouldn’t be their last. The VCR-based games (at least, this one and its Candy Land counterpart) were unique in that no reading was necessary, children didn’t have to push buttons on the VCR, and the video gave all the instructions one needed. Plus, it had the added bonus of turning gameplay into a fun story.

Chutes and Ladders contained four games/stories (two that relied on sounds, and two more that relied on numbers), each increasing in skill level. I actually played the Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game, as it was the version I owned. I believe it was a birthday present for my fourth birthday. I’m not sure how long we kept it, but like any good nostalgic toy that wasn’t deemed such, it disappeared sometime during my childhood. I’m convinced it either met the trash can or a yard sale.

Either scenario is depressing, friends.

Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game: The Details

Meet Reggie and Bobby.

Everything is a competition in their world, and they turn this allegedly healthy competition into the basis of the first of four different “story games.”

What are those games, you ask (including theirs?)

Thrills and Chills

A game of numbers. Players put the number cards on the board, number side up. When players hear the audio prompt (a whimsical chime), they are to remove a number card from the game board.

In this story, Bobby and Reggie compete at everything (scariest ride, how much junk food they can eat), as their female friends Joanie and Sally Ann watch on.

The Golden Cuckoo

A game of sounds. Players put the picture cards on the board, picture side up. Upon hearing a sound effect prompt, they are to remove the corresponding card from the game board.

Bobby and his sister, Pam (who looks suspiciously like the one girl from the previous story), are baby-sitting their brother, Baby Todd. They discover stairs beyond their front door, and explore the amazing, psychedelic world beyond that door. It’s a world chock full of strangeness – a rooster, balloons, a horse, and a train.

Ricky and Nikki vs. The Space Dragons

Another game of numbers. This one involves Bobby and Reggie’s friends, siblings Ricky and Nikki.

On a snowy day, Ricky and Nikki draw pictures with their crayons. Amidst all this, a spaceship lands in their yard (where’s the snow??), and  takes them to the stars, to a planet where they will help the aliens.

The Case of the Lost Choo-Choo

Another sound game. Sherwood and Dottie (two more of Reggie and Bobby’s friends), as “Sherwood Holmes” and “Dottie Watson” (wink wink, nudge nudge) are on the case of a lost choo-choo, but encounter many other sounds along the way.

Sherwood sounds like he’s channeling his inner Inspector Gadget/Maxwell Smart voice (one in the same, since Don Adams played both characters). They explore a farm, a carnival, store, street, car, and railroad crossing in search of the train. Will they find it? How many sounds can possibly heard at one time?

Since the purpose of this game was not giving kids an opportunity to operate the VCR other than start (and obviously stop) the video, Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game gave players ample time to setup the board via transition segments.

These segments involved eating ice cream cones the fastest, a cuckoo clock that will signal the start of the next game once the bird pops out, and a spinning robot.

This was the clip that helped me rediscover the game in the first place!

So now that you know the game exists, and understand its gameplay, how about we actually watch it in action?

Let’s Play the Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game!

Well, not really play, but we can watch the video…can’t we?

Work with me, folks. I don’t own the game anymore!

Upload via VCR Board Games

And If You Liked Chutes and Ladders…

You’ll love Candy Land: The VCR Game!

No lie, the conclusion of this video is an advertisement. They literally pad out the thirty-minute run time with a quick ad for Milton Bradley’s other classic childhood game given the 1980s upgrade!

Oh, and did anyone else notice during the first game that Reggie’s skin color changed, like the artists couldn’t agree on his ethnicity?

Availability

Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game came onto the market in 1986 (the original version had been around since 1943), but very little information exists on this version of the game. I’d say it was available at least through the mid-late 1980s. As I said, I received it in 1986 as a birthday present. I’m not sure how much play-ability we got out of it, but with four different segments, one could easily fill forty-five minutes between setting up, actual game play/resetting the board, and cleanup. Not a bad distraction for the kids, right?

The cool aspect of this game is not needing to read instructions, and only needing to hit play. However, after watching the video, I’m not entirely convinced that kids wouldn’t need to hit pause while resetting the game board. That’s the only part of this that bothers me. I’m thirty-five years old and of reasonable intelligence. And I don’t think the transition scenes give enough time to put all the cards back on the board. Another thing about the board – the chutes and ladders side.  Does that seem superfluous to you? This isn’t traditional Chutes and Ladders, you’re removing cards based on numbers and sounds. Why do you need a “Chutes and Ladders” side…unless this is two versions in one? Because based on what I’ve gathered from the video, this version of Chutes and Ladders is nothing like the original game.

Nevertheless, the video is thoroughly entertaining. If someone handed this version to me and told me to have fun (again, I’m thirty-five years old), I would enjoy it. I don’t recall having the original version, just this one. And I’m glad I only had this one, I’m betting I had a blast with it!

But Wait, There’s More!

Chutes and Ladders wasn’t the only Milton Bradley game to get the traditional board game to 1980s VCR Game treatment. Candy Land also got the distinction. And guess what? I found that video too!

Didn’t think you were getting off that easy, did you?

Until next time, farewell from the land of tallest ladders and twisting, turning slides…until our next adventure!

Allison L. Venezio
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Allison L. Venezio

Secretary/Blogger-Writer at Allison's Written Words and Retroist
Allison is a Secretary by day, a writer/blogger by night (and during lunch breaks and in the mornings before work), a nostalgia geek (and a geek in general), worshipper of Thor (and Chris Hemsworth), and honorary Avenger (she has a pin, so it is official).She collects Itty Bittys and Funko Pops, loves anything that takes her back to childhood, and has confessed her love for Kenny Loggins.Oh, and she listens to Chicago...alot.If any of this piques your interest, she'd love for you to visit her personal blog, Allison's Written Words, where she talks about alot of the same stuff she talks about here, and more!

She can be found at allisonveneziowrites.com.You can follow her blog on Facebook (facebook.com/allisonswrittenwords) and on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.
Allison L. Venezio
Follow Me!!!

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