Saturday, October 2, 2010

Battling Tops

If you're part of the baby boomer generation (like me), you likely remember a host of games from the seventies by Milton-Bradley, Mattel and Ideal such as Battleship, Don't Spill the Beans, Ants in the Pants and Ker Plunk! These games tended to feature some kind of gimmick; a plastic case containing a grid full of ships and pegs, a large pot on a swivel that you filled with beans, a plastic pair of pants into which you flicked colorful plastic ants or a transparent plastic tube full of holes into which you stuck colourful straws, atop which you piled marbles and then proceeded to pull out the straws one-by-one trying not to drop any of the marbles. These "games" were essentially built around interesting toys and very much targeted at younger kids. One of the most memorable, for me, was a weird little game called Battling Tops by Ideal.

Battling Tops was a game for two to four players that featured a circular, slightly concave arena with four gates or corrals at the top, bottom and sides. Each gate or corral belonged to one of the players, who would wind a little plastic top into it using a string with a finger-loop at one end. A quick yank of the loop would unwind the string and send the player's top spinning out of its corral and into the arena, where all four tops would collide and bounce off each other. Eventually, of course, the tops would lose their momentum and fall over. The last top left spinning was declared the winner. Each top bore a sticker eblazoned with a funny moniker such as "Hurricane Hank", "Dizzy Dan" and "Twirling Tim".

This sort of game provided endless hours of entertainment to one as easily amused and as transfixed with spinning objects and buttons and gadgets as I. Once in a rare while a collision between two or more of the tops would pop one up into the air and right out of the arena (I recall the TV commercial for the game showing just such an occurrence). But I recall one incident in particular that was so bizarre that I wouldn't believe it myself if someone related the tale to me, yet I swear that I am absolutely not making this up (® and TM Dave Barry Enterprises, inc.)

One evening, while playing Battling Tops with my sister, my mom and my dad (yes, back in those days, families actually played games together sometimes) my hapless top did get knocked out of the arena, just as described above. Surprisingly, it landed upright on the table, outside of the arena, still spinning.

Amused, I decided to let it go and continued to watch it. As it shimmied slowly across the table, its base hit a seam (this was one of those extendable tables, you see) which caused it to pop up into the air, right back into the arena, where it landed, still spinning! The moment this happened, the other three tops, which were also still going, converged on the upstart survivor, as if to punish it for its audacity, mercilessly beating it to the ground. My top didn't win, but it sure did try!


Tubes said...

I used to love that game! Always wanted to be Hurricane Hank.

Tubes said...

They have BeyBlades now which are kind of the same thing....

Halmanator said...

In fact, Mattel re-released the game in 2003.

From the box cover picture, though, it seems that they've dropped the cute name stickers. That's a shame, in my humble opinion. They gave the game character. You said yourself that you always wanted "Hurricane Hank". Can you see yourself arguing over who gets "the spiral one"?

Rob said...

Oddly enough, Ker-Plunk is the only one I recall from said decade. And remember, I'm older than you, too! 16 October 2010 20:19 EDT - Rob