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Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Operation is a battery-operated game of physical skill that tests players' hand-eye co-ordination. Made by Milton Bradley, it has been in production since 1965, the year in which the game was invented by John Spinello.

The game is a variant on the old-fashioned wire loop electric game popular at fun-fairs and the flammer stores around the United States. It consists of an "operating table", lithographed with a comic likeness of a patient (nicknamed "Cavity Sam") with a large, red light-bulb for his nose. In the surface are a number of openings, which reveal fictional and humorously-named ailments made of white plastic. To work, the game requires two D batteries.


There are two sets of cards: Doctor and Specialist cards. The Specialist cards are dealt out evenly amongst the players at the beginning of the game.

Players take turns to pick Doctor cards, which offer a cash payment for removing a particular ailment, using a pair of tweezers connected with wire to the board. If a player successfully removes the ailment they collect 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 the fee if they succeed. Since there are times when the player drawing a certain Doctor card also holds the matching Specialist card, s/he can be tempted to purposely botch the first attempt, in order to succeed on the second try, for double value.

The winner is the player with the most money after all the pieces have been extracted.

The game can be difficult, due to the shapes of the plastic ailments, and the fact the openings are scarcely larger than the ailments themselves.

Adam's Apple: in the throat; The Adam's apple is a colloquial term referring to the thyroid cartilage surrounding the larynx that becomes more visually prominent during puberty. Worth 100 points.

Broken Heart: a heart shape with a crack through it on the right side of the chest. The phrase "broken heart" refers to an emotional feeling in which someone is very sad for some reason. 100 points.

Wrenched Ankle: a wrench in the right ankle. 100 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.

Spare Ribs: two ribs fused together as one piece. "Spare Ribs" are a variety of meat. 150 points.

Water on the Knee: a pail of water in the knee. Colloquialism for fluid accumulation around the knee joint. 150 points.

Funny Bone: a play on the anatomical name for the upper arm bone (the humerus), and a reference to the colloquial name of the ulnar nerve. 200 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.

Writer's Cramp: a pencil in the forearm. Refers to the real writer's cramp which is a soreness in the wrist, and can be cured resting it. 200 points.

The Ankle Bone's Connected to the Knee Bone: This is not a plastic piece, but rather a rubber band that must be stretched between two pegs at the left ankle and knee. 200 points. The name is taken from the African-American spiritual "Dem Bones".

Wish Bone: located on the left side of the chest. A "wish bone" is a chicken bone which is traditionally used by two people to make a wish on. 300 points.

Bread Basket: a slang word for the stomach. It is a very small slice of bread, with only a small notch taken out of the top for grip. 1000 points.

In 2003, Milton Bradley allowed fans a chance to vote on a new piece to be added to the original game. The people were given three choices, and could make their selection via the company's official website or by phone (866-SAM-VOTE) for a chance to win a $5,000 shopping spree [1]. Voting ended on the 31st of December, and the winning piece (beating out tennis elbow and growling stomach) made its debut in October 2004:

Brain Freeze: an ice-cream cone located in the brain. Refers to the actual brain freeze, an ailment which occurs in the head usually after eating very cold foods too quickly.


  1. Isn't this one of the most clever games. My son used to love playing it.

    Stopping by to welcome you to SITS!
    carma :-)

  2. Operation used to be my favorite game as a child. I look forward to playing it with my daughter when she is older.

    Following you from MBC Follow me club.


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