So What’s Wrong With Monopoly?


Whenever I tell someone that I’m a board game enthusiast I often see that glint in the other person’s eye as they imagine me sitting down to my nth game of Monopoly clutching my money in one hand and blowing on my other as I shake the dice for a lucky double roll. If the conversation goes that far, I’ll correct that person of this mistake and mention some very popular games that have been around for over twenty years (such as Carcassonne and Catan) knowing full-well that they’ll have never heard of them. They then go through that peculiar shift of attitude from that bemused “You actually play Monopoly at every opportunity?” to “What’s wrong with Monopoly – the only game I’ve ever even heard of?”

So, what is wrong with Monopoly and why do I feel the need to correct people from thinking that I play it?

Firstly, a disclaimer. I grew up playing Monopoly. I have a limited edition Star Wars Monopoly that I’m quite please with. I will most likely play Monopoly again. Also, if you enjoy Monopoly, then this is not an attack on you or your interest. Of course you’re allowed to like Monopoly. Instead, see this as an opportunity to learn about games that should be played instead.

First up, Monopoly is a Roll-and-Move game.

Roll-and-move games have been in existence since before Snakes and Ladders and are, for the most part, not much more than that. You roll one to many dice, move your pawn the given number of spaces and perform whatever action is printed on that space. The boards may be different shapes, the actions may be anything from moving your pawn somewhere else (landing on a ladder or snake) to doing something in the real world (answering a Trivial Pursuit question). Roll-and-move games are usually printed in bright colours with big fonts because they are games designed for children to learn how to count and how to take turns. Of course there are more strategic roll and moves such as Ludo and Backgammon which are more engaging in that a player at least gets some choice as to which pieces to move but are still mired by lucky rolls of the dice.

For all its apparent complication. Monopoly is not much more than this. Roll the dice, pay the fine, read the card or buy the property. Occasionally, you may have to decide on buying houses or mortgaging a property, but these decisions usually follow either a logical inevitability or a slight push-your-luck element (I can afford to buy a couple of houses as long as I roll more than a 5 this turn.) One could also argue that there is a little bit of bartering with the swapping of properties to complete sets, but then no sensible person would ever allow another player to complete any of the sets beyond Free Parking. It’s admittedly a little more than a child’s first game but the outcome of the game has very little to do with the players’ input and more to do with the random roll of two plastic cubes with spots on.

Next up is House Rules. (See my other article on House Rules here)

Essentially, nobody plays this game the way it was designed and every deviation makes the game longer and less fun. Wherever two or more people with non-compatible house rules try and play, there’s always an argument.

It’s a Long Game


This in of itself isn’t a bad thing, Twilight Imperium, for example typically plays 6-8 hours a time (can be longer if you play an older edition), but it’s a game that keeps players engaged throughout its staggering runtime. Monopoly is a game that can start dragging very quickly and far exceed its welcome. There’s not much variety to the game play with the only interest being when you approach a side or corner stuffed with hotels and you’re just anxious now. When it’s not your turn there’s nothing to do except watch your properties like a hawk ready to claim rent before the next player rolls and you miss it. And refusing to swap your Dark Blue property for anything.

It’s a Player Elimination game

Player elimination games are usually short or played in quick rounds. That way, the eliminated player is back in after a brief wait while watching some pretty exciting action. If you go bankrupt early in Monopoly you might as well go and do something else because sitting there for another two hours is not going to be fun, even if you end up being the banker.

It’s only fun when you’re winning

This can be true for many games, but most games to address this by either concealing the points won until the end so nobody knows who’s winning or the game can be won or lost right up to the end. With Monopoly, it’s generally whoever buys three properties on their first three rolls, it just takes hours to then play out the already inevitable result. They’re sitting smug with piles for 500 notes and can’t quite fit all their properties on their bit of table calling out rent at every roll. Nobody else is happy.

The Arguments

This can be a reflection of who you are playing with anyway, regardless of the catalyst, but due to the nature of the game’s longevity and ruthlessness, the temptation of “let granny off this one time” or “I’ll pay you after my roll” to creep into the game to keep everyone playing and ‘happy’ can cause some interesting emotional explosions with lasting repercussions.

So what?

The question really is why are you playing Monopoly in the first place? Generally, you’re on holiday, there is no WIFI, there’s nothing on TV or the next meal is still hours away. You’re stuck together as a family and you need something to do together. Through some unwritten law, every house has to have a copy of Monopoly somewhere, and this inevitably gets dragged out with “Why don’t we play a game?”

The answer is simple, get a better game.
For the same price as a game of Monopoly (about £20) you can buy a much more engaging game that doesn’t have all the baggage I’ve just mentioned.

Here are some examples, all for £20 or less (as at the time of writing).

Ticket to Ride: New York or Ticket to Ride: London (a href=”https://www.daysofwonder.com/en/” target=”_”>Days Of Wonder)

These play in less than an hour and is one of the easiest games to learn to play for the uninitiated. It can be stressful and frustrating, but so very satisfying as players try to link locations together in the city while blocking everyone else.

