We always knew the bureaucratic life was nothing but a big game, so it was only a matter of time before somebody put it all on a board and sold it to us. For $100, yet.

The game is called Bureaucracy, and last night they had a party for it and its inventor, Bruce Spitz, and the designer, artist Virginia Daley. The reception was at the Middendorf-Lane Gallery, 2014 P St. NW, which is the outlet for the 340 extand copies of the game, sold in a trim briefcase-box bound with red tape.

"I was in the Michigan state government five years," remarked Spitz, 32, now a policy analyst with the Urban Institute. "I got the idea in '75 and brought it to Washington with me."

He tried it on his friends (game inventors learn to build up large stocks of friends before starting their research), found that at first it was all too realistic rewarding its players mainly with frustration and boredom. Gradually he refined it, added new elements-spinners, dice, chance cards, play money and even a set of personalities among which the players must choose.

"It was amazing. The old government hands all insist on being Lifers, while the yound ones all want to be Overachievers or Empire Builders or Hustlers. The latter two [types] are allowed to lie, so this gives them a certain advantage if they know how to use it."

Four to 10 persons can play, and it lasts up to two hours. Spitz feels the game is still fairly realistic but is definitely an action game.

It's also funny. Some of the squares where a player can land. "Your competency and self-assurance offensive. Lose 2 staff." Or, "Completed report before it was done. Add 4 years and 2 civil service ratings." Or, "You have become what you are. Lose 3 years."

True to the spirit of most large institutions, Bureaucracy is a bit sexist: "Made improper but well-received pass at boss's secretary. Add 4 staff and 2 contacts." There's also something about gay bureaucrats that won't make friends everywhere. But maybe it really is, as it claimss, "the ultimate board game," for it contains:

Four sets of Lifestyle cards and Promotional Prerequisites, one set of Memos, one set of Bucks (for passing), Consumer Goods cards, Spheres of Influence, a Power File, money, a spinner, two dice, 16 markers, a rule book and the board-all packed, of course, in that ubiquitous briefcase.