With the kids now going back to school (hurrah!) we’re making an attempt to catch up on all the vintage board games that we had hoped to play over Christmas. We ended up with me testing positive for Covid on Christmas Day and my first day out of quarantine was the day home schooling started. It’s been a long year so far!
First off the pile was Kojak – The Detective Game, produced by Arrow Games in 1975.
Now, I had relatively high hopes for this game as I always love games that are detective or spy themed. Unfortunately the instructions made it seem a bit more exciting than it actually is.
The game is for two to four players and the aim is that you play a detective and the winner is the detective who arrests the most criminals out of the four on the board. The board is set up as if there are “roads” (although they don’t look particularly road like) and each player has two police cars.
To start the game each player has to dispatch one of his police cars to go and collect a Contact Card from the Contact Card Room on the board. To get there though you have to pretty much do a whole lap of the board thanks you various one-way streets in the centre You need to land there with an exact number and there’s nothing else to do on the way!
Once you have your Contact Card you know which colour criminal you’re going after and you have to take your car to the appropriate stake out point on the board. Once you’ve done that your second car is dispatched to Police HQ to get a warrant card to be able to arrest the criminal you’re after.
To actually be able to make an arrest you not only need the appropriate warrant card, but you also need the criminal to be in the correct “arrest position” to do this players pick up Trap Cards as they go around the board (but only after being assigned to a case). The Trap Cards move the criminals around the small circles in their locations and there is just one space on the four around the circle where they can be arrested from. So basically, once you have a car in position to be able to make an arrest soon then you need to keep moving around the board trying to get enough Trap Cards to be able to make an arrest.
To be honest it’s quite tedious and slow and we gave up half way through trying to arrest the second criminal.
The other part of the game that I found quite confusing is that the detective cars are coloured red, blue, yellow and green and so are the criminals. But the colours are not in any way linked. So the Green Detectives could be going after the Green Criminal. And when the detectives go and get a warrant card it’s in their colour rather than the colour of who they are hoping to arrest.
The rules of the games are written slightly unclearly with respect to the colours, and also in terms of saying when you need and exact number to land on something and when you don’t. You basically just need to agree this as a house rule before you start.
If you’re a fan of the Kojak TV show then it’s a nice little collector’s item. Otherwise it’s just too frustrating a roll and move game to take up space in our collection. The car playing pieces are a nice touch, but that’s not enough to lift the game out of being dull in our opinion.
Kojak The Stake Out Board Game
Now, one thing to note is that this is a different game from the MB version. MB released a version called Kojak The Stake Out Board Game. Whilst there are some similarities with the Arrow Games version (in particular the playing pieces, some of the card names and some of the basic board design) the game play looks much more involved with codes to solve and revolving turntables with the informers stood on, hence much more interesting. Looking at the two games I get the impression that someone at MB got the Arrow Games version and the instructions to make it more exciting.
The Stake Out Board Game was an American MB release though and I’ve not seen any copies of it on eBay here in the UK. It’s a shame as I’d quite like to play it to compare the two versions. I did manage to come across this excellent (if long) video review on YouTube if you’re interested. The guy behind the video mentions the “UK Version” by which I think he means the Arrow Games version.
I don’t think this Arrow Games version of Kojak is going to stay in my collection, it’s just too dull to really want to play it again. The MB version however is now on my want list.
Updated: Someone over on the fantastic Vintage Board Games UK Facebook group (link below) has pointed out to me that Arrow Games were actually the UK division of MB Games. That makes complete sense when you look at the Kojak game passing from Arrow to MB in the US. Another avenue for me to research too.
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