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Trivial Pursuit

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Background Information

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Trivial Pursuit
Players 2–4
Age range 15 +
Setup time 5 minutes
Playing time 90 minutes
Random chance Medium
Skill(s) required General knowledge, Popular culture

Trivial Pursuit is a board game where progress is determined by a player's ability to answer general knowledge, and popular culture questions. The game was created in 1979 by Scott Abbott, a sports editor for the Canadian Press, and Chris Haney, of Welland, Ontario, a photo editor for the Montreal Gazette. After finding pieces of their Scrabble game missing, they decided to create their own game. With the help of John Haney and Ed Werner, they completed development of the game, which was released in 1982.

In North America, the game's popularity peaked in 1984, a year in which over 20 million games were sold. The rights to the game were licensed to Parker Brothers (now part of Hasbro) in 1988, after initially being turned down by Richard Branson's Virgin Group. As of 2004, nearly 88 million games had been sold in 26 countries and 17 languages. Northern Plastics of Elroy, Wisconsin produced 30,000,000 games between 1983 and 1985.

Dozens of question sets have been released for the game. The question cards are organized into themes; for instance, in the standard "Genus" question set, questions in green deal with "science and nature". Some question sets have been designed for younger players and others for a specific time period or as promotional tie-ins (such as Star Wars, Saturday Night Live, and The Lord of the Rings movies).


The object of the game is to move around the board by correctly answering quiz questions. Questions are split into six categories, with each one having its own colour to identify it; in the classic version of trivial pursuit these are Geography (blue), Entertainment (pink), History (yellow), Arts & Literature (brown), Science & Nature (green), and Sports & Leisure (orange). The game includes a board, playing pieces, question cards and a box and small plastic wedges to fit into the playing pieces.

Playing pieces used in trivial pursuit are round and divided into six sections. A small, plastic wedge can be placed into each of these sections to signify when a question from a certain category has been correctly answered. Any number of playing pieces may occupy the same space at the same time. The pieces resemble pie slices that fit into a circular piece to make a pie.

During the game, players move their playing pieces around a track which is shaped like a wheel with six spokes. This track is divided into spaces of different colours, and the centre of the board is a hexagonal shape. At the end of each spoke is a 'category headquarters' space. When a player's counter lands on a square, the player answers a question according to the colour of the square, which corresponds to one of the six question categories. If the player answers this question correctly their turn continues; if the player's piece was on one of the category headquarters spaces, they collect a small wedge of the same colour, which fits into their playing piece. Some spaces say 'roll again' giving an extra roll of the die to the player which has landed there.

Questions are stored on cards. There are six questions on each card, one from each category. The answers to the questions are on the back of the cards. These cards are in turn stored inside a small box.

Once a player has collected one wedge of each colour to fill up their playing piece, they make their way toward the hexagonal hub and answer a question in a question category selected by the other players. If this question is answered correctly then that player has won the game. Otherwise the player must leave the centre of the board and try again on their next turn.

Extra sets of cards with new questions can be purchased separately in order to enhance the game. Special versions of the game have also been made for different players, for example with easier questions for younger players, and numerous special editions are available with questions on certain popular subjects. Examples are the 'Star Wars' and 'Lord of the Rings' editions.

Different editions

Over the years, numerous editions of Trivial Pursuit have been produced, usually specializing in various fields. The original version is known as the Genus edition (or Genus I). Several other general knowledge editions have followed (Genus II, etc.). Among the different versions that have been available over the years are:

Master game sets

  • Original (Genus, 1981)
  • Walt Disney Family Board Game (1981)
  • Trivial Pursuit for Juniors board (1987)
  • Volume II board (1987) (also sold as card set)
  • The 1980s (1989) (also sold as card set)
  • Vintage Years (20's/50's) (1989) (also sold as card set)
  • The Year in Review 1993 (1993)
  • Genus III (1994)
  • Junior Player Ed 3 (1994)
  • Genus IV (1996)
  • Junior Player Ed 4 (1996)
  • 10th Anniversary (1992)
  • The Year in Review 1992 (1992)
  • All American board game (1993)
  • Star Wars Classic Trilogy Collector's (1997)
  • Star Wars Ep I (1998)
  • Warner Bros (1999)
  • Biographies (2000)
  • Genus V (2000)
  • Junior Player Ed 5 (2001)
  • 20th Anniversary (2002)
  • Disney Animated Picture (2002)
  • Lord of the Rings (2003)
  • Volume 6 (2003)
  • 90's edition (in tin box) (2004)
  • Book Lover's Edition (2004)
  • Junior Player Ed 6 (2004)
  • Pop Culture 2 to go (2006)
  • Totally '80's (2006)
  • TP for Kids Nickelodeon Ed (2006)

