Operation Game Rules: How To Play Operation

Operation is a classic skill and action game that covers a big part of our childhood. How would you like to rediscover the Operation game rules and take a trip back to the good old days?

As childish as the gameplay may seem, it gets tricky when you try to operate. The rules are relatable to another Milton Bradley game, Patch Bed Bugs, where you remove the bugs from a vibrating bed with a tweezer. 

It’s easy for children to adapt to the basic Operation game rules. In this detailed guide, we will talk you through everything you need to know about the game, step-by-step instructions on how to play Operation. 

What is Operation?

Operation Board Game Info image

Operation is a fun dexterity board game. Poor Sam comes to you with a broken heart and a body bruised with several ailments. As his doctor, you have to remove all the funatomy pieces with the tweezer. But watch out that you don’t hurt Sam. If the tweezer touches the cavity edges, a buzzer beeps and his nose turns red. On every successful operation, you earn money. The player with the highest success rate wins!

Number of Players: 1 or more

Ages: 6+

Length: 10 – 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Similar To: Patch Bed Bugs, Topple, Wok and Roll, Scatterpillar Scramble, Don’t Break the Ice

Main Objective: The more successfully you operate, the more fee you collect. Pocket the most amount of money to win.

Why We Love It: Operation is an all-time classic game filled with fun and precision. Kids can gradually improve their dexterity while parents revisit a piece of their childhood.

A Brief History of Operation

The invention of this game dates way back to 1964 when John Spinello, a University of Illinois student, designed the prototype. Milton Bradley was the first producer (1965) and now the franchise is owned by Hasbro. 

It has been published in different names and editions like Operation: Star Wars Edition, Operation: Shrek, Operation: Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, but the primary essence of the game remains the same. 

What You Need to Play Operation

All you need to play this action board game is a complete Classic Operation Game kit. You will get the following items with this kit:

  • Game board with the patient Cavity Sam
  • Deck of Doctor and Specialist cards
  • Corded tweezer 
  • Play money
  • Rubber band
  • 12 Funatomy parts 
  • Operation game rules and instruction sheet

The number of components may slightly vary depending on the version of the game you have. 

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Game Setup

If it’s your first meeting with Cavity Sam, you’ll need to insert the batteries to wake him up. To test, touch the tweezer to the metal edge of any cavity in the board and see if his nose lights up. You should also hear a buzzer sound. 

Now that the board is activated let’s move on to the cards. Separate the Doctor and Specialist cards into two decks and shuffle them.

Deal the Specialist cards equally to each player, one at a time. Place the Doctor cards face down within everyone’s reach.

Choose a player who will act as a banker and pay money for successful operations. 

Take the rubber band tied around the cards and drop it into the cavity connecting the ankle bone to the knee bone.

And last but not least, drop the little funatomy pieces into their corresponding cavities inside the gameboard, such as the ‘broken heart’ into the heart-shaped hole, the ‘butterfly in the stomach’ into the stomach cavity. 

All set? Let’s operate.

operation game rules playing image

Operation Game Rules: How to Play

Anyone can take the first turn and it rotates anti-clockwise. 

On Your Turn:

Draw a Doctor card from the top of the deck. The card dictates which funatomy part you have to remove from Sam’s body and the fee you earn after successfully fixing the ailment. So read the card aloud and proceed to operate. 

The cards narrate his problem with a tinge of humor. For example, the Wishbone card says, “Sam’s got a wish. Can you make it come true? Take it out quick, but don’t break it in two!”

Now pick up the tweezer and attempt to perform the operation.

Caution: Here comes a punch to the otherwise simple Operation game rules. While removing the funatomy part, your tweezer cannot touch the metal edge of the cavity, or you will get buzzed.

Anklebone Exception: To operate the anklebone, you don’t have to remove anything. Carefully loop both ends of the rubber band around two posts on the opposite sides of the cavity.

  • A Successful Operation: If you remove the ailment meticulously enough so that the buzzer doesn’t beep and Sam’s nose doesn’t light up, the operation is successful! You can collect your fee from the banker and place the funatomy part in front of you. Discard the Doctor card as your turn ends here. 
  • An Unsuccessful Operation: On the other hand, if you get buzzed, it’s not a successful operation and your turn is over. Put back the part the way it was and place the Doctor card before you. Now it’s the specialist’s turn. 

Specialist Cards:

Now every player, including the unsuccessful Doctor, goes through their Specialist cards. Whoever got the Specialist card for the last failed operation gets a chance to attempt the same for a higher fee! 

  • If the Specialist card for that particular operation has not been dealt in the beginning, then the Doctor card goes under the pile facedown. The turn passes to the left.
  • For a successful operation, the specialist collects his fee from the banker. Discard the played Doctor card and Specialist card and the player to the Doctor’s left takes the next turn. 
  • But if the specialist also fails, then return the Doctor card to the bottom of its deck facedown. The specialist takes his Specialist card back and the player to the Doctor’s left takes the next turn. 

Once the players have fixed all of Sam’s cavities successfully, the game finishes. The richest player wins!

Solo play:

The Operation game rule for solo players directs you to perform all the operations successfully, in your own preference of order. If you miss one, start again.

How to Play Operation – Video Tutorial 

Frequently Asked Questions About Operation

Is there any timer in Operation game?

No. But according to Operation game rules, players may set a time limit for each operation and try to complete their activities within that time.

What kind of batteries do you need for the Operation game board?

Insert 2 AA batteries that are supposed to be included in your kit. 

Can toddlers play the Operation game?

The game is not ideally designed for toddlers. With their unsteady baby hands, toddlers might get frustrated after a couple of buzzes. Also, the small funatomy pieces may cause choking hazards without careful supervision.

Alternative Games You Might Like 

Enjoyed Operation? Why don’t you consider more dexterity and precision games like Patch Bed Bugs and Scatterpillar Scramble?

Next in our suggestion is Topple, a three-dimensional balancing board game, great fun for all ages. Topple is also a game of steady hands where you need to carefully place the game pieces on a wobbly board so that they don’t fall off. 

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