Home > Kids Games > Operation


By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 20 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss

The board game Operation has long been a favourite with adults and children alike. Invented in the early 1960’s by industrial design student John Spinello, Operation was actually a class assignment given to Spinello whilst at the University of Illinois and he called it ‘Death Valley’. The game in its original format involved a search for water by looking in holes with tweezers in similar fashion to the game of Operation as we now know it. Milton Bradley games too the concept, adding the operation table and marketing the game in 1965.

Playing Operation

For those unfamiliar with the game of Operation, the board is a three dimensional operating table with a cartoon man laying on it face up (nicknamed Cavity Sam). The patient (Sam) has various cavities in arms, legs and body which house small plastic pieces, such as the Adam’s Apple, Funny Bone and Spare Ribs. The player takes on the role of the surgeon and on drawing cards from his / her hand (Doctor Cards), must remove whatever ailment is revealed on the card using a small pair of tweezers, connected to the board via a wire. Herein lay the true skill of Operation. The tweezers are connected to the board and will act as a circuit connector if the player touches the sides of the cavity. If the sides of the cavity are touched, a buzzer sounds and Sam’s nose flashes red and they have failed the operation, thus relinquishing the fee. When this occurs the player with the matching Specialist card, gets to try and remove the piece and is paid double for the honour. Cards are dealt out evenly amongst all players before play begins, so there is also a random element to the game overall, with some operations being harder and better paid than others.

Scoring in Operation

Scoring in Operation is all about the doctors fees you gain by taking out particular ailments. Doctor cards each carry a specified fee, with Specialist cards carrying a higher fee. In order to score higher, a player carrying both a Doctors card and Specialist card for the same operation in their hand, may opt to botch the initial attempt in order to use the specialist card, thus earning them more money. As with standard money scoring board games, the winner is the player / doctor at the end of the game, who has the most money, once all operations have been completed.

A steady hand and good hand eye coordination is needed to ensure success at Operation. Fees range from 100 dollars for the removal of a wrenched ankle, up to 1,000 dollars for the removal of the bread basket.

Operation Variants

The popularity of Operation since its invention in 1965 has meant a few variations have been released since, including the usual themed versions. Of the themed versions, The Simpsons see Homer Simpson as the ‘Sam Cavity’ patient. Shrek has a version, as does cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants.

Operation can also be used as a hilarious drinking game, which given the need for hand eye coordination can lead to some amusing gameplay.

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