Smokers Wild, The (Cough) ‘Hilarious’ Anti-Smoking Game

Fun for all the family: a board game race to see who dies of cancer last.

A new high in low taste…

Originally released in the US and Canada in 1978, this UK edition of Smokers Wild appeared soon afterwards, with a new box cover and logo spoofs tweaked to reflect UK cigarette brands.

Aimed at kids – older kids, maybe, but still children – Smokers Wild didn’t have much impact on the games market, and so managed to avoid the moral outrage that greeted other ‘offensive’ board games like the notorious 1981 bomb disposal game Bombshell. Yet this is by far the more tasteless. After all, this is a game where the aim is to win by being the last player to die of cancer! But maybe I’m being overly sensitive – perhaps whole families really did bust a gut laughing as one of them pulled a Hav’ A Puff card and were told “excessive smoking has given you throat cancer”.


The board consists of two circles – the outer circle is the main, Monopoly-style circuit, where you might land on the afore-mentioned Hav’ A Puff spot (similar to Community Chest or Chance, with smokers punished and non-smokers rewarded), on an Occupation slot (similar to landing on someone’s street) or a Brand spot – in which case you have to throw anything but seven or a double to avoid becoming a smoker of said brand, with such novelty names as Sick Gut (20 Pukes), Endmessy Death Sticks or Cancerlot. All these things will cost you money – the game’s currency is the Koff – and if you run out of cash, you can borrow from the Tobacco Company – but at the cost of another space on the Lifeometer, which is the inner circle. You normally advance one space on this every time you complete a circuit of the outer circle.


Smokers Wild involves a certain amount of initial faffing – the rules suggest auctioning off Occupations, though concedes that you might just want to deal them out face down to save time – but is easy enough to play, and the board is small enough to ensure that no game goes on for too long. The outer board has 28 spaces – one space supposedly equals thirteen days of your life, and so one circuit equals one year. The Lifeometer only has twelve spaces, which seems a bit harsh – surely even the heaviest smoker might expect to live for more than twelve years after starting the habit.


It’s possible that Smokers Wild might actually put some kids off smoking, though it seems unlikely – if they enjoy the game, then surely there is more of a chance that they would start to associate smoking with fun times. And it’s not hard to imagine this game genuinely upsetting anyone whose life has been touched by cancer – and that’s most of us, isn’t it? In any case, Dubreq’s game was not a hit and is almost forgotten today.


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