So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mass Market – Monopoly

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Every month I try to take one posting to talk about a mass market game.  This month is Monopoly; do I really need to review this game?  Yes, Monopoly is worth looking at, since it is such an influential game in society.  Granted, Prince William and Prince Harry weren’t allowed to play it, but so many people are familiar with the game that idioms such as “Do not pass Go” have sprung from it.  However, Monopoly does suffer from several problems:  a) the game is long and has player elimination, b) house rules extend the length of the game and c) there are better economic/real estate games to play.  It’s sort of like cheese pizza.  It’s never bad, but there are better things to eat.

Player elimination in a long game is just a bad idea.  If Monopoly is the chosen for of entertainment for the evening, people are guaranteed to be sitting around with nothing to do but watch at some point.  After a few hours, one or two players will be eliminated, with a few hours to go before the winner is declared.  Worse, this is a game that telegraphs the ending.  So often you know who win before the game is actually over, leading to everyone being bored in the end game.

Our other version.  (Image by Dean)
The problem is magnified by house rules, both intentional and unintentional.  Intentional house rules are things like money in Free Parking.  This is actually against the written rules, but many people include these house rules as an attempt to solve the player elimination problem.  The catch is that it just prolongs the inevitable; players eventually have to be eliminated for someone to win.  It surprises most people, but there are unintentional house rules too.  The most common one is the rule that landing on a property is the only way to buy it.  According to the official rules, however, if the player who lands on a property chooses not to buy it, the bank puts it up for auction.  This should speed up the game, since the properties will be sold sooner.  However, I know that I have never personally played in a game where that rule was followed.

A Monopoly spin off that is supposedly pretty good.
Let’s take a moment and talk about ways to speed the game up.  First of all, get rid of all house rules.  Demand that debts are always paid in full; no one gets off light to stay in the game.  If the game still needs to move faster, the official rules suggest shuffling the properties and dealing them out.  Of course, that could set up an uneven game from the start.  Hasbro tournament rules put a 90-minute or two hour time limit on games.  In these rules, the winner is determined by adding up all assets at the end of the game.  Somehow, none of these ideas seems to be particularly satisfying.  I have another idea, though some people won’t like it.  Play a different board game.

I will suggest two real estate games to replace Monopoly.  The first is For Sale.  I haven’t played this game yet, (but it is high on my list) so I won’t review it in any way.  It’s worth mentioning solely on its reputation.  The game is for 3 − 6 players ages 8 and up.  (The BoardGameGeek entry is here.)  It plays in 20 minutes.  The other is Acquire, which is one of my favorite games.  I will review it next time, so you will have to wait a couple of days for the details.  Both are currently in print.

Of course, if you love Monopoly, than by all means play it!  There is a saying amongst amateur astronomers, “The best telescope isn’t the one with the best optics, it’s the one you will use the most.”  The same goes for everything else in life, including the games you play.  After all, there is a reason Monopoly has been around since 1933!

It’s Your Move!

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