Tuesday, February 10, 2009

5 Reasons I May Never Play Monopoly Again

Now don't get me wrong, I don't hate Monopoly. Lots of Monopoly bashing goes on every day online, especially at Board Game Geek, but I don't count myself amongst those of such persuasion. Years of playing the game with my brothers, cousins, and uncles, has cemented Monopoly, at the very least, as a memento of some of the best days of my life. It has been the centerpiece of family gatherings for as long as I can remember, and is one of the few games I cut my teeth on upon being introduced to the wonderful world of board games. Even today, with the right group of people, using the original rules as written, I could envision myself playing again.


There are a core handful of reasons why this venerable game may never again grace my table.

  • Outdated mechanics. I do agree with the haters that there is lots to dislike about how this game plays out. Success on both the front end (landing on properties in order to buy) and the tail end (landing on heavily improved monopolies late in the game OR your opponents somehow avoiding yours) of the game relies entirely on chance. Personally I have no problem with dice. In fact, I rather like them. However, in monopoly they just seem like a little too much.

  • Long play time with few strategic options. There is certainly some strategy to Monopoly, but much of it occurs very quickly within a very small portion of a very long game. Trading to get a monopoly is the meat of this game, once that is over basically all you have left are a few tactical timing issues such as when to build additional houses. Most of the game is roll and move, roll and move, roll and move... These first two problems are much of what other people hate about Monopoly. I still like it despite these, but what pushes me away from the game are the following:

  • Unless I play with my own set, I'm likely to be forced to play a poorly re-themed novelty set of Monopoly. John Deere, Star Wars, The Simpsons, Boston Red Sox, etc., are not appropriate themes for the mechanics of Monopoly!! No, I do not want to buy Ted Williams and improve him hoping that my opponents will land on him and pay me money. How does this make sense? Oh yeah, these games don't need to make sense, because they're not made to be played. They are simply a reason for a household that already owns (but never plays!) the regular Monopoly game to buy many additional copies (that don't, and shouldn't get played!)

  • House rules. Although Monopoly seems like it should be a common link between board game players, in reality it is not. This is due to the fact that almost no one plays the game the same way! In fact, I would go so far as to say that 99% of the people who play Monopoly have never actually read all the rules. Everyone 'already knows how to play' so therefore needn't ever learn how to play correctly! So everyone plays differently, but that shouldn't be that big of a deal so long as all players agree on house rules before playing, right? The problem here is that 99% of house rules make the game longer and more painful. So what happens when I sit down to play Monopoly with someone? I'm forced to say that I will only play by the written rules and thereby sound like a game snob (which I am, but I do so try not to come off that way!) So everyone has a different idea about how to play the game and it ends up being one huge mess. Ultimately it is far easier to teach a group of friends a new game (which, incidentally, is bound to be better than Monopoly anyway!) than to get on the same page with everyone who 'already know' how to play Monopoly.

  • The most significant reason for never playing Monopoly again is not that I don't like it (which I still do, despite the above problems), it is that there are far too many games that are far better. Monopoly will always have a place in my collection because of fond memories, but I already own at least 10 games that are more fun. We live in a golden age for board games, don't waste your time playing the same old tired one! It is time to let Monopoly retire and get some long needed rest.
Love board games but getting a bit sick of Monopoly? My next post will be an introduction to some of the most accessible (and most fun!) modern board games. Have fun!

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