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Public Assistance Board Game Review

How to Play | My Thoughts | Final Verdict | Comments

How to Play

Before beginning the game, the players need to decide how many months (times around the board) they are going to play. Each player then places their playing piece on the “1st of the Month” space and all of the players roll the dice to see who goes first. Every player begins the game with $500.

Each players’ turn begins with rolling all three dice. The player then moves their playing peace around the board the corresponding number of spaces. Gameplay takes place on several tracks which are as follows.

Public Assistance Gameboard
A picture of the Public Assistance gameboard.

Welfare Path

While on the welfare path the player earns money each time they pass the “1st of the Month” space. They receive $500 plus $200 for their first illegitimate child and $100 for every other illegitimate child. Players can get children by landing on spaces or drawing cards that gives them children. There is no limit on how many children a player can have. For each child a player has, they receive $50 from all of the other players.

In addition to having children, people have the chance to commit crimes. When a player lands on a “Saturday Night” space or a card tells them to, they enter the specified crime track. The player rolls one dice and follows what is written on the spaces they land on. The player continues to roll until they have finished the crime track. If a player is sent to jail they get to roll one die per turn until they are released from the jail track.

While on the welfare track, a player can choose to either play the horses or the daily lottery. A player can bet up to $500 on either event. To bet on the horses a player picks a number from 2 to 12. They roll two dice. If they don’t match the number they picked, the player loses their money. If the total matches the number picked the player receives five times their bet. To play the lottery the player needs to pick a three digit number (1-6 for each digit). The player then rolls three dice. If they match their number they receive ten times their bet. Otherwise they lose their money.

If a player on welfare runs out of money, they lose one turn. They then move to the “1st of the Month” space and collect $250 instead of their normal benefits.

When a player lands on a get a job space, they move to the “Working Person’s Rut” track. They get rid of all of their illegitimate children and all of their Welfare Benefit cards.

Working Person Path

In the working person path the player rolls three dice every turn. Players are paid $150 each time they land on or pass a “Pay Day” space. Players cannot bet on the horses or play the lottery while on the working person path.

If a player lands on a “Get A Union Job” space or a card that directs them to get a union job, the player moves their pawn to the corresponding track. The player rolls one die and moves their pawn along the track following the directions on the spaces. Their turn continues until they move through the entire track.

If a player lands on a “Go Into Business” space or draws a card that directs them to, the player moves their pawn to the corresponding track. The player rolls one die and follows the directions on the spaces they land on. They continue to roll until they exit the track.

If a person on the working person path runs out of money they must take out a loan. They can borrow as much money as they want but they are charged 50% interest.

Government Job Path

When a player lands on a government job space or gets a card that directs them to, the player places their second pawn on the government job path. The player rolls one die and does what the space they land on indicates. In future turns whenever a player either rolls doubles or three of a kind, lands on a government job space, or a cards directs them to a government job; the player gets to roll one die again and follow the directions on the space they land on. The pawn stays on the government job path until the pawn lands on the “conscience stricken” space. The pawn is then removed from the government job path. If a player then gets another government job, the pawn is placed back on the government job path.

End of Game

The games ends when the first player has completed the number of months agreed upon before starting the game. Players count up the amount of money they have. Players who are on the welfare path when the game ends pay no taxes. The players on the working person path pay taxes based on the following chart.

  • $0-$4,999: 10%
  • $5,000-$9,999: 20%
  • $10,000-$19,999: 30%
  • $20,000-$34,999: 40%
  • $35,000 and above: 50%

After taking out taxes, whoever has the most money is declared the winner.

My Thoughts

In 1980 a game by the name of Public Assistance was created by Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. and Hammerhead Enterprises Inc. The game quickly garnered a reputation for being politically incorrect. According to Board Game Geek, the game was actually even pulled from shelves. After finding the game at a thrift store I wanted to see how offensive the game was. After playing the game, I have to say that it is the most politically incorrect game I have played and is probably one of the more offensive board games in history.

Politically Incorrect

With a full title of Public Assistance Why Bother Working for a Living When You Can Play This Great Welfare Game, it is not surprising that the game is politically incorrect/offensive. Except for rich Republicans who think everyone on welfare is a lazy bum, it pretty much insults everyone else. In no particular order the game insults/makes fun of:

  • People on welfare
  • Poor people
  • Middle class people
  • Minorities
  • Women
  • Single Parents
  • Gay People
  • Government Workers
  • Union Workers
  • Small Business Owners
  • People’s intelligence due to the misleading information/lies.

The list can go on and on. Now the question becomes if this game was done as satire and is over-exaggerated on purpose or if the creator actually believes the garbage they spew in this game. I can’t know the creators intentions but since the creator has made other similar games I tend to believe he actually believes the information presented in the game. Based on some of the material in the game, if I didn’t know better I would have thought that the game would have been made in the 1960’s or even earlier instead of 1980.

So some of you might be skeptical and say that the game can’t be that bad or I am overreacting. Well here is some actual things from the game that might change your mind. After reading these I hope you at least agree that the game was made in poor taste.

