The Great Monopoly Escape
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
Maryland
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About a month into my relationship with my girlfriend I realized things might be getting serious. More specifically, I hit my first serious obstacle in the relationship. Not the “When to say 'I love you' question.” (that was easy in comparison to this). Oh no, I am talking about the obstacle faced by almost every euro/war/beyond casual board gamer when introducing a significant other to board gaming: The Monopoly Dilemma.

Monopoly. The one game everyone knows. The one game I fear. I already gathered that she liked board games (yes!), but that still left the burning question in the back of my mind.

“So what board games do you play?” I asked one day over dinner. “ Do you like Monopoly”

“Oh I love Monopoly!” my girlfriend enthusiastically replied. “I play it with my parents all the time.”

Oh no. My greatest fear came true. Was this relationship in trouble already? Fortunately there was hope. I could teach this beautiful girl. I could help her understand the big open universe of board games out there. She could get away from the hotels and Baltic Avenue, maybe take a chance on something new and different.

It was time to begin.

The Great Monopoly Escape!
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Popular Tags: gateway [+] Monopoly [+] Carcassonne [+] Ra [+] TickettoRide [+] [View All]
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1. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:137] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
Maryland
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To begin my girlfriend's introduction into games that are not Monopoly. I knew I needed a classic gateway game. I started with Carcassone because I knew that she liked puzzles. In a way, I see playing Carcassone as strategically building a puzzle while scoring points. You have to put down pieces in a way that fits, and you get to populate them with the iconic meeples.

To make things as simple as possible we played the base game, minus the farmers. Yes I know 90% of vanilla Carcassone strategy probably boils down to securing farmer locations but I didn't want to overload on the rules for the first game.

After a few rounds my girlfriend quickly started getting the idea, and she enjoyed it. But it wasn't a smash hit. Moreso I was getting the “I'll play it if you really like it but I'm not overly excited” vibe.

Looking back I should not have started with Carcassone. It's a good game, but ultimately too different than your average board game. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there is no board, just tiles. So for attempt number two I decided to go back to a more traditional mechanic. I dived back into my community chest of games to try something with the classic mechanic of dice rolling..
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2. Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1130]
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
Maryland
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I like to call this game “Yahtzee without the math” as that basically sums up this game. OK so it's really “All of the mechanics of Ra transformed into Yahtzee” rules but I wanted a fun dice game and the easy parallels to Ra-I mean Yahtzee-made this an easy second choice.

Explaining Ra was significantly easier than explaining Carcassone. Roll dice like Yahztee, match up symbols to place cubes and get points. Easy right? Indeed, my girlfriend picked up on this one easily. On the bright side, she did like the game more than Carcassone. Although this enjoyment still lacked that deep enthusiasm and interest that would have her asking me for a repeat game.

This was bad, I could see myself taking the Short Line railroad back to GO. I could collect $200 but I would just be purchasing an express ticket to a Free Parking with a house-rule full of money and inflated game length. What to do?

Wait a second, railroads. Tickets. Choo choo! I knew just the gateway game. The electric company light bulb finally turned on in my head.
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3. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:127] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
Matthew Morgal
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Elkridge
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Third times the charm right? Ticket to Ride won the heart of my casual gaming girlfriend more powerfully than Superman and that locomotive.

The really nice thing I like about Ticket to Ride, and why I think it won my girlfriend's heart is the fast pace and progression that completing tickets give. Each player has their own separate goals, and although they may sometimes clash (A cry of Matthew! Is often heard when we accidentally block the other person) the overall experience is, well, fun. The close scores often help. We both have about the same number of wins when playing each other, and a large number of games are decided by the 10 point bonus for having the longest train.

I am infinitely thankful for the iPad version in particular. It gives us a chance to play when we are not together, and indeed we have logged over 30 games with roughly even wins on both sides. I've never seen a better user interface for that matter. The ability to clearly see which cities you need to connect helps greatly when you are juggling 3-4+ tickets.

As our relationship hits the 11-month mark I don't even have to ask my girlfriend to play this now. I just get a text out of the blue from. “Hey, would you like to play Ticket to Ride?” I'm always up for a few games with no income tax.
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4. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
Matthew Morgal
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Playing Ticket to Ride is a lot of fun. We still play the base game often. Unfortunately after a few dozen games you start seeing the same ticket combinations over and over again. Fortunately the 1910 expansion offers plenty of new tickets to mix up the gameplay while keeping the same core rules. We often play the 1910 and Mega versions on the iPad now, and I imagine that will continue for a long time to come.
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5. Board Game: My Happy Farm [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:3102]
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
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While Ticket to Ride proved to be a great success, there are other fun games to teach. This little kickstarter has all the makings of a fun game for the lady. Cute colorful cards and a relatively easy rule system. Plus, with the name "My Happy Farm" you cannot go wrong!

The only tricky thing about this game is wrapping yourself around the idea that you have two actions to take during a turn. And each action can potentially be performed multiple times at once (I.E you can take an action to purchase 1-3 crops). This was proving hard for me to explain until I realized a cool trick: If I explain the rules while comparing certain mechanics to Ticket to Ride, they become much easier to understand. As an example...

Girlfriend: I don't quite understand how these crops work.
Me: Think of them like the colored train cards in Ticket to Ride, except you need to pay money for them and then plant them. After you harvest them, you get the colors, well crops you need to buy animal cards.

And suddenly my girlfriend was well on her way to beating me. I now have another fun game we'll be playing. I may add some more success games in the future, but for now, mission accomplished. I don't have to fear the shadow of Monopoly any longer.

At least, not until I game with her parents. Maybe they will be interested in learning Ticket to Ride?
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6. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.39 Overall Rank:15658]
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
Maryland
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Even though I am trying to escape this game, I'd like to add an observation I've noticed regarding Monopoly's rules, specifically, their complexity.

One of the common fears I see people (including my girlfriend) have about Eurogames is that they appear too complicated and hard to understand. This amuses me, for if you think about it, if you know how to play Monopoly, you can learn any Eurogame. In fact, I would go so far to say that any of the above games would be easier to learn than Monopoly.

Think about it, you have to consider each space on the board in Monopoly and what they do. You have to understand the concept of trading, bidding, getting a monopoly for a colored property, mortgage, developing housing/hotels, jail, and let's not forget the constantly changing value of railroads/utilities and that oh so wonderful income tax. Monopoly has a lot of rules, even if you do not play by the official guidelines.

And hey, even if you do play Monopoly properly, you'll most likely play through a Eurogame in less time, or at least be less bored waiting for your turn. At the very least, everyone plays a Eurogame until the very end.
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