Jan 18, 2006

Board Game Review: ‘Class Struggle’

Yes, this is Karl Marx. Yes, yes, he is indeed armwrestling a Rockefeller and both were the stars of an Avalon Hill board game's box-art. Not any board game's of course, but a game's created by New York University professor Bertell Ollman as a socialist alternative to Monopoly. Obviously in the 70s when such ideas were actually allowed (!). This infamous and nowadays obscure board game was (and still is) called Class Struggle.

(Oh, and since it was released in the 70s and then again in the 80s don’t expect the glossy/ultra-polished feeling of contemporary board games.)

Class Struggle manages to combine marxist theory, excellent humor and sheer fun. Each player is randomly (as in real life) assigned as a class and races towards the center of the board (in a spiraling way) in order to win the final confrontation of the classes. Should the workers or their allies win, it’s socialism. Should the capitalists or their allies win, it’s not. The rules are simple, logical and you can check them out here, on Bertell Ollman’s NYU page.

The one most interesting and enjoyable aspect of Class Struggle is the way in which real life is put inside the game mechanics. Here’s is an example of a worker’s Monopoly-styled chance card: ‘If you haven’t washed the dishes or made supper in the last week, move two spaces back’ (which is in game terms a bad thing). On the equivalent capitalist’s chance card you get told to move two spaces ahead (a good thing). Simple as that. Educating too.

That’s an (eight) out of (ten).

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  1. I always like a monopoly kind of games.. I think I might try this board games, Thanks for the review.. Anyway, if you have time, take a visit to my Free Games website.

  2. This game is an amateurish piece of crap.

  3. I've got the game and like it! Forget what anon. #2 says!

  4. Greetings from Russia!
    Maybe some of the those here presents have a boardgame «Classwar» by Bertran Ollsen? And may be this lucky man can scan or photograph board, cards and complete rules (whole game at common)?
    It`s very interesting to play this game, especially in aspect of classwar`vision by people of the West during coldwar when this game was created. Also playing must be fun^)
    We would be very grateful for any help!

  5. Hey altayna, thanks for the comment! Truth is I do have a copy of the game but sadly no scanner just yet. You could read the complete rules over at the link I've posted and even have a search over at board game geek.

    Playing the thing is rather fun and I must admit it's very properly marxist too. I couldn't actually find something to disagree over. For example if the workers win it's socialism, if the capitalists win it's barbarism and only the capitalist have a chance to go for a nuclear war in which case it's a tie.


  6. I believe it was built in 1978 by Bertell Ollman.

    To see the game itself and its rules you can visit this site.

    God bless.

  7. Thanks, though I did mention these handy bits of info in the post itself.

  8. http://www.nyu.edu/projects/ollman/game_rules.php - it is not full rules and without board and cards. I wouldn't buy box with game/ Better, if I may load and print this game, but I can't find full rules and scnned cards. If will be links post it this.
    Excuse for my English. I'm like altayna from Russia.