Forbidden Island (Gamewright)

Get your family working together in this cooperative game where you play as a team to beat the game. Tough and unforgiving this can keep the family occupied until the dinner bell rings.

Just One (Repos Production)

For four or more players, this guess-the-word party game takes an interesting new spin on the theme. One player shows the word they have to guess to the other players who all write down a clue on that word. Before revealing their words, they are compared with each other and any duplicate words are removed. Only what’s left is shown to the guessing player.

Of course, if you’re willing to spend a little more, there are so many great games out there to try.

House Rules

For #Blogmas 2020

Originally written for Board Games Crate.

With the makers of Uno’s recent rules clarification about not being allowed to stack wild +4 cards on +2 cards and vice versa, I thought it relevant to address the ‘issues’ of house rules. For this I’ll give examples using Monopoly whose varied house rules have been known to end friendships and cause no end of grief.

What are house rules?

These are rules for existing games that have been made up by gaming groups or families that are either not in the game’s rulebook, or directly contravene what is in the rules. In Monopoly, landing on Free Parking and winning all the taxes and fines paid by all the players is considered to be the most used house rule. The rules clearly state that Free Parking does nothing and all monies should be paid straight to the bank. How many of you are now in shock?

Why do we have house rules?

House rules are often introduced by parents or experienced gamers when introducing a game to new or young players. They tailor the game play to either make it ‘more fun’ or ‘more fair.’
Alternatively, certain rules have either been misinterpreted or are too complicated to grasp or execute and are misplayed or left out altogether. Auctioning properties is usually an aspect that is left out of Monopoly, in my experience.

Why do house rules cause problems?

In truth, the original rules are usually there for a very good reason. Hours of design and play-testing have perfected a game to be as good as it’s going to be in its current edition. The Free Parking house rule I’ve already mentioned, can give the game more spice with everyone trying to land on an ever-increasing pile of money. But look what happens when someone does eventually roll the magic number and win thousands of in-game currency: an instant game-breaker with the lucky roller pretty much set up for the rest of a now much longer and less interesting game. Also someone’s generally sulking at this point.

“But I’ve always played it that way!”

The other reason house rules can be quite damaging are that people get very attached to them. The very memories of playing with friends or family members no longer with us are threatened as soon as someone else demands that the game be played “properly.” This can be worsened if different players have non-compatible house rules. In many cases players have never read the rules beyond how to dole the money out or other basic set-up assistance and only know the game they were first taught. After dozens or hundreds of plays it would certainly baulk being told to have been playing it “wrong.”

The solution

Due to nostalgia or player preference, house rules will never go away. However, as many games nowadays come with alternative game-play suggestions at the back of the rule book, perhaps these should also contain known house rules, but also leave a space for extra house rules to be added.

Introducing games to beginners

This is for #Blogmas 2020

Another article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate, now available for general enjoyment.

Usually, whenever I bring up the subject of board games, most non-gamers immediately conjure up such titles as Monopoly,Cludo or Game of Life. Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those games, but the roll-and-move mechanic doesn’t really give preparation into deck-building, drafting, line-of-sight, tower defence, worker placement, co-operative, buffs & de-buffs, point salads and so on. Having seen first-hand the deer-in-headlights terror displayed by a new player subjected to StarCraft: The Board Game, I thought it best to provide some tips when introducing games to new players.

Choose games that utilise only 1 or 2 mechanics. For example, Dominion, being one of the first deck-building games, is just about deck-building so should be easier to introduce instead of games such as Star Realms that has added combat and synergy or Clank which has a lot more going on. Sushi Go nicely introduces the idea of card drafting and set collecting, to be built upon later by more complex games such as7 Wonders and Terraforming Mars.

Dumb down the rules – but don’t give the appearance of doing so. Many games nowadays have a ‘Family’ or ‘Newbie’ version of the rules for first play. Using these rules as if they are the only rules not only helps players get into the game, but also avoids them feeling patronised.

Play games that are still readily available. It can be really off-putting when someone accompanies a friend, partner or co-worker to a game, really enjoys it, and then searches online to buy it only to discover it’s only available for upwards of £250 on ebay and in German.

Be patient. We were all beginners once upon a time. If they struggle to comprehend a rule, try using analogies, show a youtube clip – or even give them the rule book for them to interpret for themselves. Be prepared to field the same question time and time again. Also, when they’re caught out by a rule you so totally did actually explain to the right at the beginning, just accept the blame for keeping it a complete secret and give them 50 points in compensation.

Be aware of short attention spans. In today’s world of soundbites, people can be less tolerant of sitting there while you read them all 64 pages of a rule book and then watching you sort and arrange seemingly countless components across the playing area while their sweaty hands grasp the hand of cards they were given at the start as if they were a lifeline to sanity. Set up before-hand and play to introduce, not play to win. Aim for a half-game so that they grasp the basics. Then, when they’re happy, start over.

