a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Nov, 2007

the problem with buying old board games

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!

I love ValVillage for the board games. But like any secondhand purchase, it’s about luck when it comes to actually finding (a) a good game and (b) you have to accept the risk that pieces might be missing. For this reason, I haven’t been brave enough to buy puzzles, but I have had good luck buying vintage games here before.

I was this close to a really great find the other night: SPIROGRAPH! I was juggling a bunch of books for the girls when I spotted a Spirograph with the same 1970s packaging from when I was a kid.

Spirograph! Now that, my friends, was a great toy. Check the wiki if you’re not sure what I’m talking about. The fact that this was the vintage version was extra amazing. (The battery-operated spirograph pen that’s out now just doesn’t have the same cache for me.)

Sadly, the box I was looking at was all torn open. I peeked inside only to see that half of the pieces were missing. Oh well.

I moved on. Another game called Bataclan caught my eye. The instructions on the back were vague. Apparently it had to do with rolling differently-sized dice and stacking them. The game is a French invention, and there was a sticker on it indicating it’d won a gold prize. I shook it, wondering if all of the dice were accounted for. Yep, it sounded like there could be 28 dice rattling around in there… 

I reread the instructions on the back of the sealed box. I still didn’t fully comprehend the rules of play but I took solice with a few little words: “complete rules inside the box.” Okay, I’ll just have to figure it out later. I bought it, and brought it home, only to find that the instructions are missing.  

I’ve Googled and come up dry, so it looks like we’re going to have to make up our own rules. If you’re familiar with this game, please let me know!

9 Responses to "the problem with buying old board games"

1 | Val

November 11th, 2007 at 11:36 am


Oh Bataclan! I’ve played that game a few times as a kid (perhaps because I’m French?). I found a website that has images showing you how to play (as well as instructions but I don’t know if you can read French):


I’ll translate some of the instructions!
Basically you give the same ammount of dices to all the players. Then the goal is to stack them. ie: if you have 1 you put #2 on it, on #2 you put #3, etc, etc. Once you reach #6 you put #1 on it and then try and go all the way to 6 again. You all take turns playing (you add a dice and then it’s the turn of the person next to you, etc, etc. Like in all board games pretty much).

The winner is the last one with a pile of dice that’s still standing (since it gets REALLY hard near the end). It’s a pretty simple game, I guess!

And ah, spirograph! I LOVED those as a kid! I actually still have mine in a box but it’s probably the 80s packaging (not “as” vintage, I guess). Have fun with your games! =)

2 | porter

November 11th, 2007 at 6:06 pm


I would love to get my daugther Spirograph, I loved my Spirograph…and my lite brite too.

3 | Jen_nifer

November 11th, 2007 at 11:04 pm


There is a non-battery operated version of Spirograph available at Zellers for around $10. I bought it for a five-year-old’s birthday this summer. Seemed smaller than the one I remember having, but definitely no batteries.

4 | Marla

November 12th, 2007 at 8:58 am


Spirograph! I loved it. So soothing! The noise of the plastic cogs going around and around and around and around…the joy I felt when I realized that an incredibly detailed all red one looked kind of cooler, like redwork empbroidery (as I know now) than the other colours – and how I DARED to get a black pen, and use it lots. it was also the first game I “found” in a mysterious dark corner of a closet, and the babysitter got all nervous, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized that maybe that was there waiting for Santa to bring it to me…

Do you think a brilliant three and a half year old would love it? Or should I wait?

Also, we play with the vintage Crazy 8 cards you gave us all the time – they’re on the table in front of me now. Steve and I have fierce games after dinner, and Josie and I have started playing.

I saw a vintage Snakes and Ladders game at Value Village, and a Candy Land – I was tempted to get them, but then I’d actually have to play them. The thing with being an only child is that board games were a torture as I was growing up. I’d get them for special occasions…and then would have nobody to play with. Then, when people would come over to play, they’d be so much better because they played more often, and I’d still be pouring over the rules. I used to just drive my little cars with the little pink and blue pegs from my game of Life around, and make up stories…

5 | MomOnTheGo

November 12th, 2007 at 10:50 am


My mom is a packrat and just brought my 30-something year old LiteBrite to me this summer. My daughter is only 3 but I’m thinking that 3.5 might be just the right age for it – or maybe I could play with it at night after she is in bed. I found a mostly complete Spirograph at a yardsale when Reid was only small and it is also waiting for her to grow just a bit more.

Reid is a lover of games already. We often play a teddy bear match game that she usually wins since she is either more organized in her thinking or pays better attention but she also likes I Spy and dominoes. I’m planning to make a Bingo game with variant 1-10, 1-20 and 1-31 since those are the numbers that she most needs right now. We’ll have to figure out the only child challenge Marla raises soon enough, I guess.

6 | Marla

November 12th, 2007 at 11:56 am


MomOnTheGo –

Josie got a hand-me-around Lite Brite sometime last year, and just now she’s really liking it (three and a half)- not following the printed dots though – just the sticking pegs in. It’s absorbing, and she likes things with lots of poking. She’s also all about making patterns in dough with different things.

(and I’m all about toys the only child can learn to enjoy herself – so Lite Brite is Good; Spirograph might be VERY GOOD; and if you haven’t tried those Woodkins yet, she loves them and is now liking them even more that I let her use scissors and paper to cut out bits for them:

She also adores her Ello set, which we found thrifted:
Though, once again, she just builds what she wants to, not according to the “instructions”

7 | b*babbler

November 12th, 2007 at 9:12 pm


Oh oh oh… the spirograph! This was my very favorite toy when I was growing up. Oh the memories..

Hmm… ebay?!

8 | Cindy D.

November 13th, 2007 at 12:03 pm


My guys pulled out Monopoly this weekend and what a blast it has been to teach them how to play.

We recently bought Stratego at the Goodwill, but before I bought it, I asked about pieces. The clerk said they check the games and only sell them if they have all the pieces AND the instructions. We got it for $3 and have had fun with it, too.

9 | jennie

November 13th, 2007 at 1:15 pm


when I was a girl my neighbor Scott and I used to play with his spirograph in the basement of his house – which was next to the freezer where his mom hid the twinkies. double-pleasure.

I’d love to have another spirograph. I wonder if I’d let the kids play with it, or just keep it for myself.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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