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Gamers line up to play ‘Communist Monopoly’

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There's no doubt about it -- some board games are just plain boring.

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Kolejka (Karol Madaj)

Monopoly, perhaps. Connect 4, if you have an extraordinarily short attention span. But a board game where all you do is line up to buy things? Sounds like a instant snooze-fest.

Don't be too quick to judge, however. Designed at the Institute for National Remembrance in Warsaw, Poland, "Kolejka," which means "queue" or "line," is a new board game intended to teach Polish youths about the grim realities of life under Communist rule during the 1980s.

It's been compared to Monopoly, but in Kolejka the aim isn't to create a massive real-estate empire. Instead, it's simply to buy enough goods to keep your family fed, clothed, and properly furnished.

Players are given shopping lists of period-authentic goods -- like canned ham, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and shoes -- and must line up at five stores in the hope of securing all the items they need. But just like in Communist-era Eastern Europe, they may well find deliveries have not arrived, stores are sold out, or competitors have jumped the queue in front of them.

It's intended to provoke dialogue between older and younger generations about life in Poland during the 80s, designer Karol Madaj told Der Spiegel at the game's launch earlier this year.

"Those who were too young to remember how it was back then will be able to play this game with their parents or grandparents," said Madaj, "and maybe talk about how things were for the older generation."

Depressing though it sounds, the game -- which comes in a plain box resembling a brown paper package -- has been a hit with gamers both at home in Poland and further afield. Perhaps ironically, Polish gamers greeted its launch by queuing up outside the Institute in an effort to secure a copy.

And it's been educating (and entertaining) Western gamers, too. Madaj's team has produced a free, downloadable, print-and-play version of the game in English, and over a hundred fans at popular Western board gaming web site Board Game Geek have propelled it to a very healthy 7/10 rating. Lining up for canned ham must be more fun than it sounds.

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