The Student Takeover Board Game

Who says learning can’t be fun?

According to a piece originally published, admittedly quite some time ago in the magazine supplement to the Columbia Daily Spectator, you can now play a war game based on the 1968 student takeover of Columbia University. According to the article by Jim Dunnigan:

The playing board of Up Against the Wall Motherfucker! is made up of eleven tracks, each of which represents a quasi-political subgroup likely to be involved in the spring demonstration: black students, liberal faculty, alumni, uncommitted students, and so on. At the center of the board is Low Library; it is the goal of the Administration player to win the influence of these groups by moving the Position Unit Counter (PUCs) of each track inward toward Low. The Radicals player, on the other hand, strives to move the PUCs on each track away from Low, radially outward to the edge of the board. The approximate initial political orientation of each group is represented by a dot in one of the squares on its track. The circular line surrounding Low Library represents an ideological isograph; that is, a PUC inside the circle means support for the Administration, and one outside the circle represents sympathy for the Radicals. Fence-straddling for a given group is symbolized by a PUC directly on the line.

Underneath the boxes in each track are numbers ranging from 0 to 10. These indicate the magnitude (and value) of support from each group. You win Up Against the Wall Motherfucker! by amassing more support points than your opponent, or by wiping out your opponent altogether.

Historically, the radical students appear to have been the victors. According to an article by John Kifner in the New York Times:

They ultimately won their goals of stopping the building of a gym on public land in Morningside Park, severing ties with a Pentagon institute doing research for the Vietnam War, and gaining amnesty for demonstrators and, not incidentally, the early resignations of their enemies, Columbia’s president, Grayson L. Kirk; and its provost, David B. Truman.

Then again, Columbia’s now enthusiastically expanding its campus into Harlem and recently agreed to allow the R.O.T.C. back on campus. So it looks like the administration won in the end. It’s too bad the game can’t reflect nuances like that.

View the board here and the game cards here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer