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Subject: Easy Money : How it is everything and nothing like Monopoly rss

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Benjamin Maggi
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This game came out in 1935 and for all intents and purposes seemed to be a direct competitor to Monopoly. I have heard rumors that it was designed by the same person as Monopoly but I cannot confirm them. I have never written up a review before, so please excuse/change/suggest any corrections as you see fit.

First off, LIKE Monopoly, the goal is to collect property scattered around the four edges of the board and improve the value of the property to the detriment of anyone who lands on it. If this sounds familiar, it is because there are several games like this. However, unlike the "M" Game, this game in different in that each property/house is independent of all of the others in the game. You might own 1 on a side, or you might own 5 or 6 on a side. However, each is operated independently of one another- thus, you can jump right in at the beginning by purchasing property without fear that if you get two Red spots and the person next to you gets the third, you will forever be giving him either evil glances or those "hey, wanna trade... I have a great deal for you" sly smiles that ALWAYS goes with Monopoly. Here, you can just purchase one house and potentially win with that. However, that is not the best strategy!

There are 21 houses distributed along the four sides, and that means that most people will have the opportunity to purchase several on each side regardless of the amount of players that decide to engage in real-estate warfare. Designed for 6 players, I have never played it with more than 4. It should be evident now that, unlike Monopoly which really cannot support 6 players and ensure that EVERYONE has a Monopoly, here each person can have a small place to call home.

One way that the game provides that everyone can get a chance to own houses is a rule which prevents players from purchasing more than one property PER SIDE of the board (there are 4 sides, it is a square board) until they have at least one on EACH side. So, if the first player rolls really well their first three turns and hits three houses on one side, they will only get to buy one. What happens if they land on another house on a side and they cannot purchase it due to this limitation? Either: (1) Public auction, where every player BUT the one who landed on it and was previously excluded from buying it can bid starting at $1 for the house, or (2) in a two player game, the other player buys it for the face value. Seriously, can you imagine a two-player game with an auction where the 2nd player bought every house for $1, knowing that he/she couldn't be outbid?

DISCLAIMER / FLAW ALERT: up until my game yesterday with my wife, this seemed like a great system. However, she quickly purchased one on each side and I couldn't get the 4th side quick enough. Once she had one of each, she easily cleaned up on the 3 sides I already had (she could buy them because she had one on each side) and even if she didn't want them, I couldn't buy them myself from her because I didn't have the 4th side. By the time I had one on each side, she was killing me. At this point, she had 10 houses to my 4. I have never had this happen before, but it really does kill the game. She didn't do anything wrong, and it is just a bad turn of events that led to this. A house rule might be "in a two player game, you only need to have houses on THREE different sides before you can start duplicating on a side." I haven't tried that yet.

Moving on, once you own a house, you can do several things with it. First, you always put one of your plastic (or wooden, for earlier versions) houses on the property next to the first number value place. Each house has a stacked list of five numbers, and they increase as they go up (meaning, as the list gets closer to the center of the board in each house's column). As the house goes up, so does the rent. How do you move the houses up? You essentially "buy" another house by paying the purchase price again (anytime during your turn) and push the house one spot higher. Do it 5 times and the house becomes a "hotel." You don't need to fight with four green houses before you get to a red hotel as in a similar game. I like the system. You can also own 5 spots, pay to make one a hotel, and leave the rest alone. No need to commit resources to two or three properties to make them valuable.

Second, you can Mortgage your house. The mortgage value never changes, and it is listed under the purchase price of the house on the board where everyone can see it. To mortgage your house, you tip it on its end and then you collect the money. There is no need to "down-sell" it like Monopoly; if you built it up to a hotel, you mortgage it as a hotel. The amount you get for the mortgage doesn't change, so there is a big incentive to mortgage undeveloped property- and lose less potential income- then developed ones. To get it out of mortgage, on your turn just pay the mortgage value and 10% and it is good to go.

Third, you can sell it to someone else for cash, for the "Special tax-exempt card", or as part of a trade. This doesn't usually happen much in a game because there is no property-collecting aspect like Monopoly, but it is allowed.

