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Reputation restoration - Monopoly

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25 May 2019 12:01 - 28 May 2019 00:47 #297665 by RobertB
I'm stealing this notion from Jalopnik.

Cfarrel over at BGG has opinions that, agree or disagree, are usually well thought out. One of them, that I agree with, is that Monopoly isn't all that bad. So having spent way too much time thinking about the opinions of BGGers, let's take a look at it.

BGG Monopoly page

Let's look at this:

Rank Overall: 17141 (as of today)
Age: 8+
Weight: 1.67/5

Rank OveralI. I'd bet everybody that hangs out at TWBG has played Monopoly before. I'd also bet that we've all played games that were far worse. Rating is subjective, sure, but 17141 puts you pretty close to Dead Fucking Last. I think that it gets that rating because familiarity breeds contempt, and BGG has Monopoly hate in its DNA from when Eurogames were new to the US, and Monopoly had to be bumped off the table to make room for Settlers.

Age: If you were like me, you nagged your family until they taught you the rules, just to get you to shut up. And you got your ass kicked for a couple of years until you figured it out. Negotiation games are tough, and Monopoly is a negotiation game at heart. 8 is just old enough to play by the rules, but too young to play a good game. Some gamers might take that to heart, and rate it as a very bad game.

Weight: I think we're looking at a combination of BGG prejudice for weightier games, combined with the above way we all learned it. As played by the rules, it has a metric crapton of corner cases and important rules that get ignored or added by house rules (for the worse). Examples: go ask your non-gamer friends if houses are limiting? Can I jump straight to hotels? If I land on Boardwalk with hotels, can someone give me or lend me the money to pay it? Can I sell all my property to you for $1 to screw Boardwalk guy? (My answers below) Does this sound like a game with the same complexity as Battleship? This feels like the weight of Traders of Genoa, and that's a 3.

As played by the rules, its not a bad game. It runs a little long, and has the BGG anathema of player elimination. Most house rules (especially Free Parking) inject more money into the game, and just make a longish game longer. And how badly can a game suck that I can be certain that most of us know the rules (sort of)? Or suck so badly while it makes memories like it does.

My story: I played my mother-in-law and my wife, and through dealing and blind luck, I had the game won. Wife had Yellows, I had Oranges, Boardwalk/PP, and something else - Purples I think. I had gotten there first, and bought all the houses. Wife wanted to buy houses for her Yellows. Too bad honey, I bought all the houses, look at the rules. She was not pleased, but since I love my (relatively new) wife I cut her some slack and upgraded everything to hotels to let her buy some houses. Trips to Jail for her and good die rolls got her around my killer properties. Trips to Jail and shitty die rolls put me on Marvin Gardens so many times that I lost the game. Again, how can a game that gave me a story that my wife and I both cherish suck that badly.

How about it? Does Monopoly deserve its rep?


Answers (best as I can remember. Weight: 1.67, yeah, right)

- Houses are limiting. Wife knows that now.

- No, you have to buy houses first. You can't pay the cost of 4 houses + a hotel without having at least 4 houses times properties available in the bank.

- Players can't loan or give other players money. Of course they can sell property to them for whatever cost they can get.

- If the debtor can't come up with the cash to pay, the property gets transferred as-is. By rule, you can't sell everything to your friend for $1, or sell back houses and mortgage everything as a middle-finger send-off.
Last edit: 28 May 2019 00:47 by RobertB.
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25 May 2019 12:32 - 25 May 2019 12:33 #297666 by Jexik
I'd rather play Monopoly than any Stefan Feld game. Saying this is usually a good way to find out a couple tables that I'm not welcome.
Last edit: 25 May 2019 12:33 by Jexik.
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25 May 2019 13:34 #297669 by WadeMonnig
My biggest problem with Monopoly is house rules. EVERYONE has their own house rules. People bring them into the game because that is how they have always played it. Do I want to be the rules guru who says "That isn't how it's done?" Not to overstate it but I don't want to have to "argue" about rules before we even start a game.
The game was literally built as a broken game, to show the dangers of Monopolies. It's not fair by definition and the house rules just make it longer, weirder and...more broken.
I don't own a copy at the moment, it's been "banned" from my house after a few dozen heated games....and about once every 3 months someone says, we should totally get Monopoly! I have it on Xbox and people don't like to play it like that because it has a "One house rule limit" that you can turn on and off and some house rules aren't even covered.
In short (tl;dr), I love it, I hate it. I don't want to play it but I'd play it at the drop of a hat if someone wanted to play it (and brought a copy lol). It's evil with extra rules added and it's more than time tested to great epic arguments.
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25 May 2019 13:53 #297670 by Vysetron

Jexik wrote: I'd rather play Monopoly than any Stefan Feld game. Saying this is usually a good way to find out a couple tables that I'm not welcome.


