Don’t Let Your Kids Play Monopoly
Monopoly is a terrible game. It is bad enough to make people believe that they do not like board games. What’s worse, is it’s often one of the first board games that children are introduced to. Still worse, it is so ubiquitous that many people believe it to be representative of board games as a whole.
It is not.
It is horrid. I cannot blame the creators, it was developed at the turn of the last century as a tool for teaching the evils of monopolies. Somehow, a tool meant to demonstrate how fun having land barons isn’t, became one of the most popular games in America for almost a century.
How can I say such a popular game is a hideous abomination? I can answer with reference to Fifty Shades of Grey, or Twilight and end the discussion there. I can, but I won’t. There is so much wrong with the game and so much to be learned from its dissection.
To begin, I would argue that I have never met anyone who actually likes Monopoly. Some people claim to like it, but if you ask them how to play, they will not actually describe Monopoly. They will typically omit auctions, and describe some rules for Free Parking invented to make the game playable. It is not a good sign when none of a games players actually follow its rules.
Next, the length of the game. A game of Monopoly can last from one hour to the heat death of the universe. There is nothing in the game that necessarily drives it towards completion. If properties are distributed somewhat evenly between players, and the players are disinclined to sell properties to one-another, then the game can go for eternity. The major flaw in the design, here, is that it can be very difficult to know how long a game will take, and whether anyone wishes to invest in a full game.
Monopoly, as a morality tale about the rich getting richer, is quite effective. As a game, though, it is often valuable to have some sort of rubber band. Mario Kart does this to a bit of an extreme, where those in last place are much more likely to get better items that help them catch up. Monopoly, though, exaggerates differences. Rather than there being a way for losing players to get back in the game, the players in the lead simply get farther ahead entirely at the expense of their opponents. This can be a long, slow, tortuous journey for those at the back of the pack, where a player knows that they have lost hours before they are actually given the sweet release of defeat.
Also, Monopoly is designed around a last-player-standing model. The winner is the person that did not get crushed out of the game by another player. This works well for tournaments where individuals are rivals competing for supremacy, but isn’t particularly useful in a friendly game. In my experience, monopoly and other board games are played as a group activity in a social setting. The fact that one player may be forced out of the game hours before anyone else is finished playing is a bit of a problem. It seems bizarre to me that anyone would choose an evening activity that would exile one of the party for the majority of the event.
In conclusion, any game where the best part of play is deciding which figure to be, is not a good game.
I get to be the hat.