ALF was once a cultural phenomenon. ALF was a television show lasted four seasons, and like any kid-centric 1980s craze, there were comic books, video games, a Saturday morning cartoon, and even a made-for-TV movie. Before it was over, ALF had his own parade floats on Thanksgiving, late-night show appearances on Letterman, and toys that caused tramplings on Black Friday.
And so this leads me to the ALF board game. Forget trampled customers and Letterman—nothing says you’ve made it unless you have your own hastily thrown together board game with cheesy artwork.
There was certainly a lot to love about ALF. He was an adorable, furry space alien from the planet Melmac. Crash-landing into that other Tanner family house, ALF became a beloved member of their family and ours, crash-landing into everyone’s hearts. (I could write this stuff for a living.)
ALF’s favorite food was cats and he had a fondness for Hawaiian-print shirts. Part of the show’s power was that it had a serious side as it explored issues of culture shock, survivor guilt, and the perils of nuclear war. ALF, you see, came to earth after Melmac was destroyed in nuclear holocaust.
Alright, never mind. This was a show whose star was a ragged-looking puppet. It was 1980s bizarreness at its best. Like I said, a lot to love—and I liked ALF well enough. I didn’t miss a single episode in the first season. But I have to tell you—I don’t love ALF. In fact, I have a tragic ALF story. It seems a lot of us do. Come forward. It’s okay. You’re safe here. Something came between me and my love for ALF: the ALF doll.
It seems like just a blip now, those few weeks leading up to Christmas 1986, when the Coleco plush ALF doll was the most sought-after toy in all of planet Earth. Like absolutely every other child, I wanted one. I stared longingly at the ALF doll in the toy store, twenty ALFs in a row, staring back at me from the shelf. I hoped my mother would see the look, the mist in my eyes, and then she would say, “do you want me to buy you that?”
The staring tactic never actually worked—not once—and makes me wonder why I deployed that tactic so often. Next, I tried my telepathic-psychic thoughts which I beamed to Santa, and included in my prayers at night. But praying to Santa never actually worked either. Why did I keep trying it? It was simply my personality. You know, I never actually win those scratch-off tickets either, and yet I keep buying them.
There was one tactic that had a 25% success rate, and yet, it just didn’t seem worth it to begin a merciless, begging, all-out vocal crusade for the doll. After all, it was still a doll. It’s not like this was an actual, real-live ALF–because an actual, real-live ALF would have been worth throwing myself in front of traffic in the Toys R Us parking lot. For a real ALF, I’d break myself free from my mother’s hand and catapult myself towards the nearest car. I bet they would have totally given me a free toy of my choice if I crippled myself for life in front of the store. If not, I had the Make A Wish Foundation phone number committed to memory. Those kids were so lucky, getting everything they wanted.
But for an ALF doll, essentially a glorified baby doll? No, this wasn’t Make-A-Wish level stuff. I’d save it for that doll with the stretchy-rubber arms. I stuck to praying and staring.
I never got the ALF doll. So much depends upon getting The Main Toy that will forever shape the love in your mind. My heart closed off to ALF after that. I had no interest in the animated series or the trading cards. I looked away when I saw a novelty ALF suctioned to a rear windshield.
Tears and violins. Perhaps then I didn’t deserve to find this near mint-condition ALF Board Game, complete with the pieces unpunched on the cardboard. But even the coldest of hearts couldn’t look away for three bucks.
TV-based board games were a dime-a-dozen, all of them exceedingly simple and probably not much fun to play. Here the game pieces are nothing more than four of the same ALF picture with different-colored backgrounds. Each of four players chooses their ALF color. The Mrs. O piece moves on the board according to insanely complex rules, and if your ALF lands on her space, you probably die an instant, spontaneous-bleeding, brain-swelling death, because that old lady looks EVVVIIIILLLL.
The directions seem overly simple, and yet overly complicated at the same time. I’ve read them about four times, and I still have no idea how to play. I loathe reading board game instructions. Here’s an excerpt:
“You may move the Mrs. Ochmonek pawn either forwards (clockwise) or backwards around the game path. You may not move her onto the START space, or a space with a family member. If you move Mrs. Ochmonek onto a space with an ALF pawn, Mrs. Ochmonek has seen ALF and he must run back to hide behind a family member. This means that the ALF pawn Mrs. Ochmonek sees must move back along the path, stopping at the first family member space it comes to. If there is more than one ALF pawn in the space, each ALF pawn that Mrs. Ochmonek sees must move back to hide behind a family member.”
There’s about four other paragraphs regarding the movement of the old lady pawn. It’s too many things to remember. I imagine every roll of the dice needing to consult with the directions to see what can move where.
Here’s a closer look at the board:
Even if the game skimped on actual game play, they did put an impressive level of detail into the board. That’s the thing with these board games from the 1980s—you never want to play them, but you want to frame the board. But here’s a confession: I don’t like playing board games. I’m a mean board game player, which is sort of like being a mean drunk.
If I’m not winning the entire time, I’m bored, and if I’m hopelessly losing, I quit. I have a bad attitude. While I’ve never actually flipped the board over, brushed all the pieces on the floor, and stormed from the room, I’ve threatened it. If nothing else, I cheat terribly. I turn Board Game night into Hate Game night. I’m just a jerk.
I suspect the ALF game could induce an ALF rage. Or possibly a Mrs. Ochmonek rage. Then again, I have a lot of issues with ALF. And in general, I probably just have issues.
But don’t tell me this face won’t keep you awake at night in a cold sweat.
Spontaneous bleeding, folks.