Finally, accept there is such a thing as beginner’s luck and not rage out by being totally defeated by someone who’s still coming to grips with a changeable turn order. Remember, they need to enjoy their experience so they will come back where you can then properly demonstrate just how to completely destroy an opponent.

Am I a Gaming Snob?

This is for day 9 of #Blogmas 2020.

This article of mine was originally published in the Board Game Crate booklet that came in their boxes. Now that they are unfortunately no longer trading, here it is again for everybody to enjoy.

Whenever I enter a toy store with my children I always head off over to the aisle that proudly heralds the presence of board games. Every time I have high hopes, and every time I’m faced with a wall of boxes sporting brightly-coloured moulded cheap plastic and labels stating, ‘Whipped cream not included’ or ‘Download the app!”
Now, I remember growing up with games with a lot of moulded plastic, such as Downfall and Guess Who (admittedly nothing I had to shove my face through) and have fond memories of many of them. However, it’s been nearly 25 years since the Settlers of Catan shook up the gaming world. Since then board games have come on leaps and bounds with deck builders, warfare miniatures, card drafters, bluffers, strategy and so on. Not only that, but most gaming styles have offerings that fall into the ‘budget’ price bracket and are easy to play as a family. A Game Of Thrones: Hand of the King, Tsuro, Star Realms and Rumble in the House are just a few examples.
Unfortunately, mainstream toy stores don’t usually stock such things, but will stock yet another Monopoly iteration – latest one I spotted was Fortnite – or Don’t Step In It! which, I suppose, is the natural successor to Doggie Doo…
So have I become a gaming snob or do normal people only consider it a game if it features a randomly flushing plastic toilet?

My 10 Least Favourite Games

For my 3rd blog for #Blogmas 2019, I’ve decided to list my least favourite games to play.
As usual with any lists such as these, the 10 games mentioned here are not necessarily bad – some are actually greatly loved by many – nor is this an attack on those who made the games or on those who enjoy playing them. These are 10 games that, for whatever reason, give me little to no enjoyment when playing them.

10 Dungeons & Dragons

Right, I’ll start off with a whole gaming genre I’ve admittedly never even tried. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never had the opportunity to try it, but I just have no interest in this type of role-playing game. I’ve watched all of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop gaming videos on youtube – except for the role-playing ones. I started watching them, but quickly became bored. This is clearly a reflection on me, because most of the comments of those videos are full of praise by people really enjoying watching them and wanting more.

9 Warhammer

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the lore, played the computer games and am supporting my kids’ interest in it. I’ve even picked up a box or two to build and paint myself. However, having seen it played, it seems to be a whole load of bother (and ££££s!) to play a pretty straightforward combat game that could be done just as easily with much, much cheaper tokens. It seems to me one either plays just Warhammer, or everything else – but not both. I’ve gone for everything else (apart from what’s on this list).

8. Talisman

This is fantasy Monopoly really. Yes, there’s a little bit more to it than that, but not really. Spoilers: See below for Monopoly.

7. Pandemic

Going for some controversial ones here, I know. This cooperative disease-combating beat-the-game best-seller should have me bouncing with joy whenever I get the opportunity to play it. I’ve played it five times now, with wins and losses, and have felt the same level of ‘meh’ upon each conclusion. I don’t know what it is, but I just get nothing from this game.

6. Star Wars: X-Wing

Like with Warhammer, this comes with a hefty tug on the finances for some gorgeous miniatures that… convey pretty much not a single ounce of dog-fighting excitement or immersive thrills. Tried this at a gaming convention and walked away after less than half an hour to find something more interesting to do.

5. Scotland Yard

Can we catch the baddie? Only if we rely on public transport we happen to have the right tickets for. Okay, the theme’s a little weak, but I just found the whole thing a very bland experience.

4. Monopoly

Ah, that game forever synonymous with rainy holidays with the family. Yes, it comes with many a fond memory (and back in the 80s there wasn’t the plethora of great games that there are now – you lucky things) but it’s not a good game by any stretch of the imagination. With little more player involvement than roll-and-move which we mastered with Snakes and Ladders, this game just goes on far too long and is only fun when you’re winning.

3. Battlestar Galactica

Only once have I been more bored playing a board game. Despite putting on the epic music from the tv show, this game dragged on its dismal way and the end couldn’t come quick enough. I can’t even remember the outcome.

2. The Fury Of Dracula

This was the 3rd edition. This made Scotland Yard look exciting. The most boring game for me to play. Didn’t see the point of it to be honest. This shouldn’t be an enjoyable game only for whoever plays as Dracula.

1. Chronicles Of Narnia: The Board Games

Ok, this was flat-out a terrible game where players took turns to spin a spinner a collect the relevant piece of a scene from the BBC TV adaptation. Repeat until someone completes all their scenes first. A dull and meaningless game given a basic thematic face-lift to fool idiots like me buying it from a charity shop for 50p.

There we go. Not many of those are going to be popular, I can tell.
I do love playing games, just not these ones.
So, what games do you just not get or enjoy?