I couldn't agree any harder. At least there's some amount of fun stretched out over too long in Monopoly.

Monopoly has persisted as it has for many reasons, but one thing is for certain: if it was truly as miserable as BGG says it is it would not have achieved its level of success. There are positive qualities in that box, and while other games have done it better (Chinatown and Fortune Street come to mind) there is something immensely satisfying about circling the board in the late game, hoping against hope that you don't tread on a financial land mine, and reveling in other people's explosions as you take all their paper money. People only have Monopoly horror stories because the game made them care in the first place. That's worth something.

I've tried some of the shorter modern Monopolies like Monopoly Gamer, but 30 minutes is a bit too short to actually get invested. Maybe there's a perfect version out there somewhere. I remember a tropical one that people were talking about for a bit, but I haven't played it.

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25 May 2019 14:03 #297671 by WadeMonnig

Vysetron wrote:
I've tried some of the shorter modern Monopolies like Monopoly Gamer, but 30 minutes is a bit too short to actually get invested. Maybe there's a perfect version out there somewhere. I remember a tropical one that people were talking about for a bit, but I haven't played it.


What's that quote about monkeys, typewriters and Shakespeare? With the number of Monopoly releases out there, one has to be perfect at this point ;)
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25 May 2019 14:55 #297672 by Michael Barnes
Hating Monopoly is a way for sad-ass middle aged white boys to waggle their hobby dick in everybody’s face. It shows how deep you are in the. Hobby, how far removed you are from the mainstream. It’s about as fucking “cool” as a 12 year old boy with gelled up hair, sunglasses, and a denim jacket with the collar popped up.

Just another example of how fucked up and stupid this hobby can be.

Monopoly is a great game- it’s seminal and vital to the history of games.
It was genuinely thematic at a time when that concept didn’t even exist. No other game better depicts the rapaciousness, avarice, and cruelty of capitalism. And it’s -fun-.
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25 May 2019 16:17 #297673 by Erik Twice
While deriding Monopoly is some kind of virtue signaling for boardgames, it's still a terrible game. It's like Twilight or the Star Wars Prequels. Sure, people bring them up as proof of how much taste they have, but they are still awful.

Quite simply, the vast majority of the playtime is spent rolling dice and buying whatever you fall on. You do this for a very, very long time and then you trade with others like once to get a Monopoly. Then you roll until players run out of money. There's more gameplay in 5 minutes of Settlers of Catan than there are in an hour of Monopoly, it's that awful.

House rules only make the game longer, but it's not like the core was great in the first place.
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25 May 2019 16:59 #297674 by Shellhead
I liked Monopoly when I was a kid and there weren't many boardgames to choose from at the time. I didn't like Monopoly as much as: Aggravation, Clue, Stratego, Risk, Mastermind, Dogfight, Sorry, Battleship, or The Game of Life. And thanks to my dad, Acquire got played more than all of the rest put together.

Now if I'm in the mood for a roll-and-move game that features player elimination, I would rather play The Gothic Game. It's no better or worse a game than Monopoly, but the setting is more in line with my tastes.

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25 May 2019 20:25 #297675 by Sagrilarus
I'm an unapologetic apologist for Monopoly, though as a complete package the game has some troublesome flaws. I even wrote an article here called The Thermodynamics of Monopoly that I think about seven people read. I'd wager I've thought about Monopoly more than maybe one or two people that frequent this web site. You can decide for yourself if that's something to take pride in.

In particular, there's one part of Monopoly that I think is still a pretty impressive mechanic, particularly in light of the game being designed in the 1930s. It's the roll and move aspect, in particular the role that it plays in the game.

You have to look at the bigger picture in order to understand the role that the pawns play in Monopoly. Although "literally" roll and move, they aren't thematically or mechanically. They're the randomizer in the game, the equivalent of a card-draw. That's why I usually compare them to the bad-news decks in BSG or Shadows Over Camelot.

It isn't really roll-and-move because there's no goal involving reaching a location. The movement in Monopoly is essentially an open-information bad-news card-draw, with well-known odds on its outcomes. To top it off the potential outcomes change every turn. They ebb and flow.

Frankly, it's ingenious, downright stunning when you consider the game's age. Early in the game it isn't particularly dramatic and I'll admit that that's a drawback that requires a couple of house rules to correct. But later in the game when players have dug in and buildings start appearing on the board, there's a whole lot to consider in your purchasing decisions, based on the location of every player in the game and what lies before them in their next turn. All of this is decision-then-luck, which is much more to my preference, so I may be a little biased.

Can anybody think of one game that has anything even remotely similar?

