(The Board) Games People Play: #3, Hungry Hippos

Why four morbidly obese hippos provide a fun five minutes of frenetic entertainment

Monday 27 December 1982

Has the record buying public lost their marbles? Why on Earth-Next-The-Sea didn’t The Jam stay on the top spot? Well, it turns out they bought Rene and Renato’s disc by the truckload. Yes, that soppy dirge entitled Save Your Love. Just to make things worse, the trusty Lilywhites drew two apiece with Witton Albion. (We’ll get our own back at The Central Ground on New Year’s Day).

Dear Diary, I shall leave you for a moment. My younger sister, Donna is calling me with her Christmas present.

Hungry Hippos

Let’s get this straight: is it Hungry Hippos or Hungry Hungry Hippos? To be honest, it is the same game. In America it is sold with an extra ‘hungry’ (still, it worked for Frank Sinatra and Gerard Kenny with their repetition of New York). Today, the UK version is sold as Hungry Hungry Hippos but I have known it to have one ‘hungry’.

The game was invented in 1967 by Fred Kroll and hit the shelves in 1978. Ironically in time for Margaret Thatcher’s rise in popularity that Christmas. Not least the fact it taught pre-teens that ‘greed is good’. Before they became yuppies with share portfolios and fast cars. If you distilled the aim of the game to three words, Gordon Gekko’s quote in Wall Street nails it. Today, some call the 50-year-old board game as The Original Hunger Games.

In the original game (which yours truly has first hand experience with), the four hippos were called Lizzie Hippo (purple), Henry Hippo (orange), Homer Hippo (green), and Harry Hippo (yellow). The aim of the game is to eat the most marbles. White plastic marbles are poured onto the ringside and the game ends once all the marbles have been eaten.

You do this by patting a trigger on the hippo’s backside, as fast as you can. Noisily of course. The winning hippo is the one that has consumed the most marbles. If you want a game with skill, Hungry Hungry Hippos is not the game for you. Still, you could always have a best of three or a tournament, but slapping a plastic hippo’s arse will never replace football as our national sport.

Just for old time’s sake, here’s the UK advert. Yours for £12.00 in 1981 – about £43.20 in 2017 prices.

S.V., 03 December 2017.

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