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Subject: An enthusiastic review of my new favorite game rss

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Guy Jacobson
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Introducing . . . Monopoly!

Although many of you may already be familiar with Monopoly, I have only been a gamer for a relatively short time myself, and so the game was new to me. I've mostly played the classic Euros (Power Grid, Agricola, Puerto Rico), which I suppose means that my personal gaming weltanschauung is comparatively narrow. Therefore I'm a little hesitant to present this review to y'all, but. . . well, here goes nothing.


With respect to this "Landlord's Game," it all began for me when I was at my sister-in-law's house last year over the holidays and she produced an oblong box from a dusty shelf: Monopoly. I wasn't sure what to expect. Our first play lasted very late into the night, an epic capitalist struggle that I eventually ended up winning. I was so taken with this game--so refreshing and unlike others in my collection--that I went out and bought my own copy the very next day. Since then, I must have logged around 250 hours playing Monopoly (50+ games!) and I'd like to share my extremely positive review with you, my fellow BGGers, now that I've had considerable experience with this often overlooked gem.

Pricing & Availability

Considering all the goodies you get in the box, Monopoly is one of the great bargains of board gaming. You can buy a copy for something like $10 - $15. Many other designer games cost much more: $20, even $30 is not unheard of. And Monopoly seems to be very widely available compared to other games. You can probably walk into your local Walmart or Target and just pick up a copy of Monopoly, whereas to obtain other designer games you'll need to locate something called a FLGS where you can make your purchase (either that or take your chances with an online game store, which means typing your credit card number into some questionable "e-tail" web site). Also, since other boardgames are typically shorter in duration than Monopoly (say, 45-90 minutes, compared to Monopoly's 3+ hours), your $20- investment buys you a lot less fun game time for your buck.

So the bottom line is this: Monopoly provides a ton of fun for your gaming $.

Components

Component quality overall is very high, especially considering the low cost of the game. The first thing that struck me when unboxing it was the stellar production values of these awesome miniatures you get as player tokens:

These are made of satisfyingly heavy die-cast metal. When my skill with a brush has improved a bit, I will surely be painting my set, but even in their unpainted state they are gorgeous to behold, and a welcome change from the boring generic colored wooden pawns that so many games employ.

You might think that the items depicted on the player tokens (a hat, a shoe, a car, a thimble, a bag of money...) are just a random collection of "things" with no connection whatsoever to the game or its theme, but I have a theory about this: the designer must be planning to release an expansion with variable player powers, where a player's special power is thematically tied to the token object. For example, the player with the car token might gain extra mobility, while the bag of money player might get more than $200 for passing Go.


You also get a large number of very well made plastic houses (green) and hotels (red, larger) that get placed on the board. These fit in perfectly with the building/economic theme of the game, and make you feel like you are a real landlord during the game--in a way that little wooden cubes never would.

There is a large set of two-sided title deeds made of sturdy cardboard squares that present all the relevant data for each property very clearly, and two decks of cards: Chance and Community Chest (each with a unique game effect--a twist that helps keep repeated plays from feeling "samey").

Finally, there's an ample supply of paper money in a rainbow of eye-pleasing pastel shades. Much better than cardboard tokens or chips, since real money is made of rectangular pieces of paper, after all.



Altogether, this set of thematic and beautifully crafted components make the game much more enjoyable than it would have been had Parker Brothers provided a bunch of generic punch-out cardboard chits, which is what most games give you. (It was actually very refreshing to have a game where you could just open the box and just play without having to suffer through a marathon chit punch-out session--I'm looking at you Ora & Labora!--that was an hour of my life I'd love to get back.)

Mechanics

The fundamental mechanic of Monopoly is ingeniously simple: you roll a pair of d6s and move your token clockwise around the board the number of spaces given by the sum of your dice. This novel "roll-and-move" style of play is something I don't believe I've seen before in a Eurogame. I found it to be quite refreshing--most designer games force players to make a lot of tedious choices and decisions during their turn (where and how to move, what to buy, what role to select, etc.), which slows down the game considerably and can even lead to "Analysis Paralysis", because players have to do a lot of thinking. Thankfully, none of that awful brain-burning goes on here in Monopoly!