Lets begin with spaces on the gameboard which include going into prostitution, robbery, selling drugs to children, and making teenagers into prostitutes.

In addition there are cards like the following (the following is word for word what is printed on the cards). I do not personally support anything written on any of these cards.

“Your sister is raped by a paroled rapist. Lose one turn.”

“You son is beat up by ethnic gang while being bused across town to school. Pay hospital bill. $200″

Ethnic solicitor slips on your sidewalk.”

“You daughter brings home new ethnic boyfriend. Pay hospital bill as a result of the incident. $150″

“Federal Government offers to reimburse your employer for salaries if he will hire ethnic immigrants. Business is business. You’re fired.”

“You are up for high-paying promotion, but Government “Affirmative Action” rules require that a ‘disadvantaged’ minority, homosexual, Buddhist female be promoted over you. Lose $500.”

“Your brother is killed by a ‘rehabilitated’ murderer. Lose one turn for mourning.”

“Surprise! 20,000 boat people are blown off course in hurricane landing in Russia by mistake, reducing anticipated welfare expenditures by 1/10 of 1 percent. Each player in ‘Working Person’ rut receives $100.”

“You lose your perspective one day and apply for a job. You are denied it. You allege discrimination on the basis of race. Lawyer you hire through free ‘Judicare’ program gets you cash settlement of $1000.”

“Congratulations! You’re a very young grandparent. Your eldest illegitimate child now has an illegitimate child of her own. Collect $100 benefit when you reach or pass 1st of month.” (In the game you only play up to a year so your “illegitimate child would be less than one year old.)

“While in welfare office parking lot, you siphon gas from social worker’s Pinto into your Lincoln.”

“A Welfare comrade agrees to strike your car from rear on way to welfare office. You hire ethnic lawyer through free “Judicare” program, collect $1000 whiplash settlement and split with closest player on Welfare Promenade.”

“Take a Welfare Vacation! Claim you are ‘destitute’ at five different welfare office on you way to Atlantic City. Collect emergency grants totaling $700.”

“You great-aunt Sophia dies. You don’t report her death, and bury her in the basement. Collect her $500 welfare check each time you reach the 1st of the month.”

The mean spirit behind this game is truly accentuated in the last “additional rule” included in the instructions which is as follows (word for word):

Adding More Realism

Two players may decide to take this great game to the waiting room of their local welfare office and invite two real life able-bodied welfare recipients to join them in the game while they are waiting for their food stamps and welfare checks.”

As you can tell the game is not shy on its’ opinions on welfare recipients, minorities, women, children, and government workers. This game was solely created to spread someone’s political beliefs since as I will explain shortly there is absolutely nothing to the gameplay. It doesn’t help that the game is filled with lies and gross overestimates.

I agree that some people on welfare are too lazy to get a job but those people are a small minority. Instead of trying to fix the system, the creator of this game decided it was a better idea to insult everyone of welfare. The creator of the game thinks everyone on welfare is lazy stupid criminals who are addicted to gambling. Most people on welfare have had a hard time which is why they are on welfare and are just trying to get by. They don’t deserve to be ridiculed and treated like they are in this game.

What I also “love” about this game is that the game constantly refers to minorities as “ethnics” and “boat people”. First I don’t know why the race of the person is even relevant in the context of the cards and the gameboard. Every “bad/unethical” person in the game is always an “ethnic” as the game likes to repeat over and over again. Why couldn’t some of the unethical people be white? The creator might not have been trying to create a racist board game, but the end result is quite racist in my opinion.

Let’s move onto women. First the “rape” card mentioned above is pretty self-explanatory. How many board games have you ever played that has a woman being raped? And the punishment for your sister being raped is only losing one turn? That card is disgusting and I can’t believe that it is actually in a board game made in 1980. In addition there are several cards and spaces on the board that essentially insinuate that women should be homemakers from the 1950’s. I have no idea why this board game has such backward beliefs regarding women.

Children of people on welfare are the next target of this game. When you have a child in the game it is always an illegitimate child. No time during the game can you have a non-illegitimate child. I guess according to the creator of this game, no one on welfare is married when they have children. Also one of rules in the game is that once you get a job, you get rid of all of your illegitimate children. I guess you just abandon all of your children after you get a job since when you have a job you are too busy to take care of them. With rules like this, children are essentially treated as objects. In the game children are just used to make money. I am actually surprised the game doesn’t let you sell your children to other players or into slavery. I give the creator credit for not making that a rule.

The final big target of the game is government workers. According to the creator of this game, everyone who works for the government (not politicians) are crooks and criminals. On the government job track every time you make money is because you are ripping someone off or are getting paid to do nothing. You lose money when you actually do your job. I take great offense to this since both of my parents are/were government workers and they work as hard and are as ethical as any private sector worker. Like with the welfare recipients, the game decides to take a problem with a very small amount of government workers and make it seem like every single government worker is the same.

