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This is mostly for curiosity, I've been thinking of board games from a publishers' point of view lately and was wondering if there are any games out there that have been published to pursue some other agenda (political, religious, etc.)? I specifically mean a game where a sponsor would want to remain anonymous, wouldn't want the board game to be branded with their visual brand.

  • The concept of a "sponsor" strikes me as very strange in this context. What is the mindset of such a person/group? Spend tens of thousands of dollars to print and distribute a bunch of games... to whom? Where? Are they giving the games away, or charging? Maybe my imagination is lacking! – The Chaz 2.0 Sep 26 '17 at 13:28
  • The rationale for my question stems more from a visual design point of view, I was wondering if there would be a case where a publisher would want to remain unknown, in the sense that the box would not be branded with the logo for example. – curious Sep 26 '17 at 16:08
  • It's a great question, and credible scenario, imo. – DukeZhou Oct 25 '17 at 18:33
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[Note: This answer focuses on the history of this subject, citing some famous examples, as opposed to contemporary propagandistic games, which I have no doubt exist, although I can't comment on the anonymity issue. Generally, designers are proud to be associated with such games, but we do seem to be entering a new era of propaganda, with definite emphasis on obfuscation of sources.]

You will want to look into the predecessor of Monopoly, known as The Landlord's Game.

There is a delicious irony here in that, while the game was designed to teach about the dangers of certain aspects of capitalism, the later Monopoly, the most commercially successful boardgame in US history, glorifies practices that Landlord's inventor, Elizabeth Magie, was cautioning against.

From the wiki:

The game was created to be a "practical demonstration of the present system of land grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences". She based the game on the economic principles of Georgism, a system proposed by Henry George, with the object of demonstrating how rents enrich property owners and impoverish tenants. She knew that some people could find it hard to understand why this happened and what might be done about it, and she thought that if Georgist ideas were put into the concrete form of a game, they might be easier to demonstrate. Magie also hoped that when played by children the game would provoke their natural suspicion of unfairness, and that they might carry this awareness into adulthood.

There were also earlier boardgames designed to teach moral lessons to children and reinforce religious beliefs, including Snakes & Ladders, Mansions of Happiness, and The Game of Pope or Pagan (aka The Siege of the Stronghold of Satan by the Christian Army.)

Nuclear War, the card game, is a famous recent example. Created during the height of the Cold War, it demonstrated the principle of Mutual Assured Destruction in that the game very often results in all players losing.


Also of note is utilization of games by think tanks such as the Rand Corporation. John Von Neumann, the originator of Game Theory, was a consultant at Rand starting in the late 1940's.

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  • In what way are the “sponsors” of The Landlord’s Game or Nuclear War anonymous (one of the criteria listed in the question)? – Thunderforge Oct 27 '17 at 21:48
  • @Thunderforge See my intro. (I qualified my answer to the effect that I am unaware, at present, of anonymous sponsors of such games, and was focusing on the history of games as teaching/propaganda tools. The history of games in this regard make it an not unreasonable assumption that such an instance of anonymous sponsorship has or will occur.) – DukeZhou Oct 27 '17 at 21:52
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Very unlikely

It is impossible to prove a negative, especially one regarding anonymity, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is unlikely to have happened.

There have definitely been games explicitly published for political (e.g. Corporate Battles, Daring Eagle) or religious agendas (e.g. 5Pillars, Armor of God). However, those don't do anything to hide their agenda and make their designers known.

As @The Chaz notes in comments, it's really strange to think of secret "sponsors" for board games. I guess the only way we would know about anonymous sponsors is if there was some sort of exposé and frankly I don’t know that anybody cares enough to do one on low print-run board games.

Given the lack of existing evidence, and the questionable efficacy of such a tactic, I’m going to have to assume that it is very unlikely that it has happened in the past.

Technically, yes (as non-playable board games)

During World War II, the UK government agency MI-9, the division of Military Intelligence devoted to helping POWs escape, worked with game publisher Waddingtons to publish sets of Monopoly that contained tools for POWs to escape, then worked to get them sent to the prison camps as recreational equipment. In order to avoid detection from the Nazis, MI-9 naturally did not disclose their affiliation with the game, or make explicit their agenda of helping POWs escape.

However, these Monopoly sets were created to smuggle in tools, rather than to actually be playable board games, so I don't think that it fits with the spirit of the question.

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  • Nice historical detail on Monopoly! Not sure I agree with your very unlikely assessment, but the point about difficulty in proving a negative is highly salient. – DukeZhou Oct 27 '17 at 21:54

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