If you've swept up Boardwalk and Park Place on the Monopoly board so often that the thrill is gone, you might as well shoot for the big time. Now you can "buy" a nuclear power plant with a roll of the dice.
David Morell, who teaches a course in environmental studies at Princeton, and Andrea Asaro, a University of Pennsylvania law student, have devised a new board game they say satirizes the way large utilities try to acquire the cash and permits necessary to build a nuclear power plant. Players must accumulate $1 billion in capital and five regulatory permits to build their plant and win the game.
"NUKE: The Race To Nuclear Power" does not look like the usual board game. The board is a foldable sheet of heavy bond paper that fits into a large envelope, because Morell and Asaro felt a slickly produced game would be "environmentally abhorrent."
"NUKE" is being sold by mail and in a few stores for $8.95. "Big game companies like Parker Brothers or Milton and Bradley have a closed-door policy.We've had to go with a more modest production. Anyway, no one big is going to want to do a political satire game like this one," Morell said.
Although Asaro earned a doctoral degree in political science at Princeton two years ago, she never knew Morell while she was a student here. Now that they live together, they have combined her political interests and his technological knowledge to invent the game. Although they want people to have fun with NUKE, they also hope it will have some political impact.
But why a game?
"After working on a dissertation for years, you want to go out and get people's attention in a different way. It's not another pamphlet or book. There's been a movie about nuclear power, and now there's a game," said Asaro, who developed her idea in May, after the March 28 Three Mile Island nuclear accident. Asaro said she drew the imposing cooling towers on the playing board with dinner plates.
NUKE is not the first game to have a leftist political angle. Bertell Ollman, a Marxist politics professor who was denied the chairmanship of the politics department at the University of Maryland and who now teaches at New York University, came out with a game "Class Struggle" last year. Pictured on the cover of the box is Nelson Rockefeller arm-wrestling with Karl Marx. Ollman's game won him notoriety and an undisclosed amount of money.
Asaro and Morell's production is more modest, but they hope their game will be equally thought-provoking.
Three or four players can play NUKE. Everyone takes the part of one of four fictitious utility companies and begins the race for the $1 billion and five permits. Unlike Monopoly, each player starts this game wealthy, with $200 million in front money.
The dice are passed around and players land on squares like "Purchase power from rival utility -- pay $50 million to play on the right," and "Successful bid on lease." According to Morell, it takes about half an hour before one player survives nuclear insurance premiums, regulatory inquiries and the financial assaults of the other players, gains the right to build a power plant and wins the game.
"My 12-year-old boy loves the game. He's learned a lot about nuclear power and has fun at the same time. He knows more about rate bases, hybrid reactors and 'scrubbers' than most adults," Morell said. A limestone "scrubber" is used to desulfurize flue gas in a coal-fired nuclear plant, according to the game's four-page glossary and instructions.
Asaro said she had hoped the game would help send her through law school, but she said, "I don't expect to get very rich on this."
"We just wanted to make something easy to play that also made a statement against nuclear power. Being in the anti-nuclear movement, I've seen people take themselves too seriously," Asaro said. "We've sent copies of the game to Jane Fonda and Robert Redford but we're still waiting for their response," Morell said.