I can’t tell you how many people I know that have a burning hatred towards Monopoly. It honestly surprises me that whenever someone sees my Monopoly board collection for the first time, they almost always talk about what an annoying/long/tiresome game it is. Sure, the average game of Monopoly can definitely take longer than other board games, but it’s no longer than Risk, Axis and Allies, or even Munchkin. And yet of all of the games that are on the market today, Monopoly is one of the most successful and long-lasting but also one of the most criticized. Any time I browse the Internet I randomly see memes or pictures like this sprinkled around:
Personally, I’ve been a fan of the game Monopoly ever since I was young. I played it with friends through high school and still play it with my roommates every once in a while when we’re all in the mood. I have 12 different Monopoly boards and have fond memories of playing all of them at different times in my life. So in honor of one of the most iconic games created in the 20th century, I’m going to explain why I believe that Monopoly is actually a great game to play and should always be a staple of your board game nights. Here are my top 5 reasons why Monopoly should be celebrated in the board game industry:
1) Easy to learn, but hard to master
One thing that can always be frustrating about board games is the time it takes to pick up on how to play. A game that is easy to learn quickly is one that will grab your attention faster and will be more likely to keep you playing, provided it stays interesting over time. When you look at Monopoly at first it may seem more complicated, but the concept is straightforward enough to pick up fairly quickly and not be far behind people who have played the game before. On the flipside of that, the game is actually surprisingly tough to master in certain ways. Sure, everyone can play the game without much strategy involved, but when you get into a group of competitors you start analyzing every move you make, every trade you attempt, every time you buy a hotel, to the point where you have to be very knowledgeable about the game itself to be an expert at it. The game allows for novices to play and have fun, but can also bring a significant amount of challenge to it when the setting is right.
2) Quick changes to the “Leader Board”
Sometimes when you play a board game, a single person will start off strong and you just won’t be able to keep up. That’s not the case when you play Monopoly- in fact, lead changes are fairly frequent once you get into the later stages of the game. Generally speaking there is a point of Monopoly where everyone has one or two monopolies and is working to build houses/hotels on them. One bad move or bad roll during this time can completely change the dynamic of the game. Someone with houses littered across the board will suddenly have to sell them all back, and maybe even mortgage or trade properties to stay afloat. Fortune can change in the blink of an eye, and while it’s true that if a player gets very unlucky and has to mortgage most of their properties he/she will most likely be stuck in that hole, the truth is that there is a lot more variety in the game standings than people give it credit for.
3) Ability to make custom rules
If you were to take out any board game you’ve played before right now, odds are high that you would know a majority of the rules of said game and you would stick to them no matter what. That’s not the case with Monopoly. Monopoly is a game with more “house-rules” than I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because of how long its in production, but it seems like every time I play with different people I have to be prepared for a different set of rules. Rules like free parking, mortgaging, auctioning spaces, landing on Go, and many more are all up for debate, and so before the game is started you may have to suddenly adjust to the new rules that your friends/family have put in place.
4) Teaches kids basic business lessons
I remember playing Monopoly Junior when I was a kid, and spending a lot of time counting up my money and making sure I had enough to buy a hotel or a new property. Learning the value of trading, understanding basic math and business, and figuring out when and when not to invest are just a few of the business skills you learn from playing Monopoly. Obviously in no way does Monopoly dir
ectly translate to the business world (if it did I would be rich by now) but you can’t discount its uses in teaching youth the value of fake pink colored money.
5) Different types of boards/games
When a game has been around for over 100 years, odds are high that gaming publishers will take advantage of its popularity by creating different versions of the game. While some people find this unnecessary, I find it one of the best parts about older games. You can find a Monopoly board with pretty much any theme you can think of: Doctor Who, Legend of Zelda, Family Guy, Disney Villains, even Elvis-Opoly is a thing. For these types of games the rules don’t vary much, but the properties, cards, and pieces are all based around the theme. The aesthetics are the important part, which makes having multiple boards unnecessary but ultimately a lot of fun. In addition to the Hasbro Monopoly alternative, there are some non-affiliated third party companies that created Monopoly-esque games with similar themes but slightly different rules and procedures. Games like Wine-opoly, Princess Bride-opoly, and even Create-your-own-Opoly fit into this mold.
So the next time someone invites you to play a game with them, I hope you consider the classic business game as a potential option. Monopoly has stuck around for a reason, and that’s because it’s a fun game that people enjoy playing no matter how many jokes are made at its expense. The next few articles I’ll be writing this week are all going to be Monopoly-based, so I hope you enjoyed this one and will enjoy the others too!
I’m not a fan of the game either, but I do want a certain Zelda monopoly board for my Zelda collection. I did have fond memories of teaching students while I was a teacher in Zambia. I love Scrabble and tried to teach them that, but they were bored, and with English being so difficult for them, I gave up. The math and business skills they learned in Monopoly were far more useful, especially for those that weren’t going to finish school but stay in their villages and become farmers or shop owners. We had a lot of fun playing it.
I was nursed on Monopoly, and I even cite Monopoly as one of the seminal causes of my becoming a gamer. And I agree that it CAN BE an interesting game, but two things have to happen: (1) Everyone has to be willing to buy in to the game and to the negotiations. Too often, people just throw away their game by agreeing to horrendously lopsided deals that result in a run-away leader. This often happens because the game has gone on too long and they are already sick of playing. The length of the game, and this related problem, could be improved by: (2) distributing the properties more evenly–by random deal–in the beginning of the game. It is far too often that one or more players get completely shut out of any competitive edge because they simply didn’t land on any decent properties during their first 10,000 revolutions of the board. If the properties are dealt out initially, then you save time by skipping those first 10,000 revolutions and getting right to the negotiations stage. Then, people are less likely to already be bored and less likely to engage in kingmaking.
These are my 2 cents, anyway. No arguing that Monopoly is iconic and a paramount piece of American culture. I have my theories as to how that evolved as well… perhaps I’ll save that for my own blog. 😉
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