The year is 1975. There was yet to be a female prime minister in the UK, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was in the cinemas and Queen released Bohemian Rhapsody.

Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

No doubt, however, you will agree though that the biggest thing to hit in 1975 was the board game Ulcers. A game about corporations and hierarchy for ages 9-90.

If your grandad wants to play on his 91st birthday (as you traditionally have done for the last decade) tell him to naff off. “You’re too old, gramps!”

Will you be the first to get that perfectly blended company of two receptionists, two salesmen, two sales managers, one vice president and one president?

Ulcer Team

I bet you will. Your first question is probably, what does that have to do with Ulcers? Is it some gross metaphor on capitalism festering away on your insides?

Well, the game makers, as well as being business consultant gurus (probably), just so happened to be A-grade psychologists, as that is the first thing they set straight in the manual.

“Why is the game called Ulcers? Ulcers is a not so serious take off of serious business. Ulcers has all the excitement, the strategies and nerve wrecking decisions you have to face in setting up a decision in real life yet it’s only a game although there will be times you might easily forget this.”

That cleared that up?

No?

Good.

Moving on.

What’s the first thing you need when setting up a business ideas?

“A business idea and plan!” I hear you cry.

No.

“Money?”

Yep. Here’s $50,000.

“People?”

Exactly, you got it first try.

ulcer9

Mate, you dropped your ulcer card. 

No one needs a fancy shmancy business idea just get some cash and hire some people, it’s easy. And none of your modern flat hierarchies either. It’s imperative that despite your goal being to build an eight person company you MUST ensure maximum hierarchy.

As mentioned before, the object of the game is to go around hiring these people to make your company great – but make sure you don’t pay anyone from the lower ranks more the people above them.

The rules make a whimsical meta commentary on this

“Theoretically, any number of employees of different rank may be all paid at the same salary level (But somehow it never happens in real life, does it?)”

And quite right, we’ll have none of your communism propaganda here.

Ulcer Women

“When you hire an employee, place him (or her)”. I love that little (or her). It’s the game’s vague attempt at recognising equal rights.

“I guess an employee could be a woman” it begrudgingly says.

The patriarchy was clearly strong in 1975 though, as despite women having jobs, in this game they can only be receptionists. There are no promotions, no Marissa Meyers or Hillary Clintons in this world – so

Ulcers says a woman’s job is to take calls and type up notes for the more important men *rolls eyes*.

Ulcers board and money

So we’re all set up, we’ve got our starting cash, dice, pawn-thing, the board.

We best play then. Roll away.

Double six!

Great start. “Do I get to roll again after this go?” Joel (doesn’t) ask me.

Let me consult the rules on that.

“Doubles do not entitle you to another turn and money may never be borrowed from the bank.”

So sorry, no it doesn’t.

I love that in 1975 that had to be spelled out. I imagine it causing a family feud as dad flips the table “WHAT IS THIS PIECE OF CRAP THAT DOESN’T LET ME MOVE TWICE ON DOUBLES!” And “Look I’m just going to borrow this from the bank, I need it, I’ll pay it back … shut up Jimmy this receptionist needs a pay rise now … go to your room”

After a few goes I had a two person company of a vice-president and a sales manager I had poached from Joel’s company with an alluring pay rise.

Oh no! I’ve landed on Scandal!

A Scandal! In Ulcer

I must pay $25k OR fire my most important male employee and fire a receptionist (remember they’re all female) or their names and my company will be dragged through the mud.

The game never actually says what the scandal is, but given those are my options I guess the cliche boss and his receptionist trope is strong here.

I only have men in my company, but I can’t pay the fine.

Ulcer employees

Joel insists I fire him, I assume without any women in this office he was just caught furiously masturbating by a local photographer.

Mostly that is what you are doing, trying to hire and poach employees and rolling dice randomly moving around the board landing on squares It’s all fairly mundane in practice.

One square soon became my particular favourite, the “business venture” square.

Like all real life business ventures you put up your stake, you roll a single dice and the space you land on tells you how you’ve done. Options include ‘investment doubles’, ‘investment triples’ or the dreaded final square ‘investment wiped out’.

Ulcer Business Venture

I tried “Business Ventures” three times and had somehow had my investment wiped out each time, but this time would be different.

I threw down my remaining $50,000 and began to roll.

Doubles.

Triples.

Doubles.

Triples.

DONE.

$1.8m! JACKPOT.

Given that the most I can pay anyone is $200,000 (the game insists no employee can be paid more, or would seemingly want to be) and that I only need eight employees to win I literally have more money than I will ever need.

Joel looked at his $30k and three receptionists and said “this game is shit”.

We stopped playing and I doubt you will ever start.

Note: When we later looked it up Ulcers was actually first released in 1969. That’s at least 6 years of reprints…. uhh