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A few thoughts
on March 2, 2010
Disclaimer: I believe there are two types of Monopoly players. There are those who understand the balance of luck and strategy, who actively trade early in the game, desperately haggle for monopolies, aggressively but calculatingly build houses, greatly enjoy the game and finish almost every game around an hour and a half. Then there are those who refuse to trade, rolling around the board until all property have been purchased from the bank, slowly if ever build houses, don't particularly enjoy the game and *shockingly* can't ever seem to finish a game UNDER three hours. This review is primarily for the former group, if you are from the latter hopefully you will still find this review helpful, but please take things with a grain of salt.
A few thoughts:
1. The money conversion was a horrible failure. Monopoly "modernized" this version by inflating every $100 to equal $1,000,000. While players will adjust to the difference after several rounds there are lasting pitfalls, the money system doesn't seem to "connect" to anybody except Donald Trump and Oprah. For some reason calling rent for $240,000 doesn't connect with people the way calling for a legitimately large sum of $700 did in the original.
2. There is no need for cash management. Spend, spend, spend. Another monetary shortcoming of the game - you start with almost $4000 in original monopoly terms! While I know consumer Americans (I myself am one of them) don't like to be restrained by limits, and the creators wanted to allow players to begin to build immediately, this is an obscene amount of money and destroys the need to wisely manage you cash. In fact, they had to create a stupid randomizer to LIMIT how much property people could buy because money is no longer an object.
3. There is a fatal flaw with the game mechanics. In the game you have the option of building two different types of buildings that contribute to your property's rental value: industrial and residential. Industrial costs twice as much but has the *benefit* of being immune to the negative affects of bad buildings being built by another player in your property. Unfortunately these negative affects can be removed immediately for less than the price difference then ONE building block of residential versus industrial. In fact, the game has transformed all taxes into "industrial tax" which only affect those with industrial bulidings whih further discourages industrial blocks. Not surprisingly the industrial tax is more expensive than the cost of removing the negative buildings. Because both industrial and residential add equally to the rental value, there is literally no reason for anybody to ever build industrial.
4. Strategy is scaled WAY WAY down. While admittedly the original monopoly is no Puerto Rico or Axis and Allies, there was certainly a bit of calculated strategy. Not so in this game. Every turn you build the maximum allowed by the randomizer, you never run out of money and there are a host of crazy rules. There is a chance card which lets a player steal one property from other player, there is a chance card which forces a player to lose one piece of the property to the bank, the railroad system allows players to bounce around the board in an entirely unpredictable manner. While many feel these changes "freshen" up an aging game, I feel that they turn this into the game of LIFE where you spin the wheel until the end of the game and see who won.
5. Trading is greatly discouraged. Because players are allowed to build without monopolies they invest in their properties immediately. This discourages trading in two ways. First, this gives players the ability to win without a monopoly because even one single property can be built up to dangerously high rent levels. Second, as players invest in the properties right away this becomes an impediment towards trading as players are much less likely to trade away properties that already give them significant rent.
6. The game lasts much much longer than the original. Contrary to many reviews, this game will last forever. Admittedly, if you are the type of player described above who refuses to trade until all the properties are out, this game MAY be faster due to the numerous factors which distribute properties. However, for the vast majority of people the game is nightmarishly long, which is probably why the little randomizer gizmo has an internal timer which beeps to let you know you have played an hour and you should just pack up the game now because you will never finish... Because everybody builds on almost very turn (money is not a limiting factor - only the randomizer is) EVERY SINGLE TURN has wait while each player ponders his or her building options. In the original game, the first twenty turns of so were quick dice rolls followed by obtaining properties. Now from turn one, every player has to think about what to build and where, making EVERY single turn last about 5 minutes. This length issue is causes by several of the game problems described above. You have a massive amount of money which allows all players to build significant rentals, this leads to trading money back and forth but never really getting anywhere. Trading is greatly discouraged making monopolies even harder to trade for.
In conclusion, the "trading game" aspect of Monopoly has been neutered, the strategy has been eliminated, gimmick functions are fatally flawed, players are given gobs of cash to blow with no regards to planning, and the game lasts forever, despite the misguided attempts by Hasbro to shorten it. If you are the Monopoly player who just wants to roll the dice and be entertained by the outcome with no thought needed, MAYBE this is the game for you. If you are a Monopoly fan stay away, this game will frustrate and disappoint.