Mouse Trap (game)
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Mouse Trap playing board and box.
|Players||2 - 4|
|Age range||6 +|
|Setup time||5-15 mins|
|Playing time||30 mins approx|
|Random chance||High (dice rolling game)|
|Skill(s) required||Careful finger dexterity|
Mouse Trap (originally titled Mouse Trap Game) is a board game first published by Ideal in 1963 for 2 to 4 players. The game was one of the first mass-produced, three-dimensional board games. Over the course of the game, players at first cooperate to build a working Rube Goldberg-like mouse trap. Once the mouse trap has been built, players turn against each other, attempting to trap opponents' mouse-shaped game pieces.
The basic premise of the game has been consistent throughout the game's history. However, the turn-based gameplay has changed somewhat over the years.
The original version, designed by Hank Kramer of Ideal Toy Company, allowed the players almost no decision-making, in keeping with other games for very young children such as Candyland, or Chutes and Ladders (Snakes and Ladders). In the 1970s, the board game surrounding the Mouse Trap was redesigned by Sid Sackson, adding the cheese pieces and allowing the player to maneuver opponents onto the trap space.
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Each player is represented by a mouse-shaped game piece which travels along a non-continuous, roughly square-shaped path around the game board from the start to a continuous loop at the end. The path is segmented into spaces, some of which are marked with instructions, and "build" spaces that are marked simply with numbers ("2", "2-3" and "2-3-4").
A player's objective is to trap all of their opponent's mice using the game's Rube Goldberg-style mouse trap, which is built upon the board during the course of the game. The trap begins with a crank which turns a set of gears. This begins a series of stages which ends in a cage being lowered over the "cheese wheel" space on the board, which is one of six spaces in the ending loop of the game path.
Players roll the six-sided dice in turn-based play, and move their mouse the number of spaces rolled. If a player lands on a "build" space that corresponds with the number of players in the game (e.g. only "2-3-4" spaces for a four-player game), they must build the next unbuilt piece of the mouse trap, and take a piece of cheese, represented by cheese-shaped tokens. If the players reach the final loop of the board, they continue around it until the game ends; each "build" space in the loop requires a player to build two pieces of the mouse trap, and take two pieces of cheese.
Another space on the board is the "turn crank" space. Once the mouse trap is built, a player landing on one of these spaces while there is an opposing mouse on the "cheese wheel" space must turn the crank to start the mouse trap. If the mouse trap successfully runs its course (there are several stages in which the mouse trap may fail if not properly set), the cage will fall on any opposing mice on the space, and they are out of the game. If there are no opposing mice on the "cheese wheel" space, the player may trade one piece of cheese for the opportunity to choose an opponent who is not on a "safe" space and roll the die to move their mouse. One may repeat this trade as many times in a turn as they have pieces of cheese; when an opposing mouse is on the "cheese wheel" space, the crank can then be turned. Once there is only one mouse left in the game, that player wins. Other spaces require the player to move their mouse in a prescribed manner.
The mouse trap in the game has never changed in operation, though the color and shape of some pieces has been slightly modified over the years. There are several stages which form the mouse trap, and most stages are composed of multiple pieces. A 1990s ad campaign for the game involved a song which listed most of the stages of the mouse trap: "Just turn the crank, and snap the plank, and boot the marble right down the chute, now watch it roll and hit the pole, and knock the ball in the rub-a-dub tub, which hits the man into the pan. The trap is set, here comes the net! Mouse trap, I guarantee, it's the craziest trap you'll ever see."
In a proper operation, the player turns the crank, which rotates a vertical gear, connected to a horizontal gear. As that gear turns, it pushes an elastic-loaded lever until it snaps back in place, hitting a swinging boot. This causes the boot to kick over a bucket, sending a marble down a zig-zagging incline (the "rickety stairs") which feeds into a chute. This leads the marble to hit a vertical pole, at the top of which is an open hand, palm-up, which is supporting a larger ball (changed later on to a marble just like the starter one). The movement of the pole knocks the ball free to fall through a hole in its platform into a bathtub, and then through a hole in the tub onto one end of a seesaw. This launches a diver on the other end into a tub which is on the same base as the barbed pole supporting the mouse cage. The movement of the tub shakes the cage free from the top of the pole and allows it to fall.
There are several points at which the mousetrap can commonly fail. If not built level, or if kicked too hard, the marble can fall off the incline; it can also miss the chute if not properly aligned; the contact of the marble with the pole may fail to dislodge the ball above; the ball may fail to propel the diver into the tub; the movement of the tub may be insufficient to dislodge the cage; or the cage may get stuck on the barbed pole partway down.
The game designer Marvin Glass (and his company, Marvin Glass and Associates) refused to pay licensing fees or royalties to Rube Goldberg, despite Marvin acknowledging being inspired by Goldberg as well as the clear similarities between the game and a Goldberg drawing. Glass went on to develop two less well-known games based on Goldberg designs, Crazy Clock Game (released 1964) and Fish Bait (1965), neither of which credited Goldberg's influence. Elderly and near retirement, Goldberg declined to take legal action against Glass because inspiration and ideas are not intellectual property that can be protected with a copyright, trademark, or patent, and chose to sell licensing rights for his drawings to another toy company, Model Products, to help secure the rights to specific intellectual property that he owned and for which he might receive royalties.
In 2014, a new version of the game was released, incorporating characters from the Elefun and Friends universe. This game replaced the original version in retail stores, joining other Elefun and Friends banner titles Elefun, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Gator Golf.
Mouse Trap was adapted into a game show which was featured on the British children's television show Motormouth. A life-size board game was created and the child contestants took the place of the mice.
- Coopee, Todd. "Mouse Trap". ToyTales.ca.
- Hinebaugh 2009, pp. 36.
- Miller, Chuck (18 November 2010). "Ten Examples of Rube Goldberg's Influence". timesunion.com blog. Times Union. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
- Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them from Google Books
- Hinebaugh 2009, pp. 38.
- Hinebaugh, Jeffrey (2009), A Board Game Education, R&L Education, p. 221, retrieved 18 January 2013