Sometimes a game achieves a level of popularity based on its elegantly simplistic design rather than the inclusion of a vast array of game elements and a complicated game mechanic. There is a potent allure to simplicity and the ability to play a game without devouring a novella-sized rule book prior to sitting the family around the table for some quality family gaming time. Such a game is the board game which has seen multiple publishers and variants, Aggravation.
Aggravation is a fairly simple game 2 to 6 players to play. Each player is given four marbles (there are six sets of different colored marbles, each player chooses one set all of the same color), and attempts to bring all their marbles around the game path from their base to the finish. There are shortcuts on the path which can sometimes improve marble position, and with a lucky roll of the die, players can also “aggravate” each other when one marble lands on another, sending the original back to its home base. If you think this sounds suspiciously like akin to Sorry!, you’d be right. However, both games owe their creation to the ancient game of Pachisi, a game from India that can be traced back to as far as 4 A.D. Fascinating Footnote: Pachisi was possibly developed to entertain the ladies of the harem, in between visits of the King. Or to put it in a less politically correct way: scantily clad hotties slinging dice awaiting the whims of their husband. But I digress…
A number of companies have published Aggravation variants over the years since its original release. In the 1960s, the CO-5 Company, which not only published the original version, also published the Deluxe Party Edition. The 1970s saw Aggravation published by Lakeside Industries (a division of Leisure Dynamics), including Deluxe, Original, and Split-Level versions. The 1980s saw three companies publish Aggravation: Lakeside Industries (Travel Aggravation in 1980 and Super Aggravation in 1984), Selchow & Righter (The Original Deluxe Aggravation in 1987, published in Canada by Irwin Toy), and Milton Bradley (Aggravation in 1989). Milton Bradley was the lone Aggravation publisher in the 1990s, with a release of the game in 1999, and the new century has seen Parker Brothers (now a division of Hasbro, Inc.) release an Aggravation game in 2002. Clearly there has been a stable market for this family-friendly board game, and no doubt a new release will come this decade to add to the stable of Aggravation games.
The game board for Aggravation has changed over the years. Up to this century, Aggravation used a symmetrical game path for all players, with all players spaces being of equal size and spacing. Hasbro, however, has recently altered this game board standard. Recent Aggravation games have used asymmetrical game boards, with equal marble spaces and uneven distances (which do not affect game play). Perhaps the Hasbro designers reached into the distant past of Central America for a game so akin to Pachisi that it was used as evidence of ancient travel between the continents: Patolli. Or perhaps not.
Will the game remain the same in its next incarnation or will Hasbro (or perhaps yet another game company) find another variation for Aggravation to explore? The Magic 8-Ball says, “Reply hazy, try again.” Whatever the future holds for Aggravation, its continuing popularity confirms its place on the Best Classic Board Games list. If you’re looking for a family-friendly game that is quick to learn and can be played in less than an hour, Aggravation is for you!