There have been plenty of tasteless board games, but few have had the sort of bad press and relentless media campaign mounted against them as Bombshell, a 1981 offering from Waddington.
It’s probably fair to say that no one really expected such a reaction to the game, which is very much in the tradition of British comedy about bumbling military figures. Here, the likes of Major Disaster, Sergeant Jimmy Jitters, Private Tommy Twitters and Piper Willy Fumble struggle to defuse a bomb before it explodes – the losing player being the one whose move it is when the thing finally pops off. So it’s essentially Buckaroo meets Dad’s Army, and seemingly no more contentious than previous military themed games like Escape from Colditz.
But immediately, the British press took against it, and mounted the sort of cynical, furious campaign that only they can. Inevitably, some shops – ever keep to placate the tabloids and their readers – pulled the game from sale, but it looked for a while that it might weather the storm and stay on sale once the hypocritical hacks had moved onto another easy target to mount a moral campaign against (and in the early 1980s, there were plenty of moral campaigns being waged). However, in October that year, bomb disposal man Ken Howarth was killed while trying to defuse an IRA bomb in London, and inevitably, this made the press campaign go beserk. While they couldn’t quite blame the death on the game, they certainly frothed at the mouth about the offensiveness of such a game being sold in the wake of such a tragedy. As kids around the country scrabbled (unsuccessfully in my case) to find and buy the game before the inevitable happened, Waddington finally pulled it from sale. To date, Bombshell has not been reissued.
Images from https://boardgamegeek.com/
UPDATE: thanks to Reprobate reader Gary Wright for pointing us in the direction of a current eBay sale of this game that comes complete with a letter from the head of Waddingtons to staff, explaining the circumstances for the game being pulled from sale.