Americans were obsessed with spy culture during the Cold War. I mean, who didn’t love James Bond? Communists, that’s who. The gosh darn Communits. Spying seeped into every aspect of pop culture in the 1960s and ’70s — from TV and movies to comic books and even board games.
Below we have a collection of 10 board games that let people of the Cold War era play out their wildest spy fantasies. Provided those spy fantasies involved some dice and maybe a pair of goofy decoder glasses.
Undercover: The Game of Secret Agents (1960)
In Undercover: The Game of Secret Agents, players went behind enemy lines to thwart their enemy, equipped with a high-tech pair of goggles. The red tinted specs allowed players to read secret coded messages and find a means of escape from the ambiguously defined enemy. It may not have been explicitly about the Soviets, but Americans knew the score.
Picture: Ebay/Board Game Geek
Spy Detector (1963)
Spy Detector was an off-shoot of Mattel’s incredibly popular Lie Detector game. Both included a blue plastic gadget that players would use to determine if the characters they were investigating were who they said they were. According to Board Game Geek, the Spy Detector version, (which was really just Lie Detector with slightly different characters and cards), didn’t sell nearly as well as Lie Detector, which would get reboots over the years into the 1980s.
Picture: Big Game Hunter
James Bond 007 Secret Agent (1965)
There’s probably no fictional spy in history more famous than James Bond. So naturally, Bond had his face plastered on everything — including this 1965 version of a 007 secret agent game by Milton Bradley.
Picture: Museum of Play
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1965)
Though largely forgotten in pop culture today, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a huge sensation on TV in the 1960s. The game itself was reportedly a pretty standard “roll and move” game. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with this series because soon you’ll see it everywhere. Hollywood is rebooting the characters this summer with a new film directed by Guy Ritchie. Even here in the early 21st century we can’t seem to get enough Cold War nostalgia.
Spy Ring (1965)
Created by British board game company Waddington’s, Spy Ring was a cult classic game in the UK where players snooped around the board collecting secrets. Spy Ring was so popular that it would get an update in the 1970s and another reboot in the 1980s.
Picture: Yesterday’s Toys
Mission Impossible (1966)
Much like James Bond, Mission Impossible was a major franchise to emerge from the Cold War era. And the 1966 version of the game was an incredibly tame (and probably painfully boring) “roll and move” where players started in one of four corners. You wouldn’t mistake yourself for a spy in this one.
Picture: Collect Toys
Super Spy (1971)
The 1971 board game Super Spy had players make their way across the board without tripping an alarm, Operation-style. The game took two D batteries and even without having actually played it, looks like it was either really cool or really dumb. There’s no in between here.
Project CIA and Project KGB (1973)
In Project CIA, players had to make their way through a building while collecting envelopes and evading detection from security. The game was a companion to Project KGB and sometimes sold together in a super pack. Unlike the CIA version, the Project KGB game involved hunting down a mole or acting as a double agent.
Picture: Board Game Geek
Milton Bradley’s 1973 board game Conspiracy hinged on your ability to bribe. Players started with $US10,000 and had to pay off spies to collect secrets. The trick was in bluffing your way through so that the other players couldn’t tell which spies you’d paid off, and making sure the spies you had paid were better off thanks to your largess, and not being paid off by the other players.
The 1975 board game Microdot was a bit like a game of capture the flag. The German version of the game appears above, complete with a badass photo of super cool espionage-based hijinks. If you played this game you might as well have been a spy because seriously that box cover alone is the coolest thing to ever appear on anything ever.
Picture: Board Game Geek