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CLASS STRUGGLE

Designer: Bertell Ollman
Publisher: Class Struggle, Inc. (1978), The Avalon Hill Game Company (1982)

Players: 2-6
Playing time: 90 minutes
Era: 1970s America
Scale: Abstract

Bertell Ollman, then an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at New York University, designed this game in 1978 as a simple encapsulation of his views on capitalist society vs. the worker’s struggle. Superficially, it is similar to many other move-around-the-board-collecting-things games, but the Marxist rhetoric in the texts transforms it into – well, some kind of learning experience.

Components (original 1978 long box edition)

1 large box, 10.5” x 20.5”, featuring a bad photomontage of Nelson Rockefeller and Karl Marx arm wrestling.
1 20” square folding mapboard, divided into 84 squares in three concentric rings
12 wooden blocks to support standy-uppy pieces and notice cards
6 standy-uppy pieces of cardboard to place in wooden blocks, to denote players/classes in the game: Workers (hammer); Capitalists (top hat with dollar sign); Farmers (tractor); Small Businessmen (cash register); Professionals (briefcase); Students (mortarboard hat).
4 Minor Class cards (Farmers, Small Business, Professionals, Students) to remind you of your alliances
2 Event Cards: “Trade Unions Formed” and “Workers’ Political Party Formed”
2 decks of Chance cards, of 35 cards each, one for the Workers and one for the Capitalists. Roughly equal in their overall effects, though the rhetoric on the cards varies considerably.
1 six-sided “genetic” die (symbol of each of the six classes on each face)
2 six-sided moving dice, each one numbering 1-3 twice
1 Beginner’s Rules pamphlet, 10 pages
1 Full and Tournament Rules pamphlet, with designer’s notes and commentary, 26 pages
124 Asset coupons
62 Debit coupons

The 1982 Avalon Hill release has similar components except for die-cut player counters and one rules booklet, packed in a bookcase box.

What the designer says

From the copy on the back of the box:

“FIRST EDITION SOLD OUT IN ONE MONTH!
First book about capitalism to come packaged in a game box…first game to be written up in a New York Times editorial, first game ever to be played on the radio (for two hours on WBAI)…First game ever to be sold by… three of New York’s most famous bookstores…first full-scale board game to present the side of the workers.”


What the reviewers say

“More fun than Das Kapital” – Paul Sweezy, Monthly Review
“Monopoly with its consciousness drastically raised” – Boston Real Paper

Player’s Value

This is a fairly simple game, good for one or two plays if you have only two people; might be more interesting with five or six sneaky ones who may desert you when you need them. The game starts with each player rolling the “genetic die” to see which class they have to play; the Full Rules vary this in a way which I will quote as an example of the designer’s rhetoric:

“Also in our society, WOMEN AND BLACKS HAVE LESS CHANCE THAN WHITE MALES TO BECOME CAPITALISTS. This has nothing to do with the human qualities of women and Blacks and everything to do with the unfair rules set by our society. Attempting to reflect these rules (and not in any way to justify them), “Class Struggle” calls for the following: beginning with the lightest white male and ending with the darkest Black female, everyone takes turns with the genetic (or luck-of-birth die) to see who throws the Capitalist Class first…. Then, the players throw the die in just the reverse order to see who plays the Workers.”

Players go around the board, picking up assets and debits along the way according to which squares they land on or Chance cards they take. Important points in the game occur when Major Classes strike alliances with Minor Classes and in Confrontation squares (strikes or elections). The winner of a Confrontation (determined by adding up all the assets and debits of his and all other allied classes) gets three free throws of the dice and the winner of the final Confrontation (Revolution, in the last square of the board) wins the game.

Other games by this designer

None. However, Bertell Ollman (now a full Professor at NYU) did write a book on his struggle to produce and sell the game, Class Struggle is the Name of the Game: True Confessions of a Marxist Businessman (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1983). The book was revised and reissued in 2001 as Ballbuster: True Confessions of a Marxist Businessman.
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