Once you've moved your token, if you land on a property that no one owns, you may buy it from the bank. If you don't want to buy it, the official game rules say that the property goes up for auction, but in my group we've made a house rule that nullifies this whole silly auction thing. We feel it's unfair that someone who didn't land on the property herself should be allowed to buy it, and again, these auctions would introduce a lot more undesirably thinky decision-making and slow down the inherent fast pace of the game.



Another house rule my group added is that we take all the money collected by the bank (plus a crisp $500 bill) and place it on a corner space called "Free Parking". Any player who lands on this space (which, according to the official rules, is not supposed do anything--BORING!) collects all the money that has accumulated there. This really juices up the game--you feel such a rush whenever you pocket this tasty stash of cash! Plus, this house rule has the desirable effect of injecting extra money into the game. Without this periodic large cash infusion, a Monopoly game might end after only, say, 2 or 3 hours of play, but with this additional money in circulation, the fun is prolonged considerably--and when a game is this good, believe me, you don't want it to be over too quickly!

Anyway, once you own properties, you collect rent from other players whenever they land on them. Properties belong to color groups, and when you own all the properties of a particular color group, you have what's called a "monopoly" (which I think may be where the name of the game comes from), and you can begin to build houses and hotels on the properties in your monopoly, greatly increasing the rent you can collect.

Your goal is to bankrupt the other players (by charging them these exorbitant rents) and be the last one left solvent--then you win. One of the wonderful and novel things about Monopoly is that all the losers get kicked out of the game, one by one, as they go bankrupt, unlike most other designer games where everyone gets to play to the end. This is a brilliant mechanism which provides a strong extra incentive for players to win: so they don't have to sit on the sidelines twiddling their thumbs for a couple of hours waiting for the other players to finish. What's the incentive to strive to win a game that doesn't have this great "player elimination" feature if you can keep playing to the end regardless? Plus, I feel that this "last-man-standing" thing is a much cleaner victory condition than something mathy, like just having more victory chips than the other players at the end of the game.



Another clever innovation here is the circular (well, square actually) track of spaces. As I said before, most other "dudes-on-a-map" game force players to make a lot of annoying decisions about where to move, but not Monopoly. I feel that the circular nature of the token track enhances the thematic nature of this tight economic game--people always speak about the "business cycle" after all, and in real life you get a periodic payday (as you do in Monopoly whenever you pass "Go"--a corner square that I think was named for the Asian abstract strategy game). I haven't seen anything quite like this mechanism in other modern games. The closest thing to it is perhaps the Rondel mechanism of Mac Gerdts--except of course that the anolog of the Rondel in Monopoly is much richer because Monopoly's board track is so much larger.

Expansions

Here's another great thing about Monopoly: all the expansions that are available. Though I've never played any of the expansions myself (so I can't describe them in detail), there appears to be a huge number of expansions to Monopoly for people to try, should they ever grow weary of the base game (not that I see myself ever tiring of this gem). In fact, there seems to be an expansion for every taste: there's Seinfeld Monopoly, Chicago Cubs Monopoly, Monopoly: Pokémon, . . . the list goes on and on.



Again, I haven't yet tried any of these (yet?) so I don't know what exactly they add to the base game, but I'm quite sure that these must provide a great deal of interesting variety since there are so many expansions. The sheer number of these put even Carcassonne to shame. And I've heard a rumor that there is a Monopoly expansion coming out soon that is set in the D&D Forgotten Realms universe called "Monopoly: Landlords of Waterdeep".

What others have said about Monopoly

"I think video games are a great kind of entertainment. They have replaced a lot of games people normally play with their friends and neighbours, like Monopoly." --director Uwe Boll (no relation to Rosenberg)

“I think it's wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly.” -- comedian Steven Wright

"We don't have a monopoly. We have market share. There's a difference." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Conclusion & Final Thoughts

Obviously, by now you know I love Monopoly. I think I've enumerated the many positive things about the game already. Is there anything negative? Well, there's one little issue: there is one card that my group considers to be "broken", so we've houseruled it out of the Community Chest deck:


We feel it is simply too powerful a card (we also remove Pan Galactic Affluence from the deck when we play Race for the Galaxy).

Although Monopoly is clearly a "gamer's game", I haven't had much trouble convincing my friends who are non-gamers to play it, strangely enough. I can't wait to try the further ludic creations of Monopoly's designer, Charles Darrow, an overlooked genius.