At this point it should be pretty obvious that this game should not be played with children. The game has no recommended age but based on what I have already explained, I don’t believe anyone under the age of 18 should play the game. The game contains highly questionalbe subject matter that children should not be exposed to. In addition children should not be exposed to the blatant lies that are spread throughout the game.

The saddest thing is that Public Assistance is not the most politically incorrect board game. There are pro-Nazi board games and there are several extremely racist board games that were made in the early 1900’s. These games were made a long time ago though. Public Assistance was made in the 1980’s. I hope the game was made as a joke because otherwise it is extremely sad that someone would genuinely believe all of the stereotypes used in this game.

Gameplay

It’s not much of a surprise that Public Assistance is politically incorrect/offensive. So the question is whether the gameplay is any better? After playing the game I can say with certainty that it is not much better. The gameplay is boring, broken, and relies entirely on luck.

Public Assistance is your typical roll and move game. You roll the dice and move the corresponding number of spaces. You then follow the directions printed on the space you landed on. Rinse and repeat over and over again. Public Assistance is the type of game where you could turn your brain off and still be able to play it.

This is evident in the fact that there are only two decisions you can make during the entire game. The only two decisions you can make is regarding gambling. Gambling in the game is pretty pointless though since you will lose most of the time and unless you are lucky you will never make money gambling. Since there are no decisions to be made, the game comes down to rolling the die and following instructions. I don’t know if it is just me but a game where you make no decisions is not very fun.

Since you essentially make no decisions that actually have an impact on the game, the winner will come down to who is the luckiest. Since the roll of the dice is the only thing that the player has any control over, whoever rolls the dice the best will win the game. Unless you have a good strategy on how to roll three dice and get the number you want, your actions will have no impact on the game and its’ outcome.

Public Assistance is also just a weird experience that rarely makes any sense. The game for some reason uses three dice instead of two which results in you moving around the board too quickly. The movement around the board rarely makes sense. For example in the game I played one player went around the prostitution track and on the same turn ended up getting a job. Another player went through the robbery track and also got hired at the end of the turn.

Based on the game I played, there are two main ways to win Public Assistance.

The main key to winning the game is children. If you don’t get any or very few children during the game you are at a big disadvantage. Children are the key to the game because they are the easiest way to make money. You get $50 from each player every time you have a child and you get at least $100 more each turn around the board for each child. The ultimate winner in the game I played had 9 children at one point. The player took over $1,300 from the other players. The player also made $1,500 a time around the board while people on the working path could only get $600 per time around the board. Not surprising but that player had more money than two of the other players combined at the end of the game.

The other key to winning the game is to get one of your player pawns on the government job track. You make a lot of money on the government track since most of the spaces give you money while only one or maybe two take money away from you. Once you get a token on the government track, it pretty much just prints money for you until you are unlucky and land on the space where the pawn is removed from the track. Essentially every time you land on a government space, get a government job card or roll doubles or triples (which occurs quite often) you will get money which is usually a couple hundred dollars.

The gameplay is not good and the components are not much better. The cards and children tokens are made of pretty cheap cardboard. The gameboard is bland and uninteresting. The gameboard is pretty much just squares with text written on them. The text on the gameboard is quite small. If you don’t have great eyesight you will have some issues reading some of the spaces. I would consider myself to have pretty good eyesight and even I had to get pretty close to the board in order to read some of the spaces.

Those issues are bad but by far the worst issue with the components is the play money. I didn’t think you could mess up play money but Public Assistance somehow does. For some stupid reason Public Assistance decided that it was a good idea to make three of the denominations ($10, $100, $1,000) of money the same color (boring gray). The game only has five total denominations so it’s not like the game ran out of colors they could have used. With three denominations of the same color, it is too hard to tell the difference between the three types of money. The group I played the game with ended up messing up a couple times by using the wrong denomination. The currency issue doesn’t ruin the game but it would have been so easy to avoid that the only explanation that I could come up with was they wanted to save some money making the game.

Final Verdict

Public Assistance has gotten a reputation for being a controversial game. In my opinion it is well warranted. The game is politically incorrect/offensive. What other game insults so many different groups of people. Maybe the game was made as a joke but in my opinion it doesn’t matter since it is still offensive to a lot of people.

The game is not just politically incorrect. It is just a terrible game all around. You could seriously just call the game roll and obey since that is all you do in the game. If you don’t want to gamble you will not make a single decision during the entire game. You just roll the dice, move the corresponding number of spaces, and follow the directions given to you. A game can’t be fun if you actually have no impact on it. Public Assistance is essentially a joke that only exists to make fun of people.

At the time of writing this review, Public Assistance is the worst game I have ever played and it is likely to remain the worst game I have ever played. The only amusement I got out of the game was thinking over and over to myself how this game was ever made. I personally can’t recommend this game to anyone. The only way I could see anyone getting any enjoyment out of this game is either playing it to make fun of less fortunate people or people playing it to see how truly awful it is.

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