By: Kyle Grubb
I considered for a while on which Board Game to review first. I weighed quite a few options, many of which I’m likely to tackle in the future. In the end, though, this just seemed like the only true place to start. The quintessential. The one board game that absolutely everybody has played.
And everybody despises.
Who can really remember the first time they played Monopoly. It just kinda existed by the time you realized consciousness. Everybody owned a copy of it. My parents even had Monopoly Jr, a simpler version of the game so that kids could figure it out. I loved the game when I was a child. Loved it. I played it with my parents. I played it with my friends. If I could have honestly figured out how to play it without people while still being entertained, I would have. You see, I was good at Monopoly. Like, impossibly good. It wasn’t even about strategy. I was just universally lucky when it came to the ultimate game of taking money from people you love as they slowly grow to despise you and everything you’ve ever done.
And then people stopped playing with me.
Back then, I was spiteful of their quitting. Now, I get it. I retired from Monopoly for a long time. Probably over 10 years. Then, in my late teens, one of my friends, probably jokingly, suggested a few of us play a round of Monopoly. All the old memories came flooding back, and I just couldn’t resist. We played that game, and I won. The others, probably wanting to put me in my place, decided to play again a few days later. I won again. I won a few times after that, too. And then I started losing. Suddenly, it all made sense. This game wasn’t fun. This game was the devil. Nana really WAS a cheating whore. And I haven’t ever played it since.
If somehow you don’t know what the game of Monopoly is, it’s the classic board game where you punch your friends repeatedly in the face until they hate you. Or, more likely, you’re the one getting punched. Or, actually even more likely, everybody quits the game after three hours and a shit load of yelling because why are any of you subjecting yourselves to this hellish torture when you could be doing something either legitimately fun or at the very least productive.
Monopoly is really a game of money and property. You’re goal is to travel around the game board and use your money to buy various properties. You roll dice to travel around, and if you land on an unowned property, you can buy it. If you don’t buy it, it goes up for auction and the other players bid on it. If you land on a property owned by somebody else, though, you need to pay them a set amount of money. This goes on until only one person has any money left or everybody gets so pissed off that they stop playing. Seriously, this game can go on forever.
The real problem with monopoly is that it’s so clearly antagonistic. You are actively rooting for the destruction of all that your friends hold dear. It also is so entirely based in random chance that there’s no way to actually control the length of play. Sometimes games can go for hours with all of the players still hanging on with their own little niches of the board, somehow dodging everyone else’s territory. It gets old really fast.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t any strategy to Monopoly. There actually is a fair amount. You see, the board is sanctioned off into different colors, with two to three properties per color. If a player owns all of those properties in a certain color, the amount that is earned when another player lands on those spots grows. In addition, you are then allowed to build on those properties, placing down houses and eventually hotels to increase your earnings. Players are encouraged to trade properties or buy them from each other, allowing you to dangle the thing your opponent most needs in exchange for the last piece of your master plan. It can get very strategic and interesting if two or more players are in a position of power, attempting to maneuver against each other in a game of cat and mouse. The problem is that this usually doesn’t happen. Typically, one player takes an early lead, is able to control the entire game, and then other players slowly get picked off one by one until, again, most people just quit.
I’m pretty sure a good game wouldn’t have people quitting all the time so that they weren’t wasting hours of their lives. That sounds like a definition of a bad game to me.
In a perfect world, Monopoly could be a great game. If the high strategy came through more often, and the game wasn’t built in a way that seems to encourage one dominant player to form early on, it would probably go down as a fantastic way to blow a few hours. But that isn’t the game we have here. Instead we have a game that tears apart friendships. You shouldn’t ever get pissed off playing a game, and yet even the most cool-headed people can’t help but flip their shit after a particularly long or cruel game of Monopoly. We’ve all been on the receiving end of that pain. Even the winner is likely to feel a sense of remorse grip them in the middle of their sadistic glee. Not like that will stop them, though.
Why does everyone own this game? Just because it’s a classic? How did it become a classic? I mean, sure, it’s practically a perfect representation of capitalism, but that doesn’t make it a good or fun game. I feel like my generation is starting to get wise about this abomination. Only time will tell though.
And those two points are only for the one time I played a legitimately engaging, close game between me and two friends.