Operation, is the dexterity game in which you must extract body parts from a hapless patient. If you are sloppy, the patient’s pain is indicated by a sudden buzzer, and a nose that lights up red. What is the story of this game spanning 40+ years!
Operation began in 1965. The original game was marketed by Milton Bradley, it was originally invented in 1962 by John Spinello. The original prototype was a steel block with holes in it and a probe. It was called Death Valley. Ultimately the game added removable pieces and was changed to “Operation” as the official name. John Spinello never truly got the credit he deserved for the game by the toy company, but if you look up the US patents for the game and the idea, he is proudly listed as the man with the original idea on the patent.
The game is a spin-off on the old-fashioned wire loop electric game popular at fun-fairs. The game consists of an “operating table”, lithographed with a comic likeness of a patient (“Cavity Sam”) with a large, red rubber coated light-bulb for his nose. In the surface are a number of openings, which reveal fictional and humorously-named ailments made of white poly-plastic.
There are two sets of cards: Doctor and Specialist cards. The Specialist cards are dealt out evenly among the players at the beginning of the game.Players take turns to pick Doctor cards, which offer a cash reward for removing a particular ailment, using a pair of tweezers connected with wire to the board. If a player successfully removes the ailment then they’ll win the amount shown on their card. However, if the tweezers touch the metal edge of the opening during the attempt (closing the circuit), a buzzer sounds, the patient’s nose lights up red, and the player loses their turn. The player holding the Specialist card for that piece then has a try, getting double points if they succeed. The winner is the player with the most money after all the pieces have been extracted. The game can be challenging, due to the shapes of the plastic ailments, and the fact the openings are scarcely larger than the ailments themselves.
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