Almanac of Games for 9/21: Bill Murray The Hobbit Prevents Pollution

(Almanac of Games is a weekly feature, published every Sunday)

It’s Double Down Day at the Almanac, with twice as many special events to tell you about!

IT HAPPENED ON SEPTEMBER 21st in 1937, that “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien was published.

Remember when The Hobbit was a children’s story? Remember when games based on The Hobbit were for children?

The Hobbit
Photo by Tim Rogers (BGG).

Close on the heels of the Rankin/Bass production of The Hobbit came two board game adaptations, one from none other than Milton Bradley.

The Hobbit Game was the quick knock-off from little known American Publishing. It did, however, have more complicated gameplay than the Milton Bradley “official” version.

Adventures of Bilbo
Photo by Michael Kröhnert (BGG).

The Hobbit: The Adventures of Bilbo… blah blah blah. The title is wordy, just like the characters in the book.

On that same day in 1937, the women’s airspeed record was set at 292 mph by American pilot Jacqueline Cochran. This was in the midst of the Depression-era fad of airplane racing. Watching cars drive around a track was too grounded. People’s spirits, battered by years of bad economic news, needed to soar, and the airplane provided the lift.

Photo rights owned by Paul Rohrbaugh.
Photo rights owned by Paul Rohrbaugh.

September’s Eagles: The Thompson Trophy Races, 1929-1939, was designed by Paul Rohrbaugh in 2012. The game is so on-topic as to be uncanny, but the Kickstarter funding just never came through and the game languishes.


OBSERVED ON SEPTEMBER 21st is Pollution Prevention Week (the 3rd full week in Sept.)

Pollution because a big issue when the EPA was established on Richard Nixon’s watch. Frederick A. Rasmussen designed The Pollution Game under the auspices of the Educational Research Council of America.

Photo by BGG user houjix.
Photo by BGG user houjix.

“The Pollution Game allows students to simulate in a game the progressive contamination of our environment and then try to reverse the contamination to preserve the environment. During this game, students will experience the antagonisms and frustrations of trying to change technology and social behavior.”

BTW, there is a pretty decent anti-pollution game, C02, which was published by Stronghold Games in 2012.

While today comes at the end of Pollution Prevention Week, it’s smack dab in the middle of International Coastal Cleanup Day. And no coast needed more cleaning up than the Gulf Coast after the BP blowout. But it wasn’t enough to make environmentalist forget the avoidable accident that caused the Exxon Valdiz spill along the Alaskan coast.


Soon after came the Great Alaskan Clean-Up.

Photo by Steve S (BGG)
Photo by Steve S (BGG)

“Just suppose that there is an Oil Company, and it’s called EX-CON. And suppose that it has tankers cruising all around the world, delivering oil. And suppose that one of these tankers is sailing around off the coast of Alaska. And just suppose the captain can’t hold his liquor and has headed back to his cabin to sleep it off. And just suppose that the guy in charge of swabbing the deck is now piloting the ship and he accidentally hits a reef with the ship and spills oil all over the coast of Alaska. This situation is, of course, theoretical….”

This 1988 game, a satirical poke at careless multinationals, was published by Team Frog Studios, a very small publisher whose best known (and little-known) game is Critter Commandos.



BORN ON SEPTEMBER 21st, 1950, Bill Murray would create dozens of memorable roles in a variety of genres.

Our Two-For-One Day concludes with tributes to Murray’s best film performances, in Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation. (We’ll pretend Rushmore doesn’t exist….)


I’m surprised it took so long for someone to create a time-loop game, but Tragedy Looper has arrived!

Photo by W. Eric Martin (BGG)
Photo by W. Eric Martin (BGG)

Japanese designer Baka Fire is finally bringing his 2011 Anime-flavored co-op to America through the auspices of Z-Man Games.

In a very Groundhog Day-like fashion, “as tragedies happen, players loop back in time, restarting the scenario from the beginning and trying to deduce who the culprit was and why the tragedy occurred. … The players win if they manage to maintain status quo — that is, if no tragedies occur to the key individuals — for a set number of days, within a set number of loops.”

Of course, Murray’s character had an infinite number of loops in which to get it right, but you won’t have all night…

There’s nothing funnier than mis-translated phrases. Take an American slogan or film title, translate it into Japanese, then back to English, and enjoy the fun. Or, you can just watch a “chop-socky” film from China and enjoy the stilted dubbing.

Photo by Søren Due Pedersen (BGG).
Photo by Søren Due Pedersen (BGG).

In Crouching Hamster, Hidden Translation, a 2002 dicer from Inner City Games (Fuzzy Heroes, Lemmings in Space), “each turn, eight dice are rolled. The dice have words on their faces, and the player rolling must attempt to concoct a sentence in the style of a bad martial arts movie dub using as many of the words as possible. The other players award honor points to the sentence as they see fit.” There are more phases to the game than this, but this is the funniest one….

Photo by Uffe (BGG).
Photo by Uffe (BGG).


Surprise! A Bonus Three-For-One! It wasn’t Murray’s best role, but it will always be his greatest role. From 1984, it’s The Real Ghostbusters!


 Did I miss any special observances or birthdays for today? Let me know in the Comments!

You can contact me at

  • Drew is a contributor to the Board Gamers Anonymous podcast. He's a curator by nature, compulsively reading and obsessively organizing what he's read. He's also been a gamer since the age of 3, which means he's been playing board games for... let's just say more than 40 years, and leave it at that...

  • Show Comments

You May Also Like

Best Board Game Blogs of the Week, ft. Kickstarter Caveats

      Well, bloggers, you must have heard my complaint last week about ...

Best Board Game Blogs of the Week, ft. What My Dad Taught Me About Winning

(put back together by Drew Davidson) A mid-week dump of the Fab Four blog ...