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Subject: Monopoly: a very short, entirely necessary review rss

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Jake Troughton
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Of all the board games out there in the world, there's one that's popular far out of proportion to its actual quality. This game drags on interminably, as players roll the dice over and over, hoping to eventually gain something that they can trade for something worthwhile. The trading and negotiation aspect, which is about all this game has to speak in its favour, is essentially an elaborate scam, created to fool the players into thinking the experience is anything more than an over-long exercise with all the skill and strategy of Yahtzee in 100 times the playing time. No one should be fooled, though, because in the end it's just a terrible, terrible game.

But enough about Settlers of Catan; I'm here to review Monopoly.

And while Monopoly has had more than it's share of scorn heaped upon it, including the sort of scorn that I've much more reasonably heaped on Settlers above, the simple truth is that this game is a classic for a reason. It shows its age, no doubt, as game design has grown and evolved quite a bit since 1933. Then again, silent films and NES games show their age, too, and that in itself doesn't make them bad. There were good video games made in the 1980s, there were good films made in the 1910s, and there was at least one good board game made in the 1930s.

I say "good", not "great". I'm the first to admit that the game has its flaws. Luck, while not as dominating as many around here seem to think, does play a large role, and in such a relatively long and involved game, that can be frustrating. The property values aren't very well balanced, to say the least. And why exactly is it that rolling doubles can get you sent to jail AND get you out of jail, anyway?

A lot of people, though, treat Monopoly as just a simple roll-and-move game in the vein of The Game of Life; I like to call these people "bad at Monopoly". If you're playing it well, it's not even primarily a roll-and-move game; it's a negotiation game, and an auction game. It's about realizing what's worth having at what cost, and about trying to figure out what your opponents value more highly than you think they should.

I've rated Monopoly 5.5 on the site, and I stand by that. It feels very much like the average game: flawed, certainly, but with a lot of interesting and fun elements to be found if you're willing to give it an occasional try. It doesn't have the polished design of many of its descendants, and it certainly won't hold up to repeated plays the way today's truly great games will, but as a change of pace you could do a lot worse than a good old-fashioned game of Monopoly. For example, you could play Settlers of Catan. Have I mentioned that I don't like that game?
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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stampimo wrote:
Of all the board games out there in the world, there's one that's popular far out of proportion to its actual quality. This game drags on interminably, as players roll the dice over and over, hoping to eventually gain something that they can trade for something worthwhile. The trading and negotiation aspect, which is about all this game has to speak in its favour, is essentially an elaborate scam, created to fool the players into thinking the experience is anything more than an over-long exercise with all the skill and strategy of Yahtzee in 100 times the playing time. No one should be fooled, though, because in the end it's just a terrible, terrible game.

But enough about Settlers of Catan


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Simon Lundström
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I lol'ed. And not sarcastically, no, I liked the part about Catan.

I'm the first to admit Monopoly has flaws, but I actually rate it a 7. I'll always have a game of Monopoly, provided people play by the rules, it's a tense game that's rather quick (less than an hour).

I like Catan better, though, but there are two things with Monopoly that beat Catan – 1) trading is more bloody. You trade much more important stuff, and you need to be on the edge or you'll fail. And 2) things may turn quickly; you're never really sure, and that spawns excitement. In Catan, if you start out badly the first half, you're doomed. In Monopoly, the dice can give you a pause.

In the end, Monopoly is a game of probabilities and traps. A good Monopoly player knows that although in the end, everything is decided by the dice, it's a matter of very sweaty trades and exquisite timing.

That said, the amount of work required to get to a fun stage isn't really worth it. But trust me, a family game of Monopoly doesn't have to be that bad. My biggest problem is that you need to be so goddamn evil.
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Guido Gloor
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someotherguy wrote:
I play it better than most people

You are so awesome.
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Jake Troughton
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someotherguy wrote:
Also, if you think a forty-minute game is too long, you are entitled to that opinion, but I think it's ridiculous.


