• magisterrex Retro Games


    I've been gaming since the days of Pong and still own a working Atari 2600. I tend to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. Sometimes I digress. Decades after earning it, I'm finally putting the skills I learned while completing my history degree from the University of Victoria to good use. Or so I think. If you're into classic old school gaming, this blog is for you!

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    Got a game or product you want reviewed? Send me an email! Will review board games, PC games, video games and accessories (Xbox 360 or Wii, but also new releases for classic systems - you know who you are!)
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Board Game Companies We Have Known – Waddingtons House of Games

The rise and fall of Waddingtons House of Games is an interesting story within the board games industry.  It all began in 1893, when John Waddington and Wilson Barratt founded Waddingtons Limited, a small publishing company.  The company originally focused on publications for the theater, however, over the years they expanded into many other avenues, and grew as a result.  The company name was changed to John Waddington Ltd in 1905, and its founder and namesake resigned his position in 1913.  (The company was then headed by Victor Hugo Watson, and the Watson family helmed it for the remainder of its existence.)  For years the Waddingtons chugged along with moderate success, but its fortunes changed in the aftermath of World War I, when it capitalized on the subsequent demand for playing cards.

Wills Capstan and Waddington Ltd Promo cards

Playing cards were quite the rage in Britain, and John Waddington Ltd. was a major player.  They entered into distribution agreements with other firms to cross-merchandise their product, including the Great Western Railway company, which they tapped to subsidize their scenic vistas of Britain card series dubbed, “Beautiful Britain” (which debuted in 1924). Even more successful was their agreement with W.D. & H.O. Wills, the British cigarette manufacturer (and one of the companies which founded Imperial Tobacco, but I digress…).  Waddington provided small playing cards which were inserted into 1/10 of Wills Gold Flake and Wills Capstan cigarette packages.  These cards enabled the bearer to receive another pack.  The scheme was very successful, and a huge profit center for Waddington Ltd.  So successful, in fact, that the company had to enlist the aid of their competitor, De La Rue, for additional inventory.

The first Waddington Ltd. U.K. Monopoly

The real moneymaker came in 1935, when Parker Brothers sent over a copy of Monopoly and asked if Waddington Ltd was interested in distributing the game in the U.K.   After a very brief playtest, representatives of Waddington Ltd. contacted those of Parker Brothers and quickly hammered out a licensing agreement which was extremely lucrative for the company’s coffers.  Recognizing a good thing when they saw it, the company purchased the rights to the game, Cluedo in 1947 from its inventor, Anthony E. Pratt.  They sold the American publication rights to Parker Brothers in 1949, again lining the corporate coffers.

Cluedo? by Waddington Ltd

It was clear to the company that board games made money, and they eventually changed the company’s name to Waddingtons House of Games.  Some of the games they published were Ratrace, 4000 A.D., Diplomacy, Game of Nations, Escape From Atlantis, Land Grab, and Lexicon, to name just a few.  But the House of Games didn’t just publish games – Waddingtons manufactured puzzles, stationary – even postage stamps.  Clearly business was booming.

Most Secret letter to Waddington Ltd from MI-9

An interesting anecdote that involves Nazis, Waddingtons, and prisoners of war (POW): in 1941, MI-9, the division of the British Secret Service responsible for POW-related intelligence, enlisted the aid of Waddington Ltd and its advanced manufacturing facilities.  MI-9 needed to send aid to British citizens in Nazi POW camps, and Waddington Ltd possessed the ability to print on silk, which enabled a plan to send escape maps hidden inside Monopoly games.  The company went even further than what MI-9 expected, managing to include a small compass hidden either inside the game board or within a game piece, and actual currency hidden within the stacks of play money.  It is not known how many POWs managed to escape the Nazis because of Waddington Ltd, but surely there must have been a few.

A Waddington Ltd. silk map sent to POWs

So what happened to this patriotic, well-respected game company?  The grandson of Victor Hugo Watson, and namesake, Victor Watson, retired in 1993.  The Watsons had saved the company in times of crisis, from general strikes to hostile takeovers, but it was the end of an age.  In 1994, Hasbro pulled out their giant corporate wallet and purchased the games division of Waddingtons for $78 million, as they had done to Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers before them, and the House of Games was no more.


Waddingtons commercial for Key to the Kingdom (Cheese Alert!)

May Free Board Game Rules Database Update

The free download board games rules database at magisterrex.com has grown again.  That’s right, there’s no charge for downloading these game instructions, which now includes hard to find rules for The Game of Life (1977), Key to the KingdomThe Bigfoot Game, Clue Master Detective, and Road Hog (1975).

Just click on the image below to browse the selection available!

FREE Board Game Rules

Catalog Cavalcade: Tandy 1982 TRS-80 Program Catalog

Have you ever found an old sales catalog from a year long since departed that filled you with nostalgia for the way things used to be?  Me, too!  This week’s Catalog Cavalcade features a Tandy (Radio Shack) TRS-80 software catalog from 1982.  Marvel at the artwork and the breadth of the the software lineup that Tandy offered for their signature computer system!

Click on the Image to View the Catalog

Catalog Cavalcade: C64/C128 Products from 1986-87

Have you ever found an old sales catalog from a year long since departed that filled you with nostalgia for the way things used to be?  Me, too!  And in that vein, a new series debuts here at Recycled Thoughts: Catalog Cavalcade, with .pdf versions of product catalogs for retrogaming goodies that have long since receded into the dim mists of yesterday.  Up first, a Triton Products Company catalog filled with games and gear for the Commodore 64.  Revel in the memories of classic C64 games with this 1986-87 offering!

Click on the cover to browse this catalog.

Rare Retrogaming Manuals: Super Expander (VIC 1211)

The older the tech is the less likely the owner’s manual was kept for it, and even less likely that one could be found.  One such piece of retro tech would be the Super Expander for the Commodore VIC-20 computer, a complex little 3K RAM memory expansion cartridge that is often found bereft of instructions for maximizing its potential.  Fear not!  Just click on the image of the cover, and download the manual (in .pdf format) for yourself…free of charge, of course!

Click on this image for the VIC-1211 Super Expander instruction manual.

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