Soviet board-games, 1920-1938

Games of revolution and industry 

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Image: Reds and Whites, a war game!
A Soviet board-game from 1929.

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It’s the 1920s. You’re a young revolutionary living in the newly-formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Now that the Allied Intervention’s been frustrated, and the reactionary White Army beaten back, the threat of counterrevolution seems to have momentarily subsided. All in all, it’s a good time to be a Marxist in old Muscovy.

There’s only one problem with this new arrangement: What to do with the free time you’re not spending locked in combat against the tsarists, yankees, and Huns? Sure, you’ve got a job at the local shoe factory. But war communism’s out, and the New Economic Program is in. It’s time to kick back and relax. Communism will be built soon enough.

Luckily, there’s a new product available to help pass the time. A.V. Kuklin’s come out with a whole batch of revolutionary board-games, featuring such riveting class-conscious titles as ElectrificationRevolutionReds vs. Whites, and Maneuvers: A Game for Young Pioneers [Soviet Boy Scouts]. Games for the whole family, even though the family form of property-relations must eventually be abolished. Let the capitalists have their Monopoly; let the imperialists play their Risk. I’ll stick to Modern War or Air Struggle.

Ages 8 and up?

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My favorites among these include the “electrification” board-game, the chemical war game, and the Reds vs. the Whites game. You can tell that they reflect the immediate experience of devastating world war, revolution, and bloody civil war, followed by a project of social engineering and economic modernization the likes of which the world had never seen. The only other thing I’ll say is that, from an aesthetic perspective, one can see the change in the officially-sanctioned styles from the more avant-garde lines, shapes, and typography to the cartoon realism of caricatured figures in the Sots-art of the 1930s. Enjoy!

15 thoughts on “Soviet board-games, 1920-1938

  1. I’m not sure why but I wasn’t so surprised to see almost every board game cover featuring warfare, chemical weapons, and radiation poisoning. They do look like fun games though.

    • No radiation poisoning just yet! (These games only go up to 1938). But yeah, Revolution, the game! Chemical Warfare, the game! Air struggle, the game! Pirates, the game! Electrification, the game!

  2. The world map board under which you have put a caption about domination looks post-1938. There is a mid-century car in N. America, a fighter jet over Greenland, a helicopter over Scandinavia, and an airliner flying over the Aral Sea.
    It has more of a whimsical 1960s feel to it, IMO.

    Whatever the explanation, great stuff! Thanks, Ross!

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  9. and, of course, our “monopoly” game was also
    marxist originally.

    these games look fun–especially electrification.

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