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oystein eker
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Posted on april 1. ......? Right?

Great read anyway.
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Kelly North Adams
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Ah... too bad BGG was down this weekend and slow today, and this article just posted. You'd have soooo many thumbs by now... but it was so humorous, I don't even care that it's April 2nd :o) Thanks for making me smile :o)
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Mrs Smith
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This is my chance to convey something meaningful! Darn. Wasted it.
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I even have a version of my avatar that celebrates this great hidden gem! (intended to be interpreted sarcastically of course, as it's such an immersive game...)



(This is my standard avatar:
)
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Damien Seb. ●leoskyangel●
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I play games not to win, it's the gathering that's important - Thanks for the tip Cate108!
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What's all about this 1st and 2nd April?

Brilliant review! Now that I've read this, I need to re-visit my copy of Monopoly. I saw that your copy has that money storage thingy, and that simply inspired me to make one.

Good thing that my playing board comes in two sides.
Thanks for the review!
- Damien
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Nate Walker
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dtroy_de_rapcore wrote:
What's all about this 1st and 2nd April?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools%27_Day
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Michael Burke
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hatemachine wrote:
dtroy_de_rapcore wrote:
What's all about this 1st and 2nd April?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools%27_Day


lol I actually like Monopoly (with house rules)
 
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Mister P
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I have a Star Wars Monopoly and yes: Star Wars makes everything better. It has little Aluminum Falcons and Star Destroyers instead of hotels. Oh and it has a pewter Boba Fett too. The cheap properties are Dagobah and the expensive ones are Coruscant. And guess what? No Jar Jar Binks or Hayden Christiensen anywhere to be found!
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Damien Seb. ●leoskyangel●
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I play games not to win, it's the gathering that's important - Thanks for the tip Cate108!
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hatemachine wrote:
dtroy_de_rapcore wrote:
What's all about this 1st and 2nd April?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools%27_Day


Yikes! Of course I know about it Nate. I was just joking. I thought I nailed it when I said my board comes in two sides or is there really a monopoly version that comes in two sides?
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Ze Masqued Cucumber
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Protze et Chniaque !
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C'est le Gomazio à crête mordorée, dont le cri annonce le soir...
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WANT.
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Francis Cermak
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Awesome read! Have some gold.

Mister P, I too cherish my copy of Star Wars (OT) Monopoly. It proudly sits on the "classics" shelf of my collection, right underneath my Dungeons & Dragons Clue edition.
 
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Bill Eldard
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Great review, Guy. Thanks!
 
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Steve Wagner
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David Witzany
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This cartoon makes Monopoly look like a variant of Twister. Is that right? Twister is an awfully fun game, in the right company.

This "roll and move" mechanism you refer to seems a bit complex. If I can't use a spinner (as with Twister), I think I'll stick with my long-time gateway game, Candyland.
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Just call me Erik
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Great april first review! There is something I'd like to point out, though.

The comments about the metal pieces being cool is totally, totally true. If we got metal player pieces in some of our eurogames we'd be blown away, but Monopoly's been doing it for years.
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Genevieve
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guyjacobson wrote:
Without this periodic large cash infusion, a Monopoly game might end after only, say, 2 or 3 hours of play, but with this additional money in circulation, the fun is prolonged considerably--and when a game is this good, believe me, you don't want it to be over too quickly!


Oh man... we'd be using this house rule when we were kids, cause it was "fun" to always get more cash. I know why I hate that game with a passion now.
 
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Wim van Gruisen
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guyjacobson wrote:

You might think that the items depicted on the player tokens (a hat, a shoe, a car, a thimble, a bag of money...) are just a random collection of "things" with no connection whatsoever to the game or its theme, but I have a theory about this: the designer must be planning to release an expansion with variable player powers, where a player's special power is thematically tied to the token object. For example, the player with the car token might gain extra mobility, while the bag of money player might get more than $200 for passing Go.

I want to play that Dalek on the right side of the picture!
Exterminate a player that lands on your square - much quicker than waiting for them to go bankrupt.
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Chris Tannhauser
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Thumbed for "weltanschauung" and an actual spit-take. Well done!
 
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