Play the Line

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Once again we’re taking time to introduce a well-designed board game (which we hope to make a semi-regular feature, but so far it’s, I think, only the second instalment). Today it’s a Polish game, a bit of competitive fun with somewhat grim historic background.

The game is called “Queue” and it was published by the Institute of National Remembrance. What it strives to remind of is the bad economy of the 80s when there were few goods in stores and people had to spend hours in lines to buy anything. We were really young then so we don’t exactly remember the details of it but this is a part of Polish culture that shows up in movies and colloquialisms. We’re not going to go into gameplay details: suffice it to say that we find it impressive how the game manages to recreate the joy of buying the commonest thing or the frustration of having it stolen from under one’s nose. Emotions run high and it’s done with the simplest math.

But our main interest is the design of the game. In fact, it’s quite unique. Board games have a certain aesthetics which often borders on kitsch and is rarely interesting from a designer’s point of view. Not so with “Queue.” This is clearly a game that was designed, not just illustrated.

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The style is an interesting combination of somber and whimsical but with a healthy dose of humor (perhaps the most interesting thing about the game is how it comes off as charming rather than depressing, while still conveying the sense of grayness of Poland in the 80s). Illustrations use a mix of simple icons with retro photographs and jokey collages, all made more poignant with captions. The board manages to show pre-capitalist landscape with a few gray buildings that don’t have to bother to draw in clients.

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Instructions of board games, even of great ones, are often visually cringeworthy (no idea why that is) but here it’s a worthy component of the whole set (or, in fact, components, because the box contains 8 instructions in different languages). Significantly, typography works well, too.

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The cards are originally in Polish but stickers are provided to change the language.

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Yes, we did recently use the pawns for a poster.

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The game turned out to be quite a success so there was a small expansion published that was sold in this awesome gray envelope.

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