Play Stuff Blog

The Strong’s historians, curators, librarians, and other staff offer insights into and anecdotes about the critical role of play in human development and the ways in which toys, dolls, games, and video games reflect cultural history.

Board Game Prototypes and a Gift of Clank!

We receive lots of donations every year at The Strong, from single items to accumulations numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. One of the largest collections ever gifted to the museum has been the game collection we received from the founder of Mayfair Games. This collection includes not only thousands of games, but important archives related to a game manufacturer and to game design and marketing. And the collection holds game prototypes which I find fascinating artifacts.

Translyvania (Transylvania) game prototype and published edition, Mayfair Games, Inc. 1981, The Strong, Rochester, New York. The name is misspelled on both the game booklet cover and the map board.

Most of the prototypes relate to Mayfair’s published games, from the early, simple Translyvania (notorious for its spelling error) to the firm’s 1991 version of Cosmic Encounter. But recently I found a non-Mayfair prototype called Heroic Adventures with a many-years-old Post-It note that said “Return to Designer.” The museum chose to honor this request if we could. But all I had was a name.

Sometimes the internet rewards those who Google. Without much stress, I found a person with that name, who worked as a game designer. I emailed the firm, explaining what we had. Not long afterwards he wrote me back, astonished that his 20 or 30-year-old prototype had survived, and grateful that we offered to send it back. In exchange he said he’d be glad to send us a first edition of his latest successful and award-winning board game. Thus, The Strong added Clank! to its collection.

Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure board game, Renegade Game Studios, 2016, The Strong, Rochester, New York. Gift of Paul Dennen. Clank! won a Mensa Select award in 2017 and was highly recommended or nominated for about 15 other awards. The game is a deck-building grab for points while exploring a dungeon. Your wooden pawn hopes to steal an artifact for more power. But a dragon—represented by a beautiful black silhouette—hunts any intruders and may find them if they stumble and make a noise like . . . Clank! Quality materials and artwork characterize the game, and now there are expansion sets, multiple specialty versions, and different language editions. As a curator, it’s an honor to add such a gift from the game’s designer to The Strong’s holdings. The museum gains a new game , and I think we’ve also won a friend.   

The Life-Changing Magic of Sewing and Barbie

“Barbie quite simply changed my life.”

Many of us can say that, in one way or another, our experiences playing with Barbie had lasting effects on our lives. For me Barbie provided a venue for my daydreaming and storytelling. For others Barbie might have been more of a double-edged sword: inspiration that came exclusively in hourglass measurements. Carol Spencer’s life, however, would not have been the same in any way without Barbie.

Read more >

Cease-and-Desist: Don’t Mess with Tolkien

Read more >

The Play of Fortune

Read more >

Where Do The Strong’s Butterflies Come From?

The question I hear most as supervisor of live collections is, “Where do you get all these butterflies?”

Read more >

Madame Alexander: Feminism in the Doll Industry

Read more >

Revved Up and Ready to Roll: Manual-Powered Ride-On Toys

Read more >

Hunting for Treasure

Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt?

Read more >

The Coin-op Industry Legacy of ICE President Ralph Coppola

 

Read more >

Playing with Words and Images: Animals with Human Characteristics in Children’s Literature

Eva Nwokah, 2019 G. Rollie Adams Research Fellow Professor, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas  
Read more >

Charles Harrison: The Black Industrial Designer Who Revamped View-Master

Read more >

Pages