I once literally spent 90 minutes at 9 points while the dice and every other player did everything they could deny me the win. And I'm using the word "literally" literally. I did win, eventually, because my opponents were so determined to stop me that they didn't have anything left in the tank to, you know, move any closer to victory themselves. I know that's an extreme example, but it's the sort of thing that happens more often than not in Settlers.

someotherguy wrote:
Go and join your brethren amongst the Monopoly apologists. Your defense of a game that you liked when you were ten years old is duly noted.


I didn't like Monopoly when I was ten, dude. (Cribbage was my game back then.) Even a brilliant ten-year-old like me wasn't fully capable of grasping everything that goes into playing it competently (and I do think you have to grasp that to have much fun playing it, because if you don't then it really is just a roll-and-move).
 
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Jake Troughton
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Zimeon wrote:
I lol'ed. And not sarcastically, no, I liked the part about Catan.


I'll be honest: that joke was about 95% of the reason why I wanted to post this.

Zimeon wrote:
My biggest problem is that you need to be so goddamn evil.


That's one of the things I like most about it! I guess to each his own, as the sexist saying goes.
 
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Ally Steven Severi
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My friends are still not talking to me because
I liked The Settlers of Catan Card Game more than the original.
It's normal that some games are not your cup of tea.

Monopoly is a classic, but for some of us outdated.
Luckily even Hasbro realized that
and made some improvements in recent editions.
Or you can invent some house rules.

If you land on a spot you already owned...
You may pick another property on the board.
The catch: Everybody around the table may do a higher bid.

Stop the game if somebody runs out of money.
The player with the most money wins.

And for the love of God:
Skip the "Free Parking house rule".
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Andrew
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I lol'd, but I'll take Catan over Monopoly any day.

The thing that gets to me about Monopoly is that it saturates the common understanding of board games, and its flaws stick to the hobby as a result. And the audacity of the theme-pasting that occurs with many of the versions would make Reiner Knizia blush.
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Jake Troughton
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Ally Steven Severi wrote:
My friends are still not talking to me because
I liked The Settlers of Catan Card Game more than the original.
It's normal that some games are not your cup of tea.


I'm obviously no fan of the original, and I'm well aware that there's a significant subjective element to these judgments, but nonetheless I can confidently state that you are definitely wrong to like the card game more.

(But I'm still willing to talk to you.)
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Tony Chen
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someotherguy wrote:
Your assessment of Settlers of Catan is utterly wrong and misguided. It's not a mile deep, and there are elements of chance, but I can crush most players at the game all day long because I play it better than most people, not because I'm really lucky. Also, if you think a forty-minute game is too long, you are entitled to that opinion, but I think it's ridiculous.

Go and join your brethren amongst the Monopoly apologists. Your defense of a game that you liked when you were ten years old is duly noted.
His assessment of Catan is ridiculous, that was the whole point: this is how people are assessing Monopoly. How can you critique his sloppy assessment of Catan and then come right around to make the same sloppy assessment of Monopoly without the slightest trace of irony?
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We just had a discussion on Fortress: Ameritrash regarding Monopoly and the vast difference in play levels that you see in the game. Its exceptionally open rule set allows for some pretty creative play, and often that brings personalities into the game. In my opinion this is a good thing. You need to set ground rules and expectations in advance, but if all at the table are ready to step up their play the game allows for a much higher level of complexity than Settlers does.

Now, don't get me wrong. Settlers of Catan is my highest rated game. That's not because it's the game I want to play the most, it's because it's the game that in my opinion does the best job of fulfilling its goal -- family play that lifts off of the table and into the analog essence of personalities. It fits its time constraints and complexity constraints, but still creates excellent play. That's to be lauded.

But Monopoly has passages in its rule book that clearly remove the shackles. You can buy a property, and then do anything you want with it immediately. Private auctions are legal, blind auctions are legal, futures are legal. There's very few boundaries to the game. This is anathema to the largely discrete-decision-set nature of modern games.

So you compared Monopoly to Settlers of Catan and got a petulant response for it. I'll add a bit of fuel if you don't mind -- Monopoly is like Small World, where a smaller, dedicated following staunchly defend the gates, declaring the game deeper than most think. In my opinion, this may indeed be the case.

S.


