Synopsis of Toy

“A minute to learn…a lifetime to master.”

Next time you're debating the flat tax or whether it’s finally time to re-seed the lawn and your chat mate tells you "it’s not that black and white,” try doing this: respond that actually, it is that black and white. Then whip out your Pocket Othello game and challenge him or her to an impromptu match. You’ll probably win (because your chat partner will be caught off-guard). And there won't be any hard feelings (because everybody’s day is a little bit brighter after an impromptu pocket game match—even if you happen to lose).

It has been said that Othello’s game roots are English—that around 1880, a little ditty called the Game of Annexation was played in British parlors and pubs. But it eventually crossed the Atlantic, and in 1976, the Gabriel toy company brought it to the toy store shelves. Othello is a two-player pastime, and like the tagline on the box says, it really is easy to learn…but when you're pitted against a worthy opponent, it can be deceptively complex.

The Othello game board, in all its casino-reminiscent bright green felt glory, has sixty-four squares, plus spaces on each side for the discs. One player is “black” and one is “white,” and each gets thirty-two of these little guys—which are black on one side and white on the other. The game starts with a disc of each color at the center of the board, and from there on out, players take turns placing discs so as to “outflank” their opponent. And outflanking isn’t as trickily militaristic as it sounds…when you have positioned a disc of your color at either end of an opponent’s disc (or row of discs), you’ve outflanked him. The outflanked disc or discs located between your two pieces are flipped over, and now, since they’re your color, they belong to you.

The nice (or frustrating, depending on who’s outflanking whom) thing about Othello is that the board can change drastically from one turn to the next. When your color comfortably dominates the board and you start thinking about the second piece of apple pie you plan on celebrating your triumph with…that’s when your worthy opponent makes a move that causes a seeming wave of your discs to flip over. Pie's deferred, and there might just be a little humiliation a-comin' in its place.

A pocket version of the board game was issued, notable for its clever box artwork: the backside of a nice-looking couple in a nice little bucolic setting, apparently en route to a little afternoon picnic. But winking out of the woman’s back pocket is the mini Othello box...which means the charms of your picnic mate and the charms of Mother Nature are soon to be forgotten. Once it’s game time, there’s no time for pretty scenery-watching. And right below the artwork is a warning. “Be advised,” it read formidably, “Othello may be habit-forming. We strongly urge you to eat and sleep between games.” Kudos to the marketing department for that one—since an odd genetic quirk has long dictated that humans do exactly what printed warnings instruct us not to do, hours of Othello were handily assured.

Release History of Toy

1976 - Othello

Sub Categories of Toys

board games

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