Since we’re a month away from The Oscars, I thought I’d do a series on movies that should be made into games. A fortuitous (?) typo gave me a more tabletoppy title, so I’m sticking with it.
We’ve covered plenty of cinematic games here at the DWP; Sean J recently wrote about five tabletop games that should be given the big-screen treatment (even if we’re all watching on tablets right now).
Which has led me to ask myself: if I had Prospero Hall’s ear, and the money to pay for their time, which movies would I commission them to boardgamify? This week I’ll focus on American movies from the era when the major studios reigned supreme, leading up to just after the end of WW2.
This is a time when Hollywood product was at its most stylized and sanitized. Not to mention misogynist and racist. Which is why in the weeks to come I’ll be focusing on movies from other countries, times, and sensibilities. But for now, put on some popcorn, charge yourself $15 for it, and consider these pitches (in chronological order):
At his peak, (1930 – 1943) choreographer Berkeley became synonymous with gloriously kaleidoscopic dance numbers, often shot from above, in movies such as Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, and 42nd Street. In Busby Berkeley: TCG players attempt to recreate his geometric staging using mechanics similar to Lotus but with more options for set-collection.
Based on John Steinbeck’s novel about an impoverished Oakie family dealing with Dustbowl poverty and Depression, the themes of Grapes of Wrath are timelier than ever given current issues in agriculture and income inequality. I’m imagining a co-op game that combines Lost Expedition-style play representing the Joad family’s trek to California mixed with This War of Mine’s action selection (and perhaps paragraph-driven narrative).
Although there have been a smattering of games with Casablancan themes none has really taken on its plot. There is so much potential for gameplay here given the ambiguity of the main characters’ motivations (famously a result of the last-minute writing of the script by the Epstein brothers). Is Ilsa going to stay with Rick or leave with Victor? Will Renault sell out his friends to Streicher and his Nazi goons? And can Rick maintain his cynical neutrality as the shadow of war looms closer? In the centre of the Venn diagram of Fog of Love, The Resistance (literally!) and Fiasco there must be a niche for Casablanca (the game).
Another Humphrey Bogart classic, this time co-starring with Walter Huston, Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the ur-text that influenced dozens of split-the-loot movies (ie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)–and games (see Ca$h and Gun$). But the plot of this movie dictates a two-act structure, the first of which is more suited to something like Incan Gold, and a second semi-co-op act covering the players’ trek back to the city to sell off their gold.
By the late 40s the gangster movie (in its first incarnation, anyway) was practically old hat, and White Heat is arguably the last classic of the genre. Its over-the-top action and violence is epitomized by Jimmy Cagney’s anguished cry of “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” before blowing himself up. The White Heat game would recreate the heist at the chemical plant that serves as the movie’s climax. One player takes the role of Cagney’s psychotic Cody, one plays his ambitious second-in-command “Big Ed”, one plays undercover cop Hank Fallon (who’s earned Cody’s trust in prison), and one plays the police. Cody wins if he survives and escapes; Big Ed wins if he survives and both Cody and Hank die; Hank wins if Cody and Big Ed survive and are arrested; and the police win if Hank survives and both Cody and Big Ed either die or are arrested. I see a combination of Bang! and Good Cop Bad Cop.
Honorable mention: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
There are a dozen or so boardgame adaptations, including one which is a re-theme of Ravensburger classic The Enchanted Forest, but none which come close to doing justice to the movie, let alone the original book series. Come on, folks! This is low-hanging fruit!
All movie poster graphics courtesy of imdb.com.
Thanks to Claire S. for inspiring this article, series idea, and…everything.