Stuff Monopoly. Let's play drug barons

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The Independent Online
Why not spend today trying to make a living as a drug dealer? It's not that hard and it's much more fun than car-booting. You'll need to learn the street values of 28 different substances, avoid developing an excessive personal habit and dodge prosecution - oh, and you'll also have to enlist the help some of your best friends. Done all that? Well now you can play Stash, a US counter-culture board game that goes on sale in the UK this week.

Created in New York by QED Games, Stash has become a cult hit in the US, selling via mail-order advertisements placed in the rock press. Players are taught how to smuggle drugs through customs, rip off punters and bribe the police, all in the name of promoting New York's narcotics trade. The instructions also advise you not to "start out the game by going on a drug binge" if you really want to win.

But the game has fallen foul of America's moral majority.

"There's a real underground buzz about the game but you can't talk about it in public and stores are afraid to sell it - even porn stores have told us it's unethical and immoral," says Jeffrey Lee Simons, the head of QED Games.

Mr Simons dismisses suggestions that his firm is promoting drug use: "Companies can wear lots of hats, it just happens that one of ours is black."

Stockists in Britain have shown little of the ethical worries of their American counterparts. Their approach to the game has been strictly commercial. Warren Gillham, managing director of its UK importer, Gargoyle Games of Bedford, says he has had no problem finding stockists: "I was worried at first, but there's been no reticence at all. And because of the subject matter we have been able to put them in games shops as well as New Age places. Anyhow, it's meant to be ironic."

Aimed at 16- to 30-year-olds, Stash will sell for pounds 15. Mr Gillham, whose firm now has a catalogue of 400 board-games titles, says that the market is booming. Indeed, Gargoyle will soon be selling another QED creation, Dog Eat Dog, in which players are cast as evil corporate industrialists who have to turn a profit by making widgets from seals and snowy owls.

So what's wrong with Monopoly? Do you seriously think it's acceptable to encourage your children to become estate agents and landlords?