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Tabletop Game / Operation

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"Is it water on the knee? OPERATION!"
Operation is a board game from Hasbro (albeit originally from Milton Bradley in 1965), developed by John Spinello in 1964. The game is supposed to test a player's eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. The game board depicts the patient Cavity Sam on the operating table with holes that are filled with pun-oriented ailments made of plastic that need to be removed. In order to cure the patient, the player must use the tweezers attached to the board and retrieve the pieces from their holes. If the player hits the metal edges on the board, the patient's red nose will light up and buzz, thus making it the next player's turn.

Ever since its release in 1965, the game has spawned various renditions and versions based off franchises.

Operation provides examples of:

  • And Now For Something Completely Different: The Ankle Bone Connected to the Knee Bone is the only ailment in the game that is a rubber band rather than a piece of plastic. What's more, though, you have to put it in the board rather than pull it out.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Look at the page image. Those doctors... don't seem to be curing him that much.
  • Bowdlerize:
    • The original 1964 artwork of the game featuted a doctor with a cigarette in his mouth, but later editions of the game removed this image.
    • The kid holding the bucket of water, on the left side of the artwork, had his skin tone changed from white to black in the 2004 revamp of the game, possibly to avoid complaints about racism.
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    • Cavity Sam appeared naked (albeit no genitalia showing) in earlier versions of the game, but the modern (2008-present) revamp of the game shows him wearing polka-dot pants.
  • Brain Freeze: An ailment introduced in 2004, which depicts an ice cream cone in Sam's head.
  • Butt-Monkey: This is likely Cavity Sam's backstory of receiving all those injuries.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Poor ol' Sam. He has to sufer having a writer's cramp, brain freeze, ankle bone connected to the knee bone, charlie horse, broken heart, all simultaneously.
  • Deadly Walls: The metal edges will cause the buzzer to go off if they come in contact with the tweezers.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: The mad scientist-looking doctor on the left side of the cover art isn't wearing shoes for some reason, unlike the doctor on the right side of the box.
  • Face on the Cover: Cavity Sam always appears on the cover art of the game.
  • Advertisement:
  • Gag Nose: Cavity Sam's big, red nose.
  • Gasshole: The modern revamp of the game has two examples of this: Sam passing gas under an ailment called "Toxic Gas" that depicts a posionous gas cloud, and him burping under an ailment called "Burp Bubbles" that depicts green bubbles in his stomach.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The buzzer. It's so unexpected and frightening.
  • Humiliation Conga: Cavity Sam has to be naked and suffer all those injuries simultaneously while being treated by unprofessional medics.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: Beginning with the “Silly Skill Game” edition in 2008, most editions of the game removed the cards and money system in favor of a new concept where the player who removes the most ailments wins. Fortunately, the classic version returned in 2016.
  • Licensed Game: There was a PC game released in 1998 based on the board game that had a rather heavy amount of Adaptation Expansion, right down to the gameplay on a concept level; the game was still about performing surgery to retrieve humorously named ailments, but to get the ailments you would have to guide the tweezers through a maze and avoid obstacles.
  • Meatgrinder Surgery: The game's implications are made pretty clear through the advertisements.
  • Medical Game: This is a board game about doing surgery on a man.
  • Modesty Towel: The cover art shows a towel covering Sam's private areas.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Cavity Sam remains naked on the operating table for 4 decades and 44 years.
  • Operation Game of Doom: The tropenamer. Touching the metal edges of the game board with the treezers will cause Sam's nose to light up and produce a buzzing noise.
  • Pun: A majority of the ailments are wordplay puns based on anatomy.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The cards featuring the ailment the player is to remove each feature a short rhyming poem based on the ailment.
  • Rule of Funny: The little girl on the right side of the box is seen handing the surgeon the Adam's Apple. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
  • Skip the Anesthetic: Cavity Sam's eyes are seen open during the surgery, strongly implying that no anthesia was applied.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Due to the era in which it was released, the original 1964 publication of the game depicted the doctor on the right side of the box smoking.
  • Themed Stock Board Game: One of the most popular board games to use this trope. Variations include SpongeBob SquarePants, Shrek, Lilo & Stitch, Star Wars, The Simpsons, and Despicable Me, each with their own special ailments.


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