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Elvis Presley-Themes Board Games Mostly Hit Sour Notes

by Michael Barnes (08/20/12).

The Elvis Monopoly “75th Anniversary Edition” is definitely a “fruitcake” gift.

Last Week, on Aug. 16, it marked the 35th anniversary of the death of Elvis Aaron Presley, one of the most iconic public figures of the 20th century. His legacy in not only music, but also in the larger canon of pop culture is immense, vast and pervasive—year in and year out, with or without The King’s physical presence in the material world. Among the countless pieces of Elvis memorabilia that this sneering, hip-shaking Mississippi country boy precipitated are, of course, a couple of board games. But are they Jailhouse Rockin’ or Clambakin’?

As with most pop culture board games—particularly those geared toward mainstream-swimming teenagers and nostalgic collectors more interested in representation than quality—the answer unfortunately tends toward the latter. Pop stars ranging from Justin Bieber to Duran Duran to MC Hammer have been the subject of terrible games, and the templates seem to be simple trivia games and basic roll-and-move games with plenty of “fan service” elements. No one, to my knowledge, has ever attempted to make a serious strategy or hobby market game about the life or career of a celebrity, and Elvis is no exception. It’s easier to simply put The King on a Monopoly board and sell it to collectors, who likely don’t care about the quality or novelty of the gameplay.

In addition to a sort of gray market, not-quite-official Elvisopoly published in the 1980s, USAopoly (a company that will make a Monopoly game out of practically anything) has issued two separate Elvis Monopoly games. One was a 2003 “25th Anniversary Edition” and the other a 2010 “75th Anniversary Edition.” Doing the math, the earlier game seems to be commemorating his death, the later his birth. Both are little more than standard Monopoly games with Elvis graphics and the properties retitled to match events, places and other content geared toward tickling the fancy of Elvis fans and collectors.

Apparently, based on the look of the Elvis Welcomes You to His World board game, Elvis’ world is a psychedelic guitar.

The Elvis Monopoly games, like many other novelty editions of Parker Brothers’ venerable classic, are typically sold around the holidays or in gift shops. This is mainly because they are primarily purchased as presents. This means that these kinds of games don’t tend to hold much value because there are usually lots of them made, they’re fairly easy to find in the aftermarket, and—quite frankly—no one really wants them apart from completionist collectors. That said, the value range for these Elvis Monopoly games can range anywhere from 50 cents at a yard sale or thrift store to $40-$50 at retail.

But if Monopoly isn’t your game, there are also Elvis editions of Uno and Yahtzee, printed in 2000 and 2009, respectively. The Yahtzee game is subtitled “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” I wish that I were joking. Of course, what exactly matching colored cards or rolling dice to make sets has to do with Elvis is open to debate. Trivia games and DVD games are also out there, none of which are of note from a value or gameplay perspective. Not even the authoritative and definitive-sounding Elvis: The Game.

The Elvis Presley King of Rock Game, made by the King of Rock Game Company, of course.

Slightly more interesting—but still most likely not any good—are a couple of games published in the late 1970s, right after Elvis’ death in 1977. The vintage makes them more compelling from a collector’s perspective, and the quaint artwork and imagery is more appealing. One is the wonderfully titled Elvis Welcomes You to His World, which by scarce accounts is a simple abstract game involving what appears to be a calendar-flanked guitar. It’s an uncredited design from an obscure company called the Duff Sisters.

The King of Rock Game Company, obviously founded to publish only one game, issued two editions of the Elvis Presley King of Rock game in 1978 and 1979, in both “wide” and “tall” box versions. The gameplay description at least sounds marginally more interesting than some of the other titles herein, but interestingly, it has even less to do with Elvis himself. Players roll-and-move to try to land on spaces to some Elvis-y stuff, like earning gold records, starring in movies, putting on concerts and going bankrupt after buying mansions.

Both of these games are quite uncommon. However, I wouldn’t feel comfortable suggesting that they would attract more than $15-$30. With, of course, the higher-end of that spectrum representing complete, exceptional quality examples.

The Elvis Presley Game is the only Elvis game that Elvis might have actually played.

The piece de resistance of this survey of Elvis-themed games is the only game about him published during his lifetime. Teen-Age Games, Inc. did the honors and it’s from 1957, the peak of his power and popularity. It’s sort of a teenage party game, based on the descriptions I’ve seen, with a board divided into a girls’ side and a boys’ side. Two to 10 players answer questions including, of course, Elvis trivia, as well as relationship/mixer type questions. Eventually, the players pair up at the end based on their responses, with the most compatible partners winding up in an area called “Get the Preacher.” I’ve never seen a copy of this game listed for sale anywhere and I suspect that it’s very hard to come by. I also suspect that of these titles, it’s by far the one that most Elvis enthusiasts—or rare board game collectors—would be interested in. Hazarding a guess at value, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one topping $100 as a collectible contemporary with its subject matter.

Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.

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