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Sorry to anybody wanting to write reviews on this classic boardgame, but I’ve got a monopoly on them (I wish)! OK so that’s a plain lie (not a malicious one, I swear) and to get reads I’m going to have to put in a lot of effort like everybody else.
You might be asking why on Earth I am writing an opinion on Monopoly; after all most people know what it’s about and it’s hardly a new product. However these are opinions not reviews and I feel like expressing my views on the game we call Monopoly (and I am being honest when I say I’m not just writing an opinion on it for the sake of writing an opinion on something, if that makes any sense to you).
In case you are unaware Monopoly is the classic property trading board game (I say “the” because I don’t know of any others) manufactured by Waddingtons (and now by Hasbro), probably the most well-known board games manufacturer of them all. The game has been around for over half a century (it was first produced in 1935) and the copy I own is at least 30 years old.
The game is set on a square board, with everyone starting rather imaginatively at the square marked “Go”. Players move around the squares on the edge of the board landing on properties and a few other landmarks. If a property is already owned, the player who lands on it must pay up, if it isn’t then he/she has the option of purchasing it. Sounds simple eh? Well as most of you who have played it well know there is much more to it than that!
The logical first step for prospective players is to choose a playing piece. These have varied immensely over the years, especially with “new” editions of the game such as “France ’98 Monopoly” and “Star Wars Monopoly” but there are always (to my knowledge) six. In the set I own they are metal (although most modern ones are plastic) and are a tank, a train, a car, a sail ship, a motorbike and my favourite; the orange tractor (always remember that the tortoise defeated the hare).
Then the money is dealt out (it’s not real, I’m afraid) and we all receive a whopping great £1500 (don’t worry houses and hotels are somehow quite affordable with this)! The various cards are shuffled and placed in the correct places and away we go, after a long debate about who starts. Eventually someone rolls the two dice and move the number of spaces corresponding with the total number of dots on the dice. Now’s when not having a copy of the rules becomes slightly awkward, but as far as I understand it nobody can purchase any property on the first go round (presumably to prevent the person starting first from gaining an advantage). On the plus side you don’t have to pay any taxes if you land on a square specifying that you must pay tax.
Once the irritating first whiz (or crawl) around the board is complete then the game begins properly. Most of the 40 squares around the board are purchasable properties (28 of them in fact). Two others are “tax squares” where you have to pay the specified amount, one is jail, one is go to jail, one is free parking, one is “go” and the remainder (presumably 6) are either “chance” or “community chest”.
The properties range from the cheapest (Old Kent Road at £60) to the most expensive (Mayfair at an extortionate- well not really- £400) and the rents gained reflect the value of the property. These are arranged into eight “sets”:
Brown: Old Kent Road & Whitechapel Road Blue: The Angel Islington, Euston Road & Pentonville Road Pink: Pall Mall, Whitehall & Northumberland Avenue Orange: Bow Street, Marlborough Street & Vine Street Red: Strand, Fleet Street & Trafalgar Square. Yellow: Leicester Square, Coventry Street & Piccadilly. Green: Regent Street, Oxford Street & Bond Street. Purple: Park Lane & Mayfair.
As you can see the majority of London’s more famous boulevards are included. These “sets” are incredibly important. Although any unowned property can be purchased when you “land” on it (after the first time round), they will, being undeveloped, earn just a measly few pennies rent (from £2 for Old Kent Road to £50 for Mayfair). If the remainder of the set is owned then this rent is doubled, but this still hardly a good return on your investment; to get lots of money you must invest in houses and even a hotel. Houses or hotels can only be built on properties when you own the whole set and cost £50-£200 depending on the property. Each house increases the rent to be paid by those who land on the property dramatically, and up to four houses can be built on each property (represented in my set by small green wooden blocks) and the fifth “house” turns them all into a single hotel (represented in by set by slightly larger red wooden blocks), only one of which can be built per property. The profits to be gained in rent range from £250 with a hotel on Old Kent Road to a devastating- for your opponents- £2000 for a Mayfair hotel.
This might all sound a little complicated, but I assure you that is just my clumsiness in explaining it and in reality the game is very easy to pick up. The system leads to plenty of excitement and heated moments as each player attempts to stop his/her opponents gaining a set while he/she tries to get one for him/herself. Any property can change hands between players at any time with the price set by the owner, and this can create a fortune for a player holding a much wanted property (represented by the property card that he/she gets when buying it).
You might, or more likely may not, have noticed that the number of properties in the “sets” does not correspond to the 28 properties I mentioned earlier. This is because there are six more ownable properties, namely stations and utilities. There are for stations that can be bought for £200 each and the rent gained when someone lands on them is quite simple: £50 if you own just the one station, £100 if you own another, £150 if you own three and £200 if you own all four. Houses and hotels cannot be built on these but they are good investment early in the game. There are two utilities (“electric company” and “water works”) costing £150 each. If you own one then the rate owned is 4 times the number rolled by a player in the turn he/she lands on the property, and if you own two it is 10 times (so a max of 10 X 12). In my opinion these are not ever a great investment, only to be brought if you have ample money to spare!
Community Chest and Chance cards are picked up when you land on the squares saying “Community Chest” or “Chance”. They can be good or bad, and involve such things as paying doctors fees, maintenance on houses and hotels, advancing to Mayfair, winning a crossword competition and even a bank error in your favour (of £200). Any fees are placed in the centre of the board (normal property fees are paid to the bank) and anybody luck enough to land on “free parking” gets all the money in the middle. Go to jail is pretty self-explanatory and once in jail you have three attempts to throw a double to get out or you have to use a “get out of jail free” card or pay £50 to the middle. If you land on the tax squares (why did they have to be included- I thought super-rich people avoided paying tax!) then you must pay up the specified amount, to the middle. Every time you reach or pass “Go” you collect £200.
That’s about it on playing the game- there are a couple more points such as mortgaging properties to get extra money, but these are fine details explained fully in the rules. Although it may appear complicated it is easy to pick up and yet difficult to master. Tactics are important despite the obvious element of luck (it is quite frustrating when people manage not to land on your Mayfair hotel!). I always find it best to buy as many properties as possible before they all go and then I trade with other players to get whole sets. Do not be lured into getting easy money from selling out to people though; it is properties (especially sets) that make you the money in the long-run!
This game does get very tense and can be played by all ages bar young children (and there is a special “junior monopoly” for them which is exciting to kids but unbelievable boring to adults). It does take a long time though and can lead to arguments (especially if played with siblings). In fact now is perhaps time to mention just one more (sorry this is so long) important fact- rent need only be paid if the owner of the property asks for it before the next player rolls the dice- this in turn can cause bitter arguments. On the whole though the game concludes with each contestant still alive. The person with the most money when one goes bankrupt is declared the winner, or alternatively the last person to go bankrupt (this must be decided BEFORE the start of the game). It is best played with talkative friends, plenty of “nibbles” and of course drinks (but not too many!). The fewer other distractions (e.g. TV) the better, otherwise the game takes even longer and becomes not dissimilar to watching paint dry.
Hasbro.co.uk quotes the price of standard monopoly at £17.99, which is expensive and it should be cheaper but if you are heretic enough not to have a copy then I suggest you cough up (its cheper than many other “rainy day” activities! It is available at all major and most not so major toyshops and other board games retailers.