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Operation: How to Play & Rules – 16 Things to Consider (Easily Explained)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Most people have played Operation at some point in their lives. Whether as kids playing with parents or playing with friends, Operation was one of the best ways to pass the time. When playing the game, kids and adults alike get to operate on Cavity Sam. Without a doubt, Operation can be a suspenseful game to play because one wrong move and you get buzzed! 

Playing Operation is incredibly easy, with very few rules you’ll need to follow. Operation can be played solo or with up to 4 players. 

After a quick set-up, players spin the wheel to select which part to remove. For each successful Operation, players receive money from the “banker. The goal of the game is to have the most money when the game ends after all body parts have been removed

Below, you will learn more detailed instructions on how to play Operation, as well as some fun facts about the game!

1. Check To Make Sure You Have All The Pieces

Before you decide to play a quick game of Operation, you need to be sure you have all the pieces. These pieces are the game board with the tweezers attached, 11 “funatomy” parts (the pieces you will remove as part of the game), 24 cards, and fake money. 

If you are missing some money, you won’t face any issues, but missing one or more funatomy pieces could ruin the game. 

2. Fun For Individuals And Groups Alike

Operation isn’t just a game for kids! It can be enjoyed by all ages in any setting. Operation can be played by just one person or by up to 4 players. But the rules stay the same, with just one minor addition for playing in groups, and that’s choosing a banker who is in charge of paying each player after each successful “operation.” 

3. How To Set Up The Game

Place the game board on a flat, level surface to get started. Next, separate the game cards into two piles: “doctor” cards and “specialist” cards. Next, shuffle the specialist cards and deal them out to each player, ensuring everyone has the same amount of cards. If there are any cards left over, leave them out of the game. 

Then, shuffle the “doctor” cards and place them face down so that each player can reach them. Finally, place each funatomy piece into its cavity, and you’re ready to begin! 

4. What Are The Cards

Operation comes with two 12-piece sets of cards, a “doctor” set, and a “specialist” set. The doctor cards are used by players to learn which body part they need to “operate” on. 

Specialist cards match up with doctor cards. However, the specialist cards allow players to earn more for an operation if they draw the matching card. For example, if a player has the “collarbone” specialty card, they will be paid more to remove the collarbone. 

5. Test The Games Batteries

Before you start playing, make sure the batteries in your game have charge in them. The batteries power the buzz function and light up Sam’s nose if players are unsuccessful. If the batteries are dead, players will be unaware if they have successfully removed their pieces. 

6. Playing The Game In Groups

To play, each player takes turns drawing a card from the “doctor” deck to learn which part they’ll be operating on and how much they will be paid if successful. 

Once you know which part you need to remove, you need to use the tweezers provided to remove it. This continues until each piece has been removed, at which point the game will be over.

7. Successful vs Unsuccessful Operation 

To complete each Operation successfully, you need to remove the piece without touching the sides of its holder and causing Sam’s nose to light up and the board to buzz. 

If you succeed in removing the part, collect your fee from the banker. If you are unsuccessful and get the “buzz,” your turn ends immediately, and the next player’s turn begins.

8. Specialist Turns

In the event of an unsuccessful operation, allow the player with the matching specialist card to try removing the piece. If the player is successful, pay them what they are owed. If they are unsuccessful, their turn ends as usual, and the game continues as normal. 

9. Ending The Game

The game is over once all 12 pieces have been removed from cavity Sam. Declaring a winner is just as easy. After each piece has been removed, each player needs to count their money. 

The player who has the most money is the winner. There is no award for most operations completed. 

10. Playing Solo

If you are playing alone, there is no need for the specialist cards or even the doctor cards. Just remove the pieces in any order you wish, and if you’re unsuccessful, just try again! You can do this until you have removed all 12 parts.

11. Operations Can Be Timed

To make things a bit more challenging, players can elect to set a time limit on removing pieces. For instance, each player could receive 30 seconds to remove their part. Their turn is over if the time runs out before the piece has been removed.

12. Variations 

As with many popular family board games, Operation has a few different editions you can look out for. The editions you may find are based on movies such as Cars, Star Wars, Finding Nemo, Frozen, etc. 

Each variation still follows the traditional game rules. The only difference is the parts you’ll be removing and from who.

13. How To Store The Game

To keep things safe, you can use a small Ziploc bag to hold the game parts and keep them in the box under the game board. Secure the cards using a rubber band and place them in the box as well. Store the game in a dark, well-ventilated area until you’re ready to play again.

14. Remember To Have Fun

Operation is only a game and should be enjoyed as much as possible. Don’t take things too seriously, as the main objective is just to have as much fun playing as you can!

15. You Can Play Online Or On a PC

Operation isn’t just limited to being a board game! Operation is available to play online on numerous websites. 

Playing online and on the computer game is similar to playing the actual board game. However, you’ll be using your mouse to control the tweezers rather than your hand. In addition, a few additional features are found in the game’s online and PC variations. 

16. Play On Mobile

Hasbro games has released a mobile version of Operation. Users can enjoy the classic board game with a few added features to make things a bit more fun and interesting. 

Playing the game on mobile is quite similar to playing on the game board, but instead of using tweezers to remove the parts, you’ll be using your finger.

In Closing

Operation is a fun and challenging game for all ages, whether you’re playing on your own or with others. There aren’t many rules you’ll need to follow to play the game, especially if you’re playing alone. 

To win the game, you either need to be the player who has the most money, or you need to have removed each part. The game is over once each piece has been removed. Then it’s time to set back up and start again! 

Operation is also available online, as a PC game, and also as a mobile app. If you’re ready to test out the game for yourself, prepare for fun! Enjoy!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.