By the time Bonkers! debuted in 1978, Parker Brothers had already released a veritable bonanza of board games, such as Masterpiece: The Art Auction Game, The Inventors, and Gambler. True to form, Bonkers! would go on to be another classic childhood memory for many gamers.
Bonkers! was actually titled, “This Game Is Bonkers!” and it certainly was. The game board consisted of a circular track with spaces designed to fit the small Track Cards beside them. These cards were comprised of “Ahead” and “Back” cards, with two of each number from 1 to 6, 10, and 12, as well as 2 each of “Go to Nearest Score”, “Roll Again”, “Go to Start”, and “Exchange Cards”. Players were dealt four of these and then given a special “Go to Lose” card before play began, rolled the dice, and moved their token accordingly. When the player landed on a space with an empty Track Card slot, they placed a Track Card on it. However, if the slot was already full, the player followed what the card said. (For example, “Ahead 3” meant moving the token ahead three spaces.) This process continued until the player either landed on another unmarked space or on one of the point total modifying spaces (“Score” to gain a point; “Lose” to deduct a point.) The first player to get to 12 points won the game! Sound chaotic? Why do you think they called it, “This Game Is Bonkers!”?
It truly was a rare game that jumped ship from one of the colossi of the board game industry to the other, but Bonkers! was the exception to the rule. Between its original debut by Parker Brothers in 1978, the rights to Bonkers! were transferred to Milton Bradley, and they published an updated version in 1990. Nothing changed in gameplay, but the overall graphic motif was altered from a disco-esque, “That 70’s Show” feel to a bright and bubbly, cartoon-like look. This motif manifested in the box art and game pieces, and it’s really only a matter of taste for which version looks better than the other…or if you’re a Parker Brothers partisan or a myopic Milton Bradley enthusiast.
In the end, the charm of playing Bonkers! lies in the random nature of its gameplay. As the game box promised, “It’s never the same game twice!”…and it didn’t lie. Between dice rolls and laying down the Track Cards, players could expect that the strategy that worked so well the last game they played simply wouldn’t the next. For 2 to 4 players ages 8 and up, Bonkers! is yet another fun classic game well worth picking up and playing!