How Have Board Games Been Used in Wartime?

Before setting off on missions during World War II, Royal Air Force airmen were taught by the British intelligence agency MI9 that, if they were shot down and captured, they should look for Monopoly games in the care packages sent to them from one of the “charities” allowed to send packages to prisoners. Specially marked games would contain escape maps -- and sometimes tools like compasses and metal files, disguised as playing pieces -- hidden inside.

The Geneva Convention, which demands the humane treatment of prisoners of war, allowed these sorts of “games and pastimes,” and Germany complied, but the so-called charities that sent bogus Monopoly sets were also fictitious entities created by the Allies.

If you pass go, take a map:

  • Chess sets and decks of cards were also handy for hiding maps, printed on silk because of the material’s durability. Maps were also hidden inside pencils and phonograph records.

  • John Waddington Ltd, the U.K. manufacturer of Monopoly, was among the few companies that had mastered the ability to print on silk, so they were the ideal company to join the war effort.

  • POWs knew to look for Monopoly sets with a red dot on the Free Parking space. After finding the tools and maps, soldiers followed orders and destroyed the games.

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More Info: The Guardian

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