Game On!: Top 10 Game Shows Based On Board Games

Next week, NBC’s latest primetime game show Hollywood Game Night will premiere on July 11 at 10:00pm. According to Jane Lynch, the concept of Hollywood Game Night is based on the “notorious game nights” producer Sean Hayes holds in his home. Sounds familiar? Well, that is because this is similar to how the late 1980s NBC game show Win, Lose or Draw was born, as the show was based on Burt Reynolds’ game nights and the show’s set was modeled after his living room. In honor of the show’s upcoming premiere, I will be counting down the top ten game shows based on popular and, perhaps, not so common board games often played at game nights. It’s been a while since I have done this, but here we go! Enjoy!

#10: Yahtzee

Starting at the bottom of the list is the dice game of luck, strategy and, oddly enough, celebrities: Yahtzee. The television version of Yahtzee first aired in syndication January 1988 with famed Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall at the helm. The show was filmed in Atlantic City and had two teams of three contestants earn dice rolls by matching wits and answers with a panel of five celebrities. The team who was closest to a “Yahtzee” in the front game won a chance to win up to $100,000 by rolling a Yahtzee on the first roll in the bonus round, which has been accomplished at least once.

This was another one-season wonder as this show only lasted for eight months. One factor that may have led to the show’s brief run was that the main game ripped off Match Game and the focus of the game skewed more toward the celebrities’ wit and chemistry. With a different main game format and eliminating the celebrities, this show could have been more successful. Check out the series premiere in the clip below.

#9: Monopoly

Coming in at number nine is the ultimate game of financial domination, which has brought families and friends together and has even made enemies through its long-winded gameplay: Monopoly. In 1990, the popular board game (along with its mascot, briefly) was brought to life on ABC during the weekends. The short-lived show lasted for only 12 weeks and was paired with Super Jeopardy! during the summer on Saturday nights. The series, hosted by Mike Reilly and produced by Merv Griffin Enterprises, had three contestants answering crossword puzzle-type questions while racking up cash and acquiring properties and monopolies. The winner of each episode had a chance to win an additional $50,000 on top of their main game winnings by taking a trip around the board.


Bringing the board game to television was not a bad idea. The show’s downfall was not only airing it during the weekend “death slot”, but also the TV version had too many rules, some of which were complicated and unneeded. I believe the producers should have stuck with the pilot’s main game format because it was more fast-paced and engaging to watch and it gives the contestants a chance to win more. But, I digress. It was a good attempt by Merv Griffin to create Monopoly, but not good enough for the show to stick around longer. Check out an episode in the video below.

#8: Taboo

Number seven on this week’s countdown is a fun, fast-paced and probably an easily forgettable word association game show, which was also a one-season wonder: Taboo. The game show was played similar to the board game of the same name: two teams had 45 seconds to get their partners to guess as many words as possible without using any of five assigned “Taboo” words within their clues. Taboo was hosted by Chris Wylde and aired on TNN (now Spike TV) for one season from 2002 until early 2003.

Judging from the only episode I have seen online, I really liked the show for staying true to original game and making alterations in the game play where needed. The show had a relaxed, exciting, entertaining and casual atmosphere like a real game night at someone’s home and I’m surprised this show did not last longer. Check out a clip of the show in the video below. Fun Fact: Gordon Bellamy (shown in this episode) was also a contestant on Million Dollar Mind Game as a member of the team of self-proclaimed video game geeks.

#7: Scattergories

Clocking in at number seven is the game of letters, categories and, once again, celebrities: Scattergories. The Reg Grundy Productions game show premiered in 1993 on NBC with game show veteran Dick Clark as the host. This daytime game show had two teams of four trying to come up with as many unique words that begin with a letter the team is assigned. The twist is the team will have to choose words that will not be said by the panel of celebrities whose answers were pre-recorded.  The day’s winner was crowned champion and had a chance to win a progressive jackpot which starts at $4,000.

Like Taboo, this board game-to-TV game show stayed true to its roots and was a fun show to watch and equally fun to play along. What also made Scattergoriesan enjoyable show to watch were the host and the celebrities’ role on the show. As he has shown and displayed on every show he has emceed, Dick Clark was the perfect host of this show with his warm and endearing presence and his excellent interaction with the contestants. As far as the guest stars are concerned, this show utilized the use of celebrities perfectly as they compliment the show’s format rather than interfering with it. Sadly, the additional star power was not enough to keep this show running for a long period of time as this show also lasted for only a few months before checking out. Check out the first two rounds of a generic episode in the clip below.

#6: Pictureka!

This next game show is based on the fairly new “Find it fast; Find it first” hidden picture game Pictureka!The board game, similar to the Where’s Waldo book series, debuted in 2006 and the television series premiered about four years later on The Hub with Cory Almeida as the host. This show’s gameplay was also similar to the board game as contestants had to find hidden pictures in the studio for prizes.

Unlike the other aforementioned shows, Pictureka lasted for two seasons. This was the revamped network’s (The Hub formerly known as Discovery Kids) second game show and it should have lasted for at least another season. This show had everything needed for a good kids game show: exciting, physical gameplay, cool, kid-friendly prizes and an energetic host to keep the kid and adult contestants interested in the game throughout the entire show. Check out an episode of Pictureka! in the video below.

#5: Trivial Pursuit

Moving on to the top half of this week’s list is the classic game of trivial questions and answers: Trivial Pursuit. In 1993, Wink Martindale decided to bring the Canadian-birthed game to life on The Family Channel (now ABC Family) by adding a play-at-home interactive element to the show. The show had three contestants racing to see who could fill in all of their wedges in their pie first for a chance to win $1,000 and a trip. The TV version’s gameplay was similar to the board game’s with the exception of the board.

