A great board game from the late 1980's, Huggermugger (for the definition of the word, see Hugger-mugger) is now nearly impossible to find. My theory is that the market for such a game was extremely tiny, as it is quite mentally challenging for a board game and can be very time-consuming to boot. To make it easier and faster, divide into teams.

The premise of the game is simple -- reveal the "mystery word." How this is done is rather complicated. The mystery word can be up to six letters long. The game comes with a playing board, four playing pieces, a huge (a la Trivial Pursuit) deck of challenge cards, and a cardboard spinner. The spinner has two purposes; it has a small plasic spinner that is used during play to randomize the number of moves a player can make on the board, and it has a large spinner that allows one to choose the "mystery word" (by number) for the current game. The six characters of the mystery word are obscured by small cardboard discs, which can be individually moved out of the way one at a time to reveal the letters. If the word is less than six letters long, the last character(s) will be blank.

The playing board is somewhat simple. Basically, there are six goal zones that allow a player to reveal mystery letters. In order to get to a goal zone, the player must spin the spinner and make "n" amount of moves on the board. In most cases it takes several spins to get to a goal, but a single turn can consist of an unlimited amount of spins depending on how bright the player is. There are various tiles that a player will encounter on their journey, each corresponding to a different type of challenge. They are as follows:

  • The "Bee" tile is a spelling challenge. When a player lands on this tile, they will be prompted to spell a word. There are no hard-written rules on whether the word can be written on paper first, so this must be decided ahead of time. The player must figure it out within one minute, which is timed by an hourglass. Some words are reasonably easy to spell (like "cabana") whereas others are more challenging (such as "poinsettia" and "rotisserie").
  • The "Key" tile is a definition challenge. Another player will read a word and three possible definitions. Some words are very easy, others seem almost nonsensical, beyond SAT vocabulary. The multiple choices are usually set up to be rather tricky, making it difficult to reason out or guess a definition.
  • The "Soup" tile is an anagram challenge. The player has one minute to unscramble a word. The word is usually around six letters long. Some are easy, some are hard. It can be really difficult if the word is obscure, like "repine." The trick is reasoning out the first letter, then the rest usually comes easily.
  • The "Horseshoe" tile is a somewhat random challenge. Sometimes it might be a lame sports question, often it is something to the effect of "name 10 words that rhyme with, begin with, or include the following letters" (in one minute). Another example is "write down 12 words using letters in the word 'carriage'". Sometimes it's a fill-in-the-blank quote, like "No rose without a _______." The difficulty varies wildly.
  • The "Frog" tile allows the player to spin again without having to participate in a challenge.

A player can continue to move around the board until they've failed to correctly answer a challenge. When a player reaches a goal zone, they get to pick a "Bee," "Key," "Soup," or "Horseshoe" challenge. If they get it right, they are allowed to reveal and write down the corresponding "mystery letter," and can resume playing until they get something wrong. If they get it wrong, they stay on the tile, but don't get to see the "mystery letter." When their next turn comes around, they cannot simply retrace their steps back to the goal zone in one move. Once a player feels confident that they know what the word is, they can announce it, but if they are wrong (only the guesser gets to see the revealed word, after announcing the guess out loud), they are out of the game.

Describing the game in detail is quite difficult, but let me say that after two hours of this, my brain felt quite "exercised." I felt like I had mentally energized myself, and spent the rest of the night coming up with one seemingly creative and hilarious idea after another. I also found myself discussing the ramifications of the passing of a "Patient's Bill of Rights" on the healthcare industry, although that could have more to do with the fact that I work for a downsizing HMO... Although I do like to think about and discuss meaningful and significant things, it really felt like playing the game set something off in my mind for the rest of the night. The neurons came alive and danced in the way that they do after finishing a good book. Weird.

Huggermugger is quite hard to find, as mentioned earlier. Your best bet is eBay. And don't you dare bid on that "Adult" version that's up there (as of 6/28/2001)...it's mine, damnit!

Update: I got Huggermugger on 7/9/01 via eBay. I thought I was buying some special "X-Rated" version or something, as the title read "HOT! Huggermugger, the ADULT mystery word game." Unfortunately it's just the regular version, but I wanted it anyway...

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