Operation, is the dexterity game in which you must extract
body parts from a hapless patient. If you are sloppy, the
patient's pain is indicated by a sudden buzzer, and a nose
that lights up red. What is the story of this game spanning
Operation began in 1965. The original game was marketed by
Milton Bradley, it was originally invented in 1962 by John
Spinello. The original prototype was a steel block with holes
in it and a probe. It was called Death Valley. Ultimately
the game added removable pieces and was changed to "Operation"
as the official name. John Spinello never truly got the credit
he deserved for the game by the toy company, but if you look
up the US patents for the game and the idea, he is proudly
listed as the man with the original idea on the patent. There
are some great images and highly detailed information in the
book "Timeless Toys", by Tim walsh. It is an excellent
book for details and trivia on these pop culture toys. I encourage
you to grab a copy.
The first versions of the game had desirable box art by collectors
featuring a doctor that was smoking(Photo to the right). After
all, smoking was the hype in the 1960's. Heck, even Fred Flintstone
was smoking in commercials. Action figures like Marx's Mike
Hazard agent had cigarettes and a lighter! Versions of the
from the 1970's – the present of course eliminated the “Smoking
Doctor”, (photo to the Left). Games are of course produced
today by Hasbro in many variants.
The game is a spin-off on the old-fashioned wire loop electric
game popular at fun-fairs. The game consists of an "operating
table", lithographed with a comic likeness of a patient
("Cavity Sam") with a large, red rubber coated light-bulb
for his nose. In the surface are a number of openings, which
reveal fictional and humorously-named ailments made of white
There are two sets of cards: Doctor and Specialist cards.
The Specialist cards are dealt out evenly among the players
at the beginning of the game.Players take turns to pick Doctor
cards, which offer a cash reward for removing a particular
ailment, using a pair of tweezers connected with wire to the
board. If a player successfully removes the ailment then they'll
win the amount shown on their card. However, if the tweezers
touch the metal edge of the opening during the attempt (closing
the circuit), a buzzer sounds, the patient's nose lights up
red, and the player loses their turn. The player holding the
Specialist card for that piece then has a try, getting double
points if they succeed. The winner is the player with the
most money after all the pieces have been extracted. The game
can be challenging, due to the shapes of the plastic ailments,
and the fact the openings are scarcely larger than the ailments
Gameboard with tweezers, 24-26 cards (Brain freeze adds a
card to make it 26), 12 – 13 parts, see below, brain freeze
adds a card to make it 13, Play money Rubber band for cards
Requires 2 “D” Batteries..
Adam's Apple: in the throat. Worth 100 points.
Charley Horse: a small horse resting near the
hip joint. (A play on the real charley horse, which is a sudden
cramp in the leg or foot, that can be cured with massage or
stretching.) 200 points.
Spare Ribs: two ribs fused together as one piece.
Funny Bone: a play on the anatomical name for
the arm bone — the humerus. 200 points.
Butterflies in the Stomach: a large butterfly
in the middle of the torso. The name comes from the feeling
in the stomach when nervous or afraid. 100 points.
Bread Basket: a slang word for the stomach,
this is a difficult piece to remove. It is a very small slice
of bread, with only a small notch taken out of the top for
grip. 100 points.
Wish Bone: located on the left side of the chest.
Water on the Knee: a pail of water in the knee.
Writer's Cramp: a pencil in the forearm. 200
Broken Heart: a heart shape with a crack through
it on the right side of the chest. 100 points.
Wrenched Ankle: a spanner in the right ankle.
The Ankle Bone's Connected to the Knee Bone:
This is not a plastic piece, but rather a rubber band stretched
between two pegs at the left ankle and knee that has to be
unhooked. 200 points.
Brain Freeze: an ice-cream located in the brain.
(This is the feeling when you inhale ice cream down too fast,
or those slushies you slam down on hot days)This is the newest
addition to Operation, was added ~2004 to Operation Board
editions change the patient and the items to be removed, but
the game stays the same in its essence Here are other variants
I have seen:
Shrek and Shrek 2 (2 box art versions below)
Just like the classic version, but with Shrek. You're the
doctor and Shrek's the patient! He needs surgery, and you're
just the one to do it. Can you remove his onion breath? How
about his toe jam? Just be careful when you're pulling out
all of his icky ogre insides — you need a steady hand to avoid
hitting the sides of Shrek with your tweezers. If you do,
the buzzer will sound and his nose will light up. Comes with:
Shrek patient game board with tweezers, 24 cards, 12 gruesome
Funatomy parts, play money and instructions. Requires 2 AA
batteries (not included) required. For 2 or more players.
Remove Homer's Bowler's Thumb, Pot Belly, Foot in Mouth,
Rubber Neck, Trick Knee, etc. In Operation - Simpsons, the
patient talks back! Homer's got problems: a pea brain, a potbelly,
bowler's thumb, and more. In this classic game of removable
parts, you get to be his surgeon. Can you fix him up without
setting off the buzzer - and Homer's big mouth? If you touch
the sides with the tweezers, Homer will moan, groan, or give
you a piece of his mind. Earn money by performing successful
operations, and when it's all said and done, the richest doctor
Excavating bones of a T. Rex
Other versions aside from the traditional board game version,
Milton Bradley also produced a hand-held version, a brain
surgery version requiring the player to pull pieces out of
a wisecracking Cavity Sam's head, and more recently a special
edition featuring the animated character Shrek.
This photo to the Left, shows a pen accessory. This is also
a great option to add more fun to the game.
Just like the original game's famous feature, the mini Operation®
keychain buzzes and lights as the tweezers remove 3"body
parts." Be careful, and don't forget your bedside manners.
Picture in the table below.
Christmas Ornament, Carlton:
Picture to the right shows a neat 1/6 scale version for the
I hope you enjoy the quick summary on this well known icon
of a game. Truly every child has played it, most have owned.
It is a game that has been around for 40 years. Image how
many "D" batteries were used for this game through
the years??? Tom www.vintagetoyroom.com