Supplemental card sets

  • Silver Screen card set (1981)
  • All Sports card set (1983)
  • Baby Boomer card set (1983)
  • Genus II card set (1984)
  • RPM card set (1985)
  • Walt Disney Family Edition card set (1985)
  • Welcome to America card set (1985)
  • The Good Life Travel card set (1987) (Canada)
  • War & Victory Travel card set (1987) (Canada)
  • Young Players card set (1987)
  • The 1960s card set (1989)
  • Flicks Travel card set (1989)
  • Rock and Pop Travel card set (1989)
  • Sports Travel card set (1989)
  • TV Travel card set (1989)
  • TV card set (1991)
  • Country Music Travel card set (1993)

Atypical editions/rules

  • Pocket Player Boob Tube (1987)
  • Pocket Player TP's People (1987)
  • Game Show Edition (1993)
  • In Pursuit (1994, 2001)
  • Know-it-All (Winning Moves) (1998)
  • Know-It-All New England (Winning Moves-very hard to find)
  • Know-It-All New York (Winning Moves-very hard to find)
  • Know-It-All Chicago (Winning Moves-very hard to find)
  • Know-It All TP (2000) (this card set duplicated the questions from Winning Moves edition but also includes 32 additional cards)
  • Bite Sized (2003)


Fred Worth lawsuit

In October 1984, Fred L. Worth, author of The Trivia Encyclopedia, Super Trivia, and Super Trivia II, filed a $300 million lawsuit against the distributors of Trivial Pursuit. He claimed that more than a quarter of the questions in the game's Genus Edition had been taken from his books, even to the point of reproducing typographical errors and deliberately placed misinformation. One of the questions in Trivial Pursuit was "What was Columbo's first name?" with the answer "Philip". That information had been fabricated by Worth and placed in his book to catch anyone who might try to violate his copyright.

The inventors of Trivial Pursuit acknowledged that Worth's books were among their sources, but argued that this was not improper and that facts are not protected by copyright. The district court judge agreed, ruling in favour of the Trivial Pursuit inventors. The decision was appealed, and in September 1987 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California upheld the ruling. The issue was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, which rejected Worth's arguments in March 1988.

David Wall lawsuit

In 1994, David Wall of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, launched a lawsuit against the game's creators. He claimed that in the fall of 1979, he and a friend were hitchhiking near Sydney, Nova Scotia, when they were picked up by Chris Haney. Wall claimed that he told Haney about his idea for the game in detail, including the shape of the markers.

Wall's mother testified she found drawings of his that looked like plans for a Trivial Pursuit-like game, but the drawings had since been destroyed. Wall's friend, who was allegedly hitchhiking with him that day, never testified. Haney said he never met Wall.

Over the years, there was much legal wrangling, notably around whether the suit should be decided by a judge or jury. On June 25, 2007, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled against Wall.

Dumbing down accusations

In the United Kingdom, Trivial Pursuit players have complained that recent versions of the game are dumbed down in comparison to previous editions, with easier questions and more focus on celebrities and show business. In addition, some long time players in the U.S. have complained that recent editions promote commercial products, with questions such as, "Who was the first pizza delivery outfit to promise your order in 30 minutes?" (from the Genus III edition).


A version of Trivial Pursuit hosted by Wink Martindale aired on The Family Channel in the USA from 1993 to 1995. A syndicated version of the show entitled Trivial Pursuit: America Plays is under development for a planned launch in fall 2008.

BBC Television produced a Trivial Pursuit quiz show based on the game in the UK hosted by Rory McGrath. Another British version (with slightly different rules) was hosted on The Family Channel (now Challenge) by Tony Slattery. Birgit Lechtermann hosted a version for VOX in Germany from 1993 to 1994.

In 1988, a made-for-television movie entitled Breaking all the Rules: The Creation of Trivial Pursuit was aired. Treated largely as a comedy, the movie featured the music of Ginette McLeod and portrayed the creators of the game as three beer-loving Canadians.

In September 2004, Roger Lodge hosted a sports trivia game show on ESPN based on Trivial Pursuit. Called ESPN Trivial Pursuit, it lasted five episodes.

The game is sometimes incorrectly called "Trivial Pursuits". This common mistake is illustrated in the " Jolly Boys' Outing" episode of Only Fools and Horses, where Del Boy refers to the game by this name, despite the other characters using its correct name.

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