DISCLAIMER / FLAW: When rolling on the board, the pieces have a tendency to creep over time. This includes sideways onto neighboring houses, creating confusion as to ownership, as well as up and down, making them more or less valuable instantly. Moral of the story: don't roll on the board!

There are also other properties scattered around the board. Similar to municipalities in Monopoly, these include a Railroad, a Shipping Company, a bus line, a hotel, a Night Club (the "Black Kat Night Club!"), etc. They are all auctioned off when anyone lands on it, so there is no "race to the railroad" like other games. Bidding starts at $1 and goes until someone has had enough. Some, like the Waldorf Hotel, have huge Mortgage values ($450) so if you buy it for $200 you might just mortgage it your next turn to get some extra money! Each has a "rent" value, ranging from $30 to $100. One has the rule that the rent is equal to 10x the number rolled. Don't always expect your wife to multiply correctly: a 10 rolled on the dice multiplied by 10 is NOT $1000. Nice try honey!

Other spots on the board give you money (winning the lottery, a bank) or lose money (horse racing, YMCA collection). Two spots on the board represent automobile and plane accidents, which result in money getting paid into the hospital. This, like Free Parking, rewards anyone who lands on it. However, unlike Free Parking, no money starts in the hospital. (What a grizzly thought... an automatic plane crash each time the hospital gets cleaned out!)

Finally, there is a traffic light on the board, represented by two adjacent spaces. If you don't stop cleanly with your dice roll on one of these two spaces but blow through it, you must pay the bank $10. There are no exceptions for crying, rushing to the hospital (remember, that could cause an auto wreck which would only compound the problem!) or being late for work. $10 it is, or stop on the designated spots.

If you roll doubles, you pull a card out of a deck. These usually are the "You win $, you lose $" but some send you to the Black Kat Night Club. Unlike other municipalities on the board, this one might be worth bidding high on even though the rent is only $50 a hit. There is one special card, the "Exemption Card," which gives the owner the ultimate right of not EVER paying taxes or red light violations. It lasts all game and can be sold or trade for anything else of value.

Disclaimer / Flaw: There is only one of these cards. If you play with children and it gets bent, it is VERY easy to see when it comes on top of the pile. You cannot control who rolls doubles, but EVERYONE will be antsy until someone eventually does get it!

Passing "start" gives each play $250 a turn. This turns out to be not a lot, and there are few chances for "new" money to enter the game. Getting it from cards by rolling doubles and a few board spaces represents all of the possibilities. However, this means that games don't go on forever. In addition, since the mortgage values are usually high, early in the game you can mortgage a few properties to build up others. By the end, when they are hotels in places, this isn't such a good idea because of the potential to lose a lot of rental income.

Conclusions:
I will always take this game over Monopoly. There are four reasons for this:

1. Since you don't need to have a Monopoly to stand a chance of winning, there aren't any left out players who have to watch others with matched monopolies while they have Oriental Avenue, some worthless yellow property, and the water works!

2. There aren't really "good properties/bad properties" to have. Some cost more to buy then others, and they pay out more then others, but there isn't a problem of the "Get out of jail, land on orange or Red" dilemma as in Monopoly. Each side can get hit equally, and all properties have an equal percentage of getting landed on. The cards to the Klassy Kat Night Klub DO change this a little, but there are only a few of those cards and in my experience this hasn't benefited anyone.

3. Everything is on the board. No one is hiding cards, you never have to wonder who owns something, because each person's colored house is on the board on the property. It is easy for everyone to see the "bad parts of the board" where you HOPE AND PRAY that you narrowly miss hitting their set of houses... even if it means getting in a plane crash or paying Boy Scout taxes.

4. Because you don't need to own a monopoly to build up property, people frequently boost one of their houses early in the game. This means that an early hit on a developed property could really hurt someone. The result is usually that games are shorter than Monopoly... MUCH shorter. I would say they average between 1-2 hours. If they are going longer, then usually it means someone didn't read the rules properly and is introducing money into the game by putting it in the hospital instead of the bank for taxes, or players are doing the dreaded "you get a free pass if you land on me...." type of deals.

