I am trying to identify a short story I once read in a science fiction anthology. It resolves around a father and his children playing a new board game. The originator of the board game is some country or alien race that was recently defeated in a war. The game is wildly popular and addictive, and everyone is playing it.

Apparently, the game is very simple to play, so no one bothers to read all the rules, including the father. You just launch into the game, where you acquire properties and businesses. The father is close to winning the game (he thinks) when his son, who has bothered to read the rules, informs him that the goal is to LOSE all of your businesses and die broke. The children are now brainwashed by the game. The defeated enemy crafted the game to destroy the economy of their conqueror, or something along those lines.


1 Answer 1


"War Game" by Philip K. Dick

A children's store employee brings home a copy of Syndrome to his family. He accumulates the most holdings but learns from his children that he has lost; the purpose, according to the instructions, is to give up as much stock and money as possible. The story concludes with the children, who are unfamiliar with Monopoly, "learning the naturalness of surrendering their holdings"; one says "It's the best educational toy you ever brought home, Dad!"

It took me a few searches because I kept discounting this one, as it's just one of the three toys that the toy safety inspectors are examining. They spend more time describing the citadel toy.

Although, ultimately, the board game is painted as being the real weapon, with the inspectors being distracted by the citadel, which has a mysterious power source, and the virtual reality suit, which is shown to have addictive qualities. The board game is just a board game... but it's influencing the children's philosophies.

  • Yes, that is it. Thank you.
    – CigarDoug
    Dec 12, 2015 at 11:26
  • 1
    You are without a doubt the widest read sci-fi and fantasy expert I've ever come across. Wish I could do +2. Dec 14, 2015 at 2:01
  • Hah... I think you're confusing me with user14111. ^_^ I just spent a lot of time reading old books in my library where I grew up in Kentucky.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 14, 2015 at 3:21

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