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Seven Problems with Monopoly

Monopoly is probably the world’s best selling board game. It was first published in 1933 and passed down through many families. It’s popular as people played it as children and familiarity and nostalgia have kept it selling well. That and the many different variations of the same game with a different theme. You have the standard geographical country specific versions with boards based on London or New York and then all the tie ins such as Star Wars Monopoly or Simpsons Monopoly etc.

A game of Monopoly can often just cause upset and argument and many a game that gets started never actually reaches conclusion. There are a few reasons for this which I will outline below. Game designers have learnt a lot from earlier games such as Monopoly and have tried to avoid or eliminate these issues. On the popular Board Game Geek website which has a database of nearly every board game, Monopoly holds the rank of 9274. There are 9273 higher rated games by the public in existence! If you’ve had a bad time with Monopoly reading this article will help highlight why this was probably the case and you can use this information to make a better purchasing decisions and get new games that are actually fun.

Player Elimination

Perhaps the single biggest problem when it comes to a game of Monopoly is the player elimination. A game of Monopoly can often go on for a long time and players get eliminated along the way as they lose all their money. These players then have to sit around while those left in carry on to determine a winner, or perhaps they go off and do something else. Either way this just isn’t fun and many newer games now have rules that everyone plays until the end and final scoring takes place. This way everyone can play the whole game and when you finish it’s easy to start the next one. There are still games where players can get eliminated, however their play time tends to be fairly short and they aren’t waiting around long for the next one.

Takes ages to play

A lot of people, even those who really like board games, just can’t stomach the length of time some games take to play. Monopoly is a game that can often drag out for hours and hours and it’s made worse if you’ve already been knocked out like I’ve already mentioned. Different people also prefer different types of games, playing shorter ones can let you mix things up and play different types of games. It’s more fun if everyone gets to play something they like the most and shorter games tend to also work better with younger players who can often have shorter attention spans.

House Rules

Depending on who you play with Monopoly can often be made worse by custom house rules introduced into the game. The most common example would be putting all the fines under the Free Parking space. Not playing a game by the actual rules first can often make a game worse (though house rules can also improve a game, but you should usually at least try the official rules first). The Free Parking example adds more money into the game that the rules weren’t designed for. Not only does this make the game take even longer to play (making the previous point even worse) but my experience of this rule is that it gives the beneficiary of all this bonus money a bit advantage.

The other common one is that there is a limit to the number of houses and hotel models. Many don’t realise that it’s in the rules that if they run out then you can’t buy any more. That’s why it’s good strategy to not build hotels and try and buy up the entire supply of houses. If someone does have a hotel and then needs to sell it to pay someone else rent, they have to sell off the lot at the knock down price. If you just let them sell the hotel and still just say they now have four houses left, you are taking away a strategic element from the game and leaving even more down to luck.

Very Luck Driven

Luck is an important thing to consider when playing board games, some players like games with lots of luck (they can be better with kids giving a more even playing field) while others prefer little luck and more strategy. Monopoly is filled with luck and there is very little strategy to it. Good strategy dictates you always buy whatever you land on if it’s available. The auction mechanic rarely gets used this way either making it a bit pointless. Of course there is no strategy to what you land on as it’s just a simple roll and move game like Snakes and Ladders. Then when everything is bought up you are just rolling and waiting for players to go broke one by one. The movement mechanism is just down to luck on who this will be and there is little the players can do to influence this. The trading aspect does add some strategic element, though you are never going to want to trade to give someone a set of properties unless it also gives you one. This can just lead to a stalemate again dragging the game out. Perhaps someone was lucky enough on the dice to be able to buy a set of properties. If they’ve also managed to snag at least one of all the other colours, then they’ve pretty much won the game and it’s all just down to luck.

Games that are heavy on luck should ideally be quicker to play, it’s no fun spending hours on something that is just down to the mercy of who rolls what on the dice, or draws certain cards out of a deck etc.

Doesn’t Scale Well

A two player game of Monopoly does eliminate the concern of players getting knocked out and waiting around, though it does make the deal making aspect a bit bland. As you add more players the elimination factor becomes worse. Though the eliminated players can start up another game if they wanted, every time a player gets knocked out though they are then left waiting. A more serious issue than that though is as you get up to the full quota of six players, the luck factor is blown up.

If you are the unfortunate person who gets to go last you are at a massive disadvantage to everyone else. The first player to go has no chance of landing on someone else’s property and paying them rent. The second player just has to avoid the first player and so on. If you are the last player you’ve got all the other five players places to try and avoid and if any of them rolled doubles they may have bought more than one property. I’ve played a six player game where the last player spent the whole game just rolling and landing on properties that were already owned. They didn’t get to buy a single property as they just followed behind handing their money out to other players. Now while this may be an accurate simulation for how real life works, it doesn’t make for a very fun gaming experience!

King Making

King making is where one player who knows they can’t win the game can heavily influence which other player does win. Monopoly isn’t alone in this and in fact a lot of games that involve three or more players can have this issue. When it’s clear that someone has a high chance of going bankrupt on their go, they can make a deal with another player and just basically give all their assets over before they lose them to a different player. Again this isn’t really much fun and combined with both the high luck factor and long playing time can leave players feeling like they’ve just wasted their time. Even worse this can be deemed as not being fun and may even get quite heated and cause arguments.

Lack of Decisions

As I’ve already alluded, there isn’t much in the way of decisions to make, you buy whatever you land on as dictated by the dice roll. You avoid making any deals that doesn’t give you a property set and ideally doesn’t grant anyone else one. Everyone will want to make the deal at the time that best suits them, such as getting a set as opponents are coming up to that colour and then filling it with houses. Or the alternative, selling someone a set of a colour just after you’ve just passed that colour so they are more likely to have to pay you rent before you get back around the board and possibly land on that colour. You will also want to make deals for sets with other players who can’t afford to build on them afterwards. Granting a set to a player with more money than you is usually a losing proposition. Those are the few actual game winning choices you have in the game but mostly you are at the mercy of luck to even be in the position to have these decisions to make.

If you weren’t already familiar with all those issues with such a popular game, hopefully now you’ve had your eyes opened up and are ready to explore some of the vastly better options that are now available. I’ve hand picked some of the more popular and recommended games (and some of my personal favourites), Ticket to Ride is a great starting point and a game every household should have. Explore this site for many more options and pick the game that’s right for you. You may also find that sharing this article with other people who’ve been put off by Monopoly can get them to try some of your new found gems!

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