Last notes: My family owns three copies of this game. The game I grew up with had plastic pieces including a black house that our dog chewed up. When I moved out and got married, I bought a copy off of EBay with plastic pieces too. I went to visit my father recently, and his set now has wooden pieces! I guess he gave my brother the chewed up plastic version of the game, and then I bought him a wooden one to replace it (oh how memories fade). I WANT the chewed up set because that is what I grew up with, so we are all doing a three-way trade. Neither my dad nor my brother cares about their versions, so they don't mind. Oh, what has BGG done to the average game collector! Now I LONG for my old, chewed up pieces!

Enjoy Easy Money. It is Easy to Play, Easy to Win, and Easy on your Schedule!
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sunday silence
United States
Maryland
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very nice write up.I was hoping to read a review because I have an old copy of the game sitting here and I wanted to read the rules and play it and was hoping to jump start the process by reading a review.

my only question is: if everything is so "fair" (you build houses without monopoly; the spaces have equal chance to land on them, etc.) then is there any strategy at all to the game? I dont think the review really suggests how one goes about winning.
 
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Benjamin Maggi
United States
Clifton Park
New York
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In my opinion after playing the game dozens of times, my seven strategy rules:

1.) Always purchase something if given the opportunity if it has a mortgage value, and always big up to the mortgage value even if you don't really want it. You can always mortgage it on your next turn and get your purchase money back, so it doesn't ever hurt your liquidity.

2.) While you cannot always land on properties on other sides before other players, a rule (which I don't think I mentioned above) is that if you land on a property that you cannot purchase yourself you must auction it. Thus, if someone lands on a property on the side you are still hoping to get your "first house" on you should be prepared to purchase it- even at higher then fair market value. If you don't get one on each side you are going to have a tough time winning the game.
Note: this wouldn't have helped the game against my wife because she quickly got one on each side and thus wasn't "blocked" from buying the ones I needed.

3.) I generally don't focus on the municipalities (bus station, shipping company, even the Black Kat Night Club) as I find their marginal income to be not worth my initial investment. Exceptions are for any that have mortgage values. The Waldorf hotel is a different story (it is a skyscraper... get it... different "story".... never mind). Lastly, I will always fight for the Railroad because I am a train buff.

4.) I personally find it better to build up a few places to the top instead of spreading the wealth around to several. There are two reasons for this: (a) if you need to mortgage something, you still have some undeveloped properties that can be taken out of service without a large loss of income, and (b) if you get lucky and someone lands on your built up space the net effect to them is usually more significant that having someone land on two of your smaller spaces.

5.) Plan around other people's moves. Whenever I am going to build something up I look at the board and figure where they may land in their next turn or two. I then build those up. Sometimes they get by, and sometimes they land on my buildings. Unlike Monopoly where you can only build up what you own and hope they land on it (though you may wait until they are close to you before committing to improvements), here you will have properties all over the board and can try and time things right.

6.) Don't be afraid to mortgage stuff to build up houses quickly. I generally consider anything I buy an investment, and not just for rental income, but also for mortgage value. Especially if you see your opponent is low on cash and something is going up for auction, bid per my rule #1 and outbid your opponent. Then mortgage it quickly.

7.) Unless you are longing for some family memories or hoping to create sentimental moments, don't let your dog chew the pieces!


 
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Cliff Bolling
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Castle Rock
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The original version of Easy Money from 1935 is different than the later versions from 1936 on. In the 1935 game, any time a person lands on an unowned property, the banker will put it up for auction amongst all the players and the highest bidder will win. Like Monopoly, when a player acquires all the properties of a color he can charge double rent on those properties if they are unimproved and a player must have all properties of a color before building houses. A player can build houses on a color but cannot build more than one house more than any of the other properties in that color, as in Monopoly. There is no mention of restrictions on buying properties except that when a person goes bankrupt, their property will go back to the bank and will not be sold again. Oh, yeah, and there are title deeds, too.

Little wonder that Parker Brothers claimed patent infringement on their Monopoly game! Milton Bradley's NEW IMPROVED version of 1936 made changes that placated Parker Brothers and the rest is history. CDB
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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I bought a copy recently at a thrift shop and there were some additional changes since 1936. The coloring looked like it was from the 1980s, and it only played up to 4 people. I don't remember the differences, but it seemed to me to be a cheapened, simplified game.
 
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