If this was incorporated in a game published today reviewers would praise the shit out of it whether they were getting paid or not. But consider that it's an eighty-five year old design, the age of Camelot and Cootie. Monopoly came out of nowhere, the first true modern board game. That's likely the reason that it was so universally played, and established such a dominating role in the culture. It is ubiquitous, it has changed the course of the English language.

So yeah, I'll admit it has shortcomings. But I'll tell you what, I have a pile of games for my kids to choose from and this is the one I'll find set up on the table when I get home from work. When I ask my kids they say they enjoy playing it, and I enjoy playing it with them. So regardless of how you want to pick it apart piece by piece, it's hard to argue with "enjoy playing it."
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25 May 2019 20:28 #297676 by DarthJoJo

Jexik wrote: I'd rather play Monopoly than any Stefan Feld game. Saying this is usually a good way to find out a couple tables that I'm not welcome.


Speicherstadt would like a minute of your time.

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25 May 2019 21:02 #297677 by Shellhead

Sagrilarus wrote: In particular, there's one part of Monopoly that I think is still a pretty impressive mechanic, particularly in light of the game being designed in the 1930s. It's the roll and move aspect, in particular the role that it plays in the game.

You have to look at the bigger picture in order to understand the role that the pawns play in Monopoly. Although "literally" roll and move, they aren't thematically or mechanically. They're the randomizer in the game, the equivalent of a card-draw. That's why I usually compare them to the bad-news decks in BSG or Shadows Over Camelot.

It isn't really roll-and-move because there's no goal involving reaching a location. The movement in Monopoly is essentially an open-information bad-news card-draw, with well-known odds on its outcomes. To top it off the potential outcomes change every turn. They ebb and flow.

Frankly, it's ingenious, downright stunning when you consider the game's age. Early in the game it isn't particularly dramatic and I'll admit that that's a drawback that requires a couple of house rules to correct. But later in the game when players have dug in and buildings start appearing on the board, there's a whole lot to consider in your purchasing decisions, based on the location of every player in the game and what lies before them in their next turn. All of this is decision-then-luck, which is much more to my preference, so I may be a little biased.


That's an interesting and refreshing perspective. But it only took me two seconds to think of another game that used roll-and-move the same way: Masterpiece. It was published in 1970, so obviously long after Monopoly. But Masterpiece does use roll-and-move the same way. It's a circle instead of a square, but the point of movement is not to get to a particular destination, but to obtain the next random event based on where the roll takes the pawn. The first few turns of Masterpiece are often uneventful, because some of the random events involve artwork acquired by the player, and that player might not have any art yet.

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25 May 2019 22:20 #297678 by mc
Just because nobody has mentioned it but the auction rule is the thing I think that people most mess up by ignoring. Once people have gone round a couple of times, bought stuff, and have less money, those auctions move you quick towards everything being gone, and can be really great. Landing on something good when you're opponents are lowish on cash is great.

Aside from that, I feel like Monopoly is kind of a rite of passage. There are so many tropes in our cultural consciousness (dad's in jail again! I hope in don't land on x! Watch the banker is not stealing that money! Thanks for staying at the hotel mc! Etc etc). It all provides a kind of gaming education that, if you're in western society, almost everyone has had, whether they liked it or no; it's a touchstone. And that's good. It means, for instance, that when my youngish kids have friends over they can play a game on their own because their friends all know the game. And they love it, and you hear them saying the same stuff I said when I was their age doing the same thing.
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26 May 2019 01:00 #297680 by hotseatgames
I realize that house rules are responsible for a lot of the hate that gets dumped on this game, but I don’t ever want to play it again, ever.
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26 May 2019 07:25 #297684 by Ah_Pook
If I'm going to play an over long roll and move game with minimal decisions I'm going to play Talisman. Playing with the correct rules makes Monopoly less bad. That's not the same thing as making it good or worth playing.
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26 May 2019 20:50 #297703 by wadenels
I love Monopoly. If I was shameful enough to have a secret board game pleasure it would be Monopoly.

There’s a lot wrong with it. But it’s decades old and things we complain about weren’t things that were a thing then.

I love it because it seems unassuming. I love it because it seems workable on turn one. I love it because it isn’t. There’s an above the board game in Monopoly that’s more important than the houses and hotels and locations. I will defend it to the end as a seminal work that deserves respect. I will defend it as FUN. If you can handle something that elevates above a puzzle or collection of mechanics.

Intrigue is a better negotiation game. Other things are also probably better X games. But those things achieve different goals. Nothing does what Monopoly does better than Monopoly does. It’s a damn lesson in design.

I still have my parents’ 1963 copy. The money is rough. That’s a component issue. The game perseveres.

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