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Czechoslovak Board Game Pokes Fun At Former Communist Rulers

December 17, 1990

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia (AP) _ A year after their peaceful revolution, Czechoslovaks are snapping up a new board game that makes fun of the Communists who ruled their nation for four decades.

The game, called ″Building a Monument to Stalin,″ takes satirical aim at the relics of Communist rule - Marxist education, the secret police, bureaucratic pettiness and corruption.

Players roll the dice and draw cards giving instructions that could have been chillingly real before they took to the streets 13 months ago and toppled their hard-line leaders.

″Participating in an unauthorized demonstration, the water cannon pushed you back five spaces,″ says one card.

″After a night at the Communist Youth disco, you come down with venereal disease - bribe the doctor 2,000 crowns,″ says another.

Visiting a Soviet army base, ″the extra three glasses of vodka with which you washed down the boiled carp made you sick - miss two turns,″ says a third.

The Monopoly-like game sells for 50 crowns, the equivalent of a nice restaurant lunch.

Before they can start the game, players must put it together with scissors and glue, even assembling makeshift paper dice.

That’s a pointed reminder of the Communist-era consumer practice of scrounging in shops for makeshift goods, patching together what they were lucky enough to find or buy.

Although they can joke now about the economic hardships under the Communists, Czechoslovaks are bracing for even tougher times as their country makes the painful switch to a market economy.

″This may be the last time we can laugh about how stupid the Communists were and still have a good meal for dinner,″ said Martina Klementova, a 34- year old teacher.

The goal of the game is to win control of sites along the board and build a monument to the late Soviet dictator. A real-life monument to Stalin - a gargantuan statue - once towered over Prague, but it was dismantled.

Players roll the dice to determine rewards - the chance to study at a university, or even become party general secretary - or punishment, such as detention by police.

The game can be found in department stores as well as at small stands in the Metro, and it has been selling briskly. Its inventor, a 39-year-old writer, is a little disconcerted by its success.

″I heard about this in a pub from a guy who spent 10 years in jail and devised something along these lines just to kill time,″ said Petr Sabach.

″Several years later I started scribbling something similar on the table of the same pub ... and in less than a day I was finished,″ he said.

The game is also sold in neighboring Poland, which also recently shook off Communist rule. Sabach said he and the producer had made $33,000 from sales.

The son of a ministry clerk and an army colonel who was a Communist Party member, Sabach says the things the game makes fun of were part of his childhood.

″These things were with me ever since I was born, whether I liked it or not,″ he said.

Jana Savrdova, a 25-year-old waitress, says the game is fun. ″And yet it reminds one of the not-so-old times when something like this was actually dangerous,″ she said.

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