Most attempts to translate a sport into a board game fail by being overly complicated, or simply not very fun. Recently, however, I uncovered a game that offers a new twist on the game of Baseball and introduces several new twists to the traditional board game genre. The rules aren’t as complicated as they seem at first and once you figure it out, it’s quite fun to play. A little research revealed that behind the scenes of this game was a story as bizarre and unique as the game itself.
When I first came across “Griddly Headz Baseball Game” in my local thrift shop, my interest was piqued. First of all, it is enormous. Compared to most other board games it is larger, thicker and definitely heavier! It is covered with colourful graphics of cartoon baseball players and has the cryptic catchphrase “To play is not enough!” After examining the box and discovering a Canadian manufacturer, I brought the game home with me.
Opening the box I was not disappointed. The inside is as unique as the outside. The object of the game is wholly unique – to strip baseball players of their uniforms! The game board is a large plastic structure, with plastic storage drawers around the outside and a “pit” in the centre of the game surface for containing frantically rolled dice. Each player chooses one of four colours and gets six sculpted pieces based on the cartoon characters on the box. Each player also gets a plastic bat, dice and a foam puzzle. Each puzzle forms one player on the team. Play consists of travelling around the board, choosing cards, and trying to steal parts of other players’ uniform puzzle. You win by scoring 10 runs or by eliminating players by stripping their puzzles of uniforms. Each character piece has its own set of unique rules to follow.
The game was produced by Headz Games International out of Richmond B.C. It was produced in Baseball, Football, Hockey and Nascar Racing (!) versions. Retailers initially seemed keen on giving the game a try, and the company made plans to expand. By 2006, the two year old company was making news with plans to build an entire factory in Nova Scotia dedicated to produce the Griddly Headz! But the next year, Headz Games International filed for bankruptcy, owing over $5M to various investors and creditors. In a cart-before-the-horse scenario, Headz Games was trying to ramp up production without any new orders, and the games simply weren’t selling that well.
One of those investors was Reisa Schwartzman. She was convinced to invest in the rapidly rising board game company, and after its bankruptcy discovered the only asset remaining was the intellectual property of the games themselves. Schwartzman, an astute businesswoman, decided rather than simply losing her investment, she would try her hand at the highly competitive toy market. She formed Griddly Games and took a more measured and conservative approach to producing and selling the Griddley Headz board games.
Ten years later, Griddly Games is going strong. Adeptly adapting to the market, their offerings now include a variety of fun, hands on STEM-focused science activities, like Just Add Sun, Just Add Milk, and Just Add Glue. Sadly, the Griddly Headz board games seem to be discontinued, but on their website, you can still spot some of the characters on their Wise Alec trivia game Sports Buff pack.
Chris Weston is a teacher in Hamilton, Ontario and founder of The Hamilton Toy Museum.