Contrary to its one and a half year run on the cable network, this show was a tad underrated. While it was not wildly successful in the U.S., the U.K. had a little more success with their version. Their series first aired on BBC1 in 1990 and was later revived in 1993 on the U.K.’s The Family Channel (now Challenge), which lasted for two seasons. Years later, two attempts were made to bring the television game show back to American networks with ESPN’s Trivial Pursuit in 2004 and Trivial Pursuit: America Plays in syndication in 2008.  However, both series only lasted for a season. At least one episode from all four versions, including the 1993 U.K. version, can be found on YouTube. The video below displays the series premiere of the Wink Martindale version of the show.

#4: High Rollers

Now, this one will come to a surprise to just about everyone who reads this. High Rollers was in fact based on an old dice game called “Shut The Box”. The object of the game is to eliminate all the tiles numbered 1 through 9 and successfully “shut the box” by rolling a pair of dice. High Rollerswas played in the same fashion with the addition of trivia questions and thousands of dollars of cash and prizes at stake and at risk.

The series, hosted by Alex Trebek, ran from 1974-1976 and 1978-1980 on NBC, and again in syndication with Wink Martindale for one season in 1987.  With its excellent, fast-paced gameplay and high stakes, High Rollerswas a great game show that offered unusual and luxurious prizes and filled the contestants with excitement and suspense with every roll of the big dice. Here is a side-by-side comparison of both versions and see which one you think is better.

#3: Pictionary (1997)

Moving on to the number three show is the game of quick draw: Pictionary. In this countdown, I’m focusing on the 1997 version rather than the inferior 1989 kids version. The adult version of Pictionary premiered in 1997 in syndication with host Alan Thicke. The show was produced by Kline & Friends, the same producers of Win, Lose or Draw. On Pictionary, two teams each comprised of two celebrities and a civilian contestant compete to guess as many words as possible based on the clues drawn on the board for thousands of dollars in cash. The small twist is the teams have to draw as many puzzles as possible with each additional puzzle having one word in common (ex. Bugs ­­­Bunny, Bunny Slope).

This show was a great attempt to bring back the same magic that made Win, Lose or Draw the short success it was. Pictionary is also another example of how to properly create a board game-based game show. For the short time this show aired, Pictionary spawned some unforgettable moments, one of which included Erik Estrada’s notoriously (and accidentally) hitting Bill Maher in the nose out of excitement. Check out the short clip on YouTube.

#2: Scrabble (NBC)

Closing in at number two is an eight-letter word and the clue is “It’s a crossword conundrum”: Scrabble. Every episode of the long-running daytime game show was introduced by announcing the current champion followed by a clue-word spiel similar to the clever example I have provided in the previous sentence. Scrabble made its way to the small screen on July 2, 1984 on NBC with then former Wheel of Fortune and current Love Connection host Chuck Woolery. On the television version of the crossword game, contestants had to solve words based on cryptic clues and selected tiles to assist them. The winner of each game faced off against each other in the quick-fire Scrabble Sprint round. The day’s champion will have a chance to win a jackpot that starts at $5,000 in the 10-second Bonus Sprint.

Scrabble was another Reg Grundy hit that had a lengthy seven-year run and was complimented by being paired with other great NBC daytime game shows including Sale of The Century and Wheel of Fortune. From the stellar format to an excellent host to the big money wins, Scrabble was seen in a different light during the mid 80s and was one of the best and more creative game shows of all time. This show kept its fans engaged throughout the initial series by airing special theme weeks such as Game Show Hosts Week, Celebrity Teen Week, a $100,000 All-American Tournament, to name a few. Scrabble has also seen its fair share of bloopers and hiccups between Chuck Woolery and the contestants. After the show ended in 1990, Scrabble was revived in syndication in 1993 with a new set and a new look while keeping the same format and host. Unfortunately, this version only lasted for a year due to a considerably lower prize budget and a general lack of interest. The video below features the full clip of one of the most infamous and frustrating Scrabble Sprints in the history of the series.

#1: Family Game Night

At last, we have arrived to the peak of this week’s countdown. The number one game show is the show where some of the most popular, classic board games in history have been enlarged and brought to life for your enjoyment: The Hub’s Family Game Night. The weekly program premiered in 2010 and was the first, original game show to debut on the network. Family Game Night has two families competing against each other in life-sized versions of board games such as Guesstures, Sorry! Sliders, Scrabble, Boggle and Yahtzee for big cash and even bigger prizes. In the third season, the show added new games to its roster like Trouble, a new variation of Sorry! and Battleship with amazing computer-generated special effects, as well as a brand new car for the grand prize.

Why is this show number one on the list? When you combine innovate mini-games based on some of your favorite board games, an amazing, family-friendly host and energetic contestants, it all adds up to an excellent game show. The games on Family Game Night are like The Price Is Right pricing games for kids. This show is the prime example for a kids and family game show. Also, Family Game Night has had much success as it has won a two Parent’s Choice Awards, a CINE Golden Eagle Award for high quality production and storytelling and the show’s host, Todd Newton, won an Emmy for his outstanding hosting duties. The show is headed into its fourth season and it seem like there is no end in sight. Check out a small preview of a Battleship game in progress in the clip below.

More Fun Facts: 
– There were home games made for the television versions of Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? cast member Chip Esten was a contestant on Scrabble.
– On Scrabble, the pink and blue bills used to award the contestants’ bonus money on were known as “Chuck Bucks”.
– On the series finale of the Trebek version of High Rollers, a $10,000 fish bowl was offered as a prize during the main game.
Trivial Pursuit: America Plays was hosted by Brady Bunch child star Christopher Knight.
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