Mouse Trap (originally Mouse Trap Game) is a 3D Roll-and-Move board game for two to four players. Each player is a "mouse" that follows a set path around the perimeter of the board, advancing according to the throw of a single die. Landing on a particular space allows each player to install one particular component of a Rube Goldberg Device that will occupy most of the playfield when completed. There is no finish line or home space; the end of the path is a loop of six spaces. Once the entire device has been assembled, it becomes a matter of elimination by chance. One player's mouse must be on the Cheese Wheel space, and another player must immediately land on the Turn Crank space (although a player can force an opponent onto the Cheese Wheel; see Practical Currency below). The contraption is started, and usually (though not always) runs its ridiculous course until it drops a cage over the Cheese Wheel, thereupon removing any mouse from play who occupies that spot.
The game was introduced by Ideal Toy Company in 1963. Ideal was subsequently absorbed by Milton Bradley, which in turn was assimilated by Hasbro. The pieces have gone through a few name and style changes over time, but the overall contraption and gameplay remain the same.
Mouse Trap includes these tropes:
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The four mouse pieces are red, yellow, green, and blue. The mice on various box art are also those colors, though unusually, the instruction manual from a mid-to-late 2010s version depicts a brown mouse and gray mouse.
- Beware of Vicious Dog: Implied with the Mad Dog space at the midpoint of the game. A player who lands there must retreat to a space marked with a bone (or an X in earlier versions).
- Blessed with Suck: Rolling small numbers and advancing slowly is advantageous, as it keeps that player away from the dreaded Cheese Wheel. The players that roll big numbers and arrive at the end loop thereafter run a 1-in-6 chance of landing on the Cheese Wheel, where they can only pray no other mouse lands on the Turn Crank space once the trap is completed.
- Bonus Space: The Safe space in the six-space loop. Any player on Safe is spared if an opponent lands on Turn Crank.
- Buffy Speak: In the original version of the game, most of the pieces had names that described what they were, save for the "thing-a-ma-jig" above the bathtub, called the "short ramp" in newer versions.
- Cartoon Cheese: The cheese pieces are yellow triangles with Swiss cheese-style holes printed on them.
- Cats Are Mean: One of the hazards early in the game is the Fat Cat. A player who lands on its space must go back to Start.
- Dexterity Challenge: Mouse Trap has the players build the Rube Goldberg Device trap during the game. And in the endgame, you get to activate the trap, though whether it works is a Luck-Based Mission.
- Golden Snitch: In the end, it doesn't matter how much cheese you've collected — if you're captured, you're out, and only the last mouse standing wins. Later versions change this, making the cheese the goal in and of itself, and changing the trap to steal cheese instead of having players pay cheese to activate the trap.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Each player is usually guaranteed to contribute in some way to the trap being built.
- Luck-Based Mission: The outcome is always determined by die rolls. Even assembling the "trap" is determined by die rolls. Versions of the game from the 70s onward introduced cheese pieces that give the player a chance to maneuver other players' pieces, but obtaining them and moving other pieces are still determined by rolling a die. Also, there's always the chance that some piece of the trap will misfire when triggered.
- Mouse World: The 90s version of the Milton Bradley game has the board showing the mice as construction workers trying to build the trap.
- Player Elimination: In earlier versions of the game, you could eliminate a player by activating the trap on them, and the last player remaining was the winner. However, this has been changed: now the trap only makes you give a cheese to whoever trapped you, and the goal is to collect six cheese.
- Practical Currency: The cheese wedges turn into this if a player lands on Turn Crank with nobody on the Cheese Wheel. That player can forfeit one piece of cheese and send an opponent to the Cheese Wheel with a roll of the die. This continues until one of the following happens:
- An opponent lands on the Cheese Wheel, thereby allowing the player to set the crank in motion. The player could also try sending more than one opponent to the Cheese Wheel.
- No opponents can be moved because each one is on the Safe space.
- The player who landed on Turn Crank either decides not to spend any more cheese wedges or runs out of them.
- Roll-and-Move: Players roll a die and move accordingly. In the first part of the game, you'll move your mouse along a linear track where most spaces make you build a part of the trap, though there are ones that give or take away cheese and ones that send you backwards or forwards. In the second part, you try to get your opponents' mice caughtnote by landing on the "Turn Crank" space, which lets you activate the trap targetting the "Cheese Wheel" space and hope it works. If you're on Turn Crank, you can pay cheese to select an opponent's mouse and roll a die to move it (hopefully to the Cheese Wheel).
- Rube Goldberg Device: Players assemble an absurd collection of parts that ultimately aim to drop a cage on a mouse. The preposterousness of this device is a huge part of the game's charm.
- Rule of Fun: No mouse would ever stand still while all the mechanisms run their course. Even if the mouse ignored all the mechanics going on, it would have enough time to eat its fill of cheese and amble back to its Mouse Hole for a nap. Also, what guy would wait patiently on that seesaw just to dive into a tub that has no water in it? Only children as players plus Toon Physics make this game plausible.
- Stock Animal Diet: Cheese for mice. Players, controlling mouse tokens, collect Cartoon Cheese wedges as part of gameplay. The space over which the cage trap is set is called the Cheese Wheel or the Cheesy Danger Zone, meaning someone has baited a mouse trap with cheese.
- White Gloves: At least one version of the box art depicts all four bipedal cartoon mice wearing white gloves, giving them an old-timey cartoon appearance.