There's no Boardwalk or Park Place to covet, no Free Parking and no way you'll collect $200 for simply passing "Go."
Instead, players fight to obtain basic necessities such as food and clothing amid impossible lineups, chronic shortages and corruption.
Having fun yet?
Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (INR) launched Kolejka, a board game about life under communism, to give youngsters a taste of the harsh economic realities of the Soviet era. The institute's push to remind citizens of the bygone era underscores the dramatic transformation the country has undergone since the demise of communism.
Poland has aggressively pursued a free-market policy and dismantled the systems of control that existed under the previous regime. The country of 38.5 million has enjoyed rapid growth and was the only member of the European Union to avoid a recession in 2009.
"The standard of living is still half of what it is in typical western European countries," said Dale Jorgenson, an economist at Harvard University. "But there are no continuing shortages, difficulties getting apartments or phones. All that is history."
Nevertheless, the INR - which commemorates the suffering of the Polish people during the Communist era - hopes Kolejka will teach those born after 1989 just how tough conditions were under Communist policy. In this way the game isn't all that different from The Landlord's Game (an early version of Monopoly), designed to impart the perils of private land monopolies.
Kolejka's creator insists the games are "as different as capitalism and communism." Still, both are all about acquisition - albeit under starkly different circumstances.
"In Monopoly, your only decision is to buy or not to buy," said Karol Madaj, the game's designer. "In Kolejka, you have more to do."
Players each have a "family" of five people, represented by game pieces, who must complete a shopping list of ten items. These items, displayed in 1980s-era images on cards, might include meat, sugar, toilet paper, a men's razor or a lamp.
They wait in long lineups (kolejka is the Polish word for queue), frustrated by queue jumpers and stores that run out of inventory just as they arrive at the counter. Indeed, though there are usually five people in every lineup, each shop has only three items, making fights inevitable.
More fun: Items are delivered to the wrong shop by mistake and game cards allow some players to force others out of the line.
How to get ahead? Players who manage to get their hands on a "colleague in government" card can secretly learn the timing of new deliveries. Other cards allow players to buy products "under the counter."
Asked if the game wasn't a tad depressing, Mr. Madaj acknowledged that it might be.
"But it is also not depressing because this era [of Communist rule]is gone in Poland," he said. "The idea of the game is to feel the genuine emotions of people who lived in Poland 30 years ago."
And if after a couple of rounds, you need a few laughs, Kolejka has that covered too: The game comes with a book of Communist-era jokes.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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