Russian Language Blog

Playing Board Games… In Russian Posted by on Jan 20, 2011 in Culture, language, Soviet Union

Do you like playing «настольные игры» [board games]? Let me tell you, board game «любители» [fans] in the US are absolutely «избалованны» [spoiled]. There’s such a variety of board games here «для всех возрастов» [for all ages] and «на любой вкус» [for every taste].

Growing up, I remember playing just a few board games – «шахматы» [chess], «шашки» [checkers] and all its derivatives such as «поддавки» [giveaway checkers], «уголки» [corner swap] and «в Чапаева» [the Chapayev, a flick-the-checkers game named after the legendary Civil War hero]. Then there was «реверси» [Reversy] and «домино» [dominos], but they really seemed boring to us, kids.

A much more fun strategy game was «морской бой» [The Battle Ships], although most of the time we made do with hand-drawn “boards” in the backs of our «тетрадки в клеточку» [grid notebooks].

As things started to change in the 90ies, we got a taste of such games as «Монополия» [Monopoly], «Тривиал Персьют» [Trivial Pursuit] and «Эрудит» [Scrabble]. All those games were fully translated into Russian. But that seemed to be the extent of it.

So it came as a surprise that there was quite a variety of board games in the Soviet Union, including «Дадим сырьё заводам» [Deliver raw materials to factories], «Ленин идёт в Смольный» [Lenin is walking to Smolny], and «Химическая война» [Chemical Warfare]. I have to mention that all these games were «детские игры» [games for children].

Apart from chess, checkers and dominos, board games were not really «для взрослых» [for adults]. «Взрослые» [adults] were «слишком заняты» [too busy]. Besides, game playing by adults seemed such a frivolous «проведение досуга» [spending one’s leisure time].

Things are changing now and there is a lot more interesting board games in the Russian stores and online. There are also online communities that review games and discuss rules and strategy.  The games can be categorized as

  • «классическая игра» – classic games, including chess, dominos, «нарды» [backgammon]
  • «стратегическая игра» – games of strategy – these two categories overlap, but games of strategy also includes the battle ships game, «Поселенцы Катана» [Settlers of Catan], «Шпионы» [Spies]
  • «логическая игра» – games of logic – «Эрудит» [Scrabble, also known as «Скраббл»], «Блокус» [Blokus], «дженга» [Jenga], «Го» [Go]
  • «викторина» – any type of quiz or trivia game
  • «лото» – lotto and bingo-type games
  • «играходилка» – this is a game where «игроки» [players] move along a course from ] by throwing «игровой кубик» [dice], spinning «волчок» [spinner] and pulling various «карточки» [cards] along the way with challenges, rewards or penalties.
  • «игры для вечеринок» – party games, such as a funny version of “Uno” called «Свинтус» [Swine] or a word game «Ерундопель русского языка» [Nonsense of Russian Language].

Some helpful board game words to memorize

«очередь» – turn as in «теперь твоя очередь» [now it’s your turn] or «подожди своей очереди» [wait for your turn]

«ход» – a go, a play as in «прийдётся пропустить ход» [will have to skip a go]

«фишка» – a token or a game piece

«игровое поле» – a game board

«шаг вперёд» – a step forward

«шаг назад» – a step back

«соперник» – a rival

«команда» – a team

«выиграть» – to win

«проиграть» – to lose

«победитель» – a winner

«проигравший» – a loser

Do you play board games? Which ones? Which ones did you like playing as a child? If you play your favorite board game online now (and for free), please share a link. Are there games you absolutely can’t stand? (Mine would be The Hungry Caterpillar and dominos).

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  1. tom:

    these are great, thank you. brilliant website overall too

    • yelena:

      @tom Thank you, Tom!

  2. Chuck Smith:

    Good to see that Catan finally made it to Russia. When I visited there in 2004, it was nowhere to be found!

    I have a question though. In the book New Rules for Classic Games by R. Wayne Schmittberger, he writes about the rules for Russian Checkers. I once met the World Champion of Russian Checkers and played him in a friendly game… he, of course, crushed me, but it was fun anyway.

    I was just wondering, how popular is Russian Checkers in Russia? It’s like checkers in the USA, except that regular pieces can capture backwards and kings can move as far across the board as they want.


    • yelena:

      @Chuck Smith Chuck, I had to smile when I read your questiona bout the Russian Checkers. You see, when I played checkers in Russia (recreationally and only very rarely), the only rules I knew were the ones that you described, i.e. capturing backwards. These were also the rules that all my friends knew and abided by. So based on my own experience, I’d say that Russian Checkers are very popular in Russia among recreational players who might not even be aware that other rules exist.

  3. anonymous:

    The dictionary doesn’t seem to agree with your stressing the last syllable of возрастов …

    • yelena:

      @anonymous Anonymous, thanks for bringing this up. You’re right, the dictionary does show the stress in the word “возрастов” on the first “o”. However, placing stress on the second “o” is allowed (“допустимо”) as well. In official speeches, the stress should be on the first “o”. In more informal settings, daily conversations, etc it is the second “o” that gets stressed.

      Sometimes dictionaries are slow to catch up with how most people say things. For example, for years I’ve heard people say “подростковый” [teenage] with a stress on the third “o”. However, until just a couple of years ago the dictionaries demanded the stress on the second “o”. Only recently have the entries been updated and now allow the stress on the third “o”.

  4. alan:

    what is a strategy game? I like strategy games ..
    but unfortunately I can not speak Russian … 🙁

    • yelena:

      @alan Alan, I must’ve not said it right. I guess a more correct translation would be “games of strategy” where the outcome depends on players’ decision-making skills (as opposed to games of chance). If you like board games, then you can probably find a Russian version of your favorite board game (say, the Monopoly). This way, you’d already know the rules so it’d be easier to get started.

  5. Justin:

    Where can I find the Soviet Games such as Химическая война and Дадим сырьё заводам

    • yelena:

      @Justin Justin, I’d love to get a hold of them myself 🙂 I actually did some very light search online, but didn’t find anything.

  6. Sam:

    I frequently visit and have a fairly large collection of board games, most of which have some element of strategy and are ranked relatively high on that site. It is neat to see that a lot of games are being translated into Russian now (usually by a bilingual fan who then posts the Russian rules to the site).

    Very nice article, Yelena!

    • yelena:

      @Sam Thank you, Sam! What are some of your favorite games? Check out this blog I found on the LiveJournal that talks about many old Russian and Soviet board games (it’s in Russian, but if you need help, just let me know here or on Facebook).

  7. Victor:

    My favorite russian board games from childhood – Manager (Monopoly analog), White Crow (Белая Ворона), NEP / New Economic Policy ( НЭП / Новая Экономическая Политика). Now days there are a lot of board games maded by modern publishers – like Rightgames, some of them you can find on Some of them were successfull on Kickstarter and Boomstarter (Russian KS analog)

  8. Paul T. Healy, Sr.:

    Was Monopoly originally banned in Russia. Your article said it was played in the 90’s. Does Hasbro publish it in Russia? I understand that Monopoly was banned in China also. Thank you.