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Children playing Operation
|Players||1 or more|
|Age range||6 to adult|
|Playing time||10 min|
Operation is a battery-operated game of physical skill that tests players' hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Originally made by Milton Bradley, and currently made by Hasbro, it has been in production since 1965, the year in which the game was invented by John Spinello.
The game is a variant on the old-fashioned electrified wire loop game popular at funfairs and flammer stores around the United States. It consists of an "operating table", lithographed with a comic likeness of a patient (nicknamed "Cavity Sam") with a large red lightbulb for his nose. In the surface are a number of openings, which reveal fictional and humorously named ailments made of white plastic.
"Operation" includes two sets of cards: The Specialist cards are dealt out evenly amongst the players at the beginning of the game.
In the US Version of the game, Players take turns picking Doctor cards, which offer a cash payment for removing each particular ailment, using a pair of tweezers connected with wire to the board. Successfully removing the ailment is rewarded according to the dollar amount shown on the card. However, if the tweezers touch the metal edge of the opening (i.e., closing the circuit) during the attempt, a buzzer sounds, Sam's nose lights up red, and the player loses the turn. The player holding the Specialist card for that piece then has a try, getting double the fee if he or she succeeds.
The UK version of the game is played similarly, however there is no payment for successfully removing the pieces and score is kept based on the number of pieces each player has successfully removed.
Since there will be times when the player drawing a certain Doctor card also holds the matching Specialist card, that player can purposely botch the first attempt in order to succeed on the second try for double value.
In the US version of the game, the winner is the player with the most money after all the pieces have been extracted. In the UK version, the winner is the player with the most successfully extracted pieces.
The game can be difficult, due to the shapes of the plastic ailments and the fact the openings are barely larger than the pieces themselves.
- Adam's Apple: an apple in the throat. The Adam's apple is a colloquial term referring to the thyroid cartilage surrounding the larynx that becomes more visually prominent during puberty. (100 points)
- Broken Heart: a heart shape with a crack through it on the right side of the chest. The phrase "broken heart" refers to an emotional feeling in which someone is very sad for a reason such as a breakup with a romantic partner. (100 points)
- Wrenched Ankle: a wrench in the right ankle. The name is an alternative term for a sprained ankle. (100 points)
- Butterflies in Stomach: a large butterfly in the middle of the torso. The name comes from the feeling in the stomach when nervous, excited or afraid. (100 points)
- Spare Ribs: two ribs fused together as one piece. "Spare Ribs" are a cut of meat or a dish prepared from that cut. (150 points)
- Water on the Knee: a pail of water in the knee; colloquialism for fluid accumulation around the knee joint. (150 points)
- Funny Bone: a play on the anatomical name for the upper arm bone (the humerus), and a reference to the colloquial name of the ulnar nerve. (200 points)
- Charley Horse: a small horse resting near the hip joint; a play on the real charley horse, which is a sudden cramp in the leg or foot that can be cured by massage or stretching. (200 points)
- Writer's Cramp: a pencil in the forearm; refers to the real writer's cramp, which is a soreness in the wrist that can be cured by resting it. (200 points)
- The Ankle Bone Connected to the Knee Bone: This is not a plastic piece, but rather a rubber band that must be stretched between two pegs at the left ankle and knee. The name is taken from the African American spiritual "Dem Bones." (200 points)
- Wish Bone: located on the left side of the chest. A wish bone is a chicken bone traditionally used by two people for making a wish. (300 points)
- Bread Basket: a very small slice of bread, with only a small notch taken out of the top for grip. The word "breadbasket" is slang for the stomach. (1,000 points)
- Brain Freeze: an ice-cream cone located in the brain; refers to the experience of "brain freeze", a headache felt after eating frozen desserts and iced drinks too quickly.
Brain Freeze was added in 2004, when Milton Bradley allowed fans a chance to vote on a new piece to be added to the original game during the previous year. Voters were given three choices and could make their selection via the company's official website or by phone for a chance to win a $5,000 shopping spree. The winning piece beat out tennis elbow and growling stomach.
The 1964-1965 Saturday morning children's game show Shenanigans had a life sized, three-dimensional Operation game as one of its challenges.
Aside from the traditional board game version, Milton Bradley also produced a hand-held version which had a screen in Sam's tummy.
This also had a PC game produced in 1998.
In 2002, a brain surgery version was released, requiring the player to pull pieces out of a wisecracking Cavity Sam's head, within 15 seconds. Sam's nose lights up after time runs out.
In May 2004, a Shrek version of the game was released.
2005 saw the release of a Simpsons version of the game, featuring a talking Homer Simpson being operated on by doctors Julius Hibbert and Nick Riviera. Items in the game include Bowler's Thumb, Foot in Mouth, and Rubber Neck. When a player misses, Homer screams or says one of his trademark lines such as "D'oh! or "This is not good!".
In December 2006, a Spider-Man version was released in which the player operates on the Marvel comic hero, Spider-Man.
Later in 2007, Hasbro released a different version of the original game called, "OPERATION Rescue Kit". Here you play four different timed games with three skill levels. Each skill level reduces the starting amount of time. Cavity Sam now has a heart monitor, and you can even pump oxygen into him to gain more time.
In early 2008, Hasbro released an Incredible Hulk edition of the game to promote The Incredible Hulk movie.
In August 2008, Hasbro released a "Silly Skill Game" version which features 13 different sound effects for each of the different parts. Here the winner of the game is the player who removes most parts successfully.
A Doctor Who version of the game was released in Great Britain, where players get to "operate" on a Dalek in order to (from the product description) "make it strong enough to take over the world. But be careful... if you damage it'll quickly tell you with one of its terrifying phrases! Whether it's the Targeting Sensor that you need to operate on, or the Manipulator Arm, you'll need a steady hand and nerves of steel!"
In 2010, Hasbro released a Toy Story 3 version featuring Buzz Lightyear instead of the classic patient. This followed the release of Toy Story 3 into theaters.
In 2010 Hasbro also released an Iron Man version of the game.
In 2011, Hasbro made a Cars 2 edition including Mater the tow truck.
On The Hub's television game show Family Game Night hosted by Todd Newton, a segment called Operation Relay is played, where two families compete one after the other. Family members take turns pulling pieces out of an oversized Operation gameboard, and then running through an obstacle course to eventually place them in a container at the end of the course. If a player fails to pull a piece without touching the side, or drops it while going through the obstacle course, they must move to the back of the line, and it's the next person's turn. Each piece is worth a specific amount of points, and whichever team has earned the highest score when time expires wins. Also on the show is Operation Sam Dunk, in which families play skee ball to collect the most points possible. Each family gets two turns and the team with the highest score wins the game. For the show's third season, Operation is introduced, in which one family can win money for a shopping spree by removing pieces to earn up to four rolls and then play skee ball in a same manner as in Operation Sam Dunk.