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Kevin Elmore
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The comparison to Settlers is epic. It's not a perfect comparison, but the high-level aspects are the same: Dice determine your fate, and you can improve your lot with aggressive trading. That is really what it comes down to, and I was amused at the slap in the face by placing one of the most respected games next to one of the least respected games.

Although, I will concede that the ability to choose which numbers are good for you in Settlers makes it less capricious than Monopoly.

Given the choice, I'd normally play Settlers, but I would be up for a Monopoly game here and there. I only play it by the rules, and the game isn't as long as its reputation makes it out to be, because I don't play by those house rules that families eventually added in order to not hurt feelings.
 
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Tim Mirkes
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Kuildeous wrote:
...the ability to choose which numbers are good for you in Settlers makes it less capricious than Monopoly.


The difference almost seems to be whether you can rely on the game to mechanically help you mitigate unhelpful dice results. Monopoly basically hands you 2d6, gives you a manly slap on the rear, and sends you out to make your way with a hearty "Go get 'em, sport!" If you fail miserably, it's your own fault, because the game clearly raised you better than that and hasn't the capacity for empathy.

Settlers gives you a bit more of a guiding hand and doesn't absolutely punish you for not being able to play the metagame as well as the next guy. Settlers wants you to succeed and gives you ample opportunities to do improve your lot, provided you don't hamstring yourself from the opening setup; even the best coach can't teach wingless birds to fly.
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tlmirkes wrote:
Settlers gives you a bit more of a guiding hand and doesn't absolutely punish you for not being able to play the metagame as well as the next guy.


I'm not sure I'd agree with that. If you screw up your build, then the dice punish you by not giving you as many resources as the next guy.

Though, I guess that's a matter of semantics. Technically Settlers does not punish you except for the bandit, and that's a pretty small punishment. In Monopoly, there's punishment galore. Basically, Settlers always goes up. You never lose points in Settlers. You start at 2 points and never go below that. On the other hand, you start off with $1500 in Monopoly, and you can bet that you'll below that; in fact, that's what the other guy is counting on.

Still, dice are less capricious in Settlers simply because you can actively offset that. Only get something on a 6, 10, and 11? Well, go grab that 5, 8, and 9 to improve your lot in life. You don't really have that in Monopoly.
 
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James Neill
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Kuildeous wrote:
Still, dice are less capricious in Settlers simply because you can actively offset that. Only get something on a 6, 10, and 11? Well, go grab that 5, 8, and 9 to improve your lot in life. You don't really have that in Monopoly.
Only collecting rent when people land on Baltic, Atlantic or New York Ave? Well, go grab some more properties and improve your lot in life.

Seriously, the comparisons are pretty fair. Lots of things beyond your control can go wrong in Settlers which basically eliminates your chance of winning. For example: Your numbers may not come up, no one wants to trade with you, Other people cut you off with roads early, Other players build you in at the start. The point is that there are times in Settlers when there is nothing you can do to "actively offset" any of the above.

Don't get me wrong I love Settlers as much as the next guy. I've played and enjoyed hundreds of games over the years. But our group stopped playing lately because it was getting stale. Eveyone is skilled enough to make the game largely an academic exercise in dice rolling these days.

Monolpoly feels much the same.
 
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The Thermodynamics of Monopoly
 
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Kuildeous wrote:
The comparison to Settlers is epic. It's not a perfect comparison, but the high-level aspects are the same: Dice determine your fate, and you can improve your lot with aggressive trading. That is really what it comes down to, and I was amused at the slap in the face by placing one of the most respected games next to one of the least respected games.

Although, I will concede that the ability to choose which numbers are good for you in Settlers makes it less capricious than Monopoly.

Given the choice, I'd normally play Settlers, but I would be up for a Monopoly game here and there. I only play it by the rules, and the game isn't as long as its reputation makes it out to be, because I don't play by those house rules that families eventually added in order to not hurt feelings.


The way the dice is used in Catan is much more clever than the way the dice is used in Monopoly as impact from dice roll is more reliant on player choice. Also, die roll probabilities are printed on the markers to an extent, and can be blocked or taken advantage of by other players (to an extent) via robber & placement of additional settlements/cities.
 
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