Russian board games from the 1920s and 1930s


A gallery of lighthearted Russian board games from the 1920s and 1930s. (Via Phillip Torrone)


  1. As always, the Soviet-era screen printing is fascinating and captivating. There was an obvious dearth of acceptable game-design subjects, however. Most of these don’t look playable at all. I wonder what they would have made of Monopoly back then in Soviet Russia? Would it have even made sense to them?

  2. Notice how crappy the graphics become by 1938? The stuff up until the early 1930s is gorgeous. Damn Stalin.

  3. One of the guys on the brown side appears to be playing hockey during that gas attack. And the guy running in front of him looks like he’s heading off for a round of fishing.

    “I’ll tell you what this means Norm…no size restrictions and SCREW the limit” – G. Larson

  4. One of the games looks war-game-ish. The map of Russia (well, the CCCP) with linked regions. A sort of RISK?

  5. Like most Soviet era movies, almost all these games are war games. Every population has a class of people who are by their nature opposed to war for any reason and turned off by militarism. Can you imagine how screwed up they must have felt with the military every where, the state worshiped as if it were a religion, not even a nice game for the kids to play that does not involve killing someone. Zeeesh! At least here we still have to hide the fact when our helicopters pilots take joy in killing and maiming, I’ll bet that footage would have made “Bremya” if they had it back in Stalin’s time. …. And now … Just in from the Malibar Front !!!!

  6. Well, who wouldn’t want to play a rousing game of Defeat the Polish Anarchists, Semaphore Bingo, or Path to the Glorious Workers’ Paradise Involving Ascension Through Correct Ideology and Also Pitfalls Laid by Capitalist Serpents?

    Anyway, beats Agricola.

    1. Yes! (I am at a loss to think of a board game equivalent of “Strike!”)

      Also: lol at “lighthearted”

      Also, Also: the second one marked 1928 reminds me of Chirs Ware’s illustration style a lot!

  7. Geez, these were way before my time. I think the only one of those that I saw was the “You sunk my battle ship” game.

    One really messed up part is the paper-craft dice in one of these games.

    1. Trent – I went back and looked – those are some screwed up dice. Pairs of opposite sides add up to 4, 6, and 11…

  8. Probably tough to get kids to choose up sides for a neighborhood game of “Chekists and Kulaks” so I can see why board games might have caught on big time.

    And – if little Pavlik and his siblings are engrossed in these games, he might not spot Mum and Dad slipping a few grains of collective-farm wheat into the cupboard….

  9. The chemwar game is probably close to reality. Anyone who has had any chemical warfare or haz-mat training knows how to use the wind drift templates and a topo map to chart spread and speed of a contamination front. Most of these exercises are just that, a big board game maybe using radios between tables or training rooms to simulate geographic separation.

    1. Apparently a lot of them are fairly accurate, they might have had military officials involved in their design.

      Then again just about everyone was in the military at one point or another so might have just used what they knew in the making of these games.

  10. Oh my favorites! Hopeless Spiral of Oppression!
    I’m certain most of these games are intended to find out which one of a group is the least comradely. It is then just a simple matter of reporting the loser(s) to the nearest NKVD officer.

  11. Some of these games look as if they could have been drawn by Chris Ware. (He is lighthearted enough to imagine something like ‘Potemkin Cleanser’ too.)

  12. That image is *extremely* reminiscent of a scene in Shaun Tan’s wordless (and amazing) comic “The Arrival”.

  13. Now if people had actually bothered to translate the Russian captions (Chrome seems to give you an option to do so automatically), they might realise that most of these are not wargames. “Hopeless Spiral of Oppression”, according to toxonix. This is basically trivial pursuit, except that the questions are all about the labour code and trade unions. – Like Stefan Jones, I also thought this was Risk. However, it turns out to be a game more like the London Underground game, where each player is given 5 cards with the names of cities, and they have to visit each one. The catch is that all the players are in the same aircraft, and each player in their turn gets to move the plane. Imagine the diplomacy aspect!

    A whole bunch are really uplifting – “design the vehicle transmission system”, “build the power grid”, “fly from Moscow to Beijing”.

    These were the early days, before Stalin had fully ascended. There was a lot of nastiness already, but I imagine there was also a lot of hope.

  14. In addition to “Chemical Warfare”, the link also shows games called “Revolution”, “Welcome to the Worldwide Revolution”, “Red and White”, “Aerial Battle”, “Marine War”, “Contemporary War”, and “Battle of the Tanks.”

    I feel like there’s some kind of theme here.

  15. There was a Sovietized “monopoly” style board game in the 80s, which was called “KOOPERATIV”. No luck with Google Image Search though, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Comments are closed.