When I was 11 years old I would get babysat by my aunt after school. New England winters being what they are, we were stuck in the house from mid December to the end of March for the most part. This resulted in my cousins and I playing a lot of the only board game everyone could agree on….Monopoly. After what seemed like the 100th playing of monopoly even my Tang-addled 11 year old brain realized how bad a game it was. After a while I would still play, but was relieved when I got eliminated from the game and got to go back to obsessing over my baseball cards (If anyone has a 1982 Topps U.L. Washington card let me know). Now, some 30 years later, having more experience with board gaming, I can finally articulate why Monopoly is such a lousy game.
First off, it takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R to finish a game . Nowadays I’m pretty skeptical of games that take more than an hour or two to play. I can only imagine my reaction to finding a game that can take 3+ hours. Not only that, invariably the first person is out of the game in an hour or so, so they get to sit and watch the other players finish the game (or go play with his baseball cards). Even when it gets down to the last two players in the game, usually one of them is flush with money while the other is mortgaged up to his/her eyeballs. There are rules that will allow for a quicker game, but they are just a testament to how long it takes to finish a real game.
Second, there is way too much luck involved . How good or bad you do in the game is almost purely based on the roll of the dice. Strategy pretty much goes out the window when you’re opponents have every high value property on the board but your left with baltic and vermont avenue. Throw in the Community Chest and Chance cards, Jail, and free parking and you’re better off consulting a magic 8 ball for a winning strategy.
And lastly, all the ridiculous versions that get licensed. Every year around Christmas those temporary board game/calendar stores pop up in the local malls. Every year I go in hopes of finding a decent game or two. I’ll occasionally come across the odd Ticket to Ride or Settlers of Catan, but for the most part it’s just a giant fucking wall of monopoly. Ever wanted to experience the cut throat world of real estate in Menemonie, Wisconsin? You’re in luck friend! Know a kid that likes raisins? I mean REALLY, REALLY likes raisins?
Now, believe me, I get why these exist. 20 years ago some marketing guy needed to figure out how to sell more boxes of monopoly when EVERYBODY already has one. Fine, whatever. What really bothers me is what it says about the game itself. It says that the theme has absolutely nothing to do with the game play. You couldn’t make “7 Wonders: Platypus Lovers edition” because in 7 Wonders, the theme is so throroughly integrated that gameplay falls apart if you plug in any other one.
I’d also imagine a lot of these licensed copies are being given as gifts. To me, this is the most thoughtless, inane, impersonal gift you can give. “Dad hasn’t played monopoly in 40 years and hasn’t mentioned wanting to play, but look, this monopoly box has a guy fishing on it! Dad fishes!! It’s perfect!!” My theory is that the universe will blink out of existance when someone tears the very fabric of spacetime by trying to create “Monopoly: The Monopoly Edition”.
The bottom line is that with so many great games available that avoid all the mistakes monopoly (and most mass market games) make, finding a decent game is pretty easy. Hopefully the declining attention spans of current and future generations will relegate Monopoly to the scrap heap of nostalgic, yet ultimately bad cultural relics.