A few weeks ago, Tyler commented on Bertell Ollman’s Marxist rules for professional basketball. What Tyler didn’t tell you is that Bertell Ollman is also the author of the board game “Class Struggle: Game of Life in Capitalist America.” And yes, loyal Marginal Revolution readers, I own a copy and I’d like to tell you all about it.
The goal of Class Struggle is to teach people about how capitalism really works, at least according to Marxist theory. Each player plays a class (Workers, Capitalists, Farmers, etc.) because individuals aren’t the real players in capitalist societies. Each class moves towards the center of the board collecting assets and suffering penalties. The strategy is to accumulate as many assets as you can until the Revolution arrives. If you have the most assets when the Revolution comes, you win the game.
The game isn’t terribly fun to play, as one would expect from a game emphasizing oppression, unfairness and struggle. But much fun can be had reading the rules and the “chance” cards that give you assets. For example, the expanded “Full Rules” for deciding who gets to play the Capitalist class are designed to show players unfairness towards women and ethnic minorities: “Full Rules calls for the following: beginning with the lightest White male and ending with the darkest Black female, everyone takes turns with the Genetic die to see who throws capitalist class first.” I’m proud to say that I’ve won a few games, despite my modest disadvantage as a Latino male.
The chance cards are great fun. These two examples are for the Capitalist class:
“You are caught feeling sorry for the Workers. Victory in class struggle comes to people who think about their own class. Miss two turns at the dice.”
“Paperback edition of Marx/Engels Collected Writings (100 volumes) sweeps the country. Your days are numbered. 2 debits.”
These are for the Workers:
“Workers finally understand that with America’s wealth and democratic traditions, socialism here will be different than what exists in Russia and China. A biggie – worth 5 assets.”
“Together with your fellow workers, you have occupied your factory and locked your boss in the toilet. Capitalists miss 2 turns at the dice.”
These two chance cards are counter-Marginal Revolutionary:
“All your propaganda says a person is free when the Government lets him alone. But almost everything one wants to do or have costs money, so only Capitalists are really free.”
“You publish an ‘educational’ booklet to explain that in capitalism people – as consumers – vote for what they want with their dollars. You neglect to mention that in most industries, a few firms without any effective competition decide what to produce and what to charge, or that Capitalists who have the most dollars have the most votes. Give each class in the game 1 asset so they have money to buy your booklet.”
The game has other fun rules like the nuclear showdown option: if capitalists push the button, no one wins! Bertell Ollman might be interested in knowing copies are selling for about $15 on Ebay.