Is it weird that I simultaneously feel offended, as a gamer and nerd, to be blatantly pandered at and almost assuredly going to get it? https://t.co/Y9wfRieKBK
— Joshua Brickley (@OriginalRubahak) June 28, 2017
When I first heard about Monopoly Gamer, I rolled my eyes. “Yet another cheap shot at gamers to buy Monopoly for the 50th time with a dumb gimmick,” I thought to myself. It’s not the first time a company slapped “Gamer” onto a product in a cheap attempt to sell a few more products. (Full disclosure: I did end up buying one some time later, with some personal disgust in my heart, but I couldn’t pass up the color scheme.)
At first glance, it’s just Monopoly with plastic Mario figures instead of generic metal ones, and coins instead of money. Plus, they’re adding IRL downloadable content by means of extra figures you can buy. Commence even deeper eye roll. However, as ashamed as I am of myself, that was enough for me to buy it.
To get or not to get
Granted, I’m an unrepentent Nintendo fanboy, and these few changes were enough for me to at least put down the requisite amount of money. I ended up getting the Collector’s Edition at GameStop, because it’s not available anywhere else yet and my curiosity was just barely piqued enough to check it out. Besides, I don’t currently own any other copies of Monopoly, and everyone needs something in their life to help you kill your friendships over the span of like 6-8 hours, right?
[Editor’s note: you can preorder Monopoly Gamer on Amazon right here.]
As it turns out, I have never been so wrong about anything in my life. Hasbro did the unexpected and completely rewrote what Monopoly is. Having played it, I can confidently say partnering with Nintendo was absolutely the perfect move for this new version of the game, because Monopoly is only about a third of the experience. The other two-thirds are more video game than board game, and Mario was the right franchise to start it out with.
Not because Nintendo is the only company that can support it, but because Mario is the perfect franchise to be able to highlight what Monopoly Gamer is and what it can be. I can see Hasbro reskinning and repackaging this game for many, many different franchises.
They most assuredly will if Monopoly Gamer succeeds, which I think it might, because, unlike all 154 billion versions of Monopoly that exist out there each version of Monopoly Gamer would actually be different enough to actually be worth owning.
It would actually be worth it to own the Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, Gears of War, and Call of Duty versions of Monopoly Gamer, since each of them would actually be different enough.
How can Monopoly Gamer be that different?
It’s simple, the other two thirds of the game. You see, there is still property in the game. There’s still Go, Jail, and Free Parking. But that’s where it all starts to diverge.
Even with the property the differences are monumental. To start there are only two properties for each color and you don’t build on them. If you own one color you receive the rent of the face value of the property. If you own both of one color you receive double the rent. That’s it.
No houses, no hotels, nothing more. Even then the disparity between the values of property range from 1 coin to 5 coins. That means the most rent you can collect is 10 coins. That’s it. There’s no bankrupting a player in one shot by having them land on a hotel on Boardwalk.
In fact, you don’t even win by bankrupting anyone. You don’t have to bankrupt anyone. The game doesn’t end when someone owns all of the property, with the rest of the table devastated, and at least one friendship or relationship in total disrepair.
The game ends when you beat the final boss. That’s right. Take that in for a second. There are boss fights in Monopoly. The mechanic is exceedingly simple. When you land on or pass Go you pay a fee to fight the boss. If you roll the number or higher indicated on the boss card, you beat them, take their card, and get to perform their winning action. There are eight bosses (the Koopalings and Bowser Jr.), each with their own fee, die requirement, point value, and winning action. When you beat Bowser Jr. you end the game. Whoever has the most points (based on properties, boss cards, and total coins) wins.
Monopoly Gamer has fresh take
Monopoly Gamer is a lot more competitive than it might seem at first. It’s not as easy to maintain a vicious lead as it is in traditional Monopoly. That comes thanks to the last set of mechanics, which are the dice, the character abilities, and the new game board tiles. Instead of rolling two numbered dice and moving that distance, Monopoly Gamer has one numbered die for moving and one ability die.
With the ability die, you can make other players drop coins, steal coins from other players, or get coins from the bank. Dropped coins get put on that tile until a player lands on that space or passes by, at which point they collect those coins.
On each turn, you roll both dice, and choose whether you want to move or use your ability first, but you do both of them. Each character gets a special bonus for the ability die, too. As an example, Mario collects four coins instead of three, and Yoshi can choose to fire the green shell at the nearest player ahead of or behind him instead of just in front of him. All of the characters have super star abilities, too, which are activated when they land on the super star tile. Peach collects rent for her properties from the bank, where Donkey Kong collects three coins from every player. Those are really great mechanics, because there’s a strange balance in there. There are also warp pipes, which instantly move you directly to the next pipe, question boxes that lets you roll the numbered die for coins, and the thwomp that forces you to drop two coins.
All of this comes together for a relatively hectic game of Monopoly. Something is happening every turn and the tides can change at any moment. Yet, it’s still rules light enough that it can be picked up by just about everyone. After all, in this review, I just broke down at least 75 percent of the game.
Playtesting the game
In fact, I took it to the test by playing with my parents, both of whom are in their mid-to-late 60s, and both of whom have different levels of experience. I very recently got my mom into tabletop games with Harbour and Dragon Farkle, and I bought her a Pikachu New Nintendo 3DS XL, where she loves Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My dad isn’t really one for games. He prefers to watch television or work on a project. He even commented that he hadn’t played any kind of Monopoly for at least a couple of decades.
One of things we discovered early was how much the luck factor affected the game. My mom doesn’t like playing many competitive strategy games with me because I win too much. That’s not me bragging. It’s actually genuinely frustrating. I haven’t played Risk, one of my favorite tabletop games, with my family since I was about 12-13 years old, and there aren’t many who are willing to play it with me more than once.
Monopoly Gamer’s greater lean on luck, as well as the diffusion of scoring sources, and the better property balance, means no one can just dominate all the time. With all of the abilities to take coins away from each other, massive cash piles aren’t exactly safe either.
My mom (who chose to play as Donkey Kong), started out with a commanding lead. She hit a lot of super stars early, and scooped up a lot of territory. At one point she had four monopolies. She even had over 110 coins, which was at least 40 more than the most I had. In a traditional game of Monopoly she would’ve ran away with the game. However, with all of the luck factor, and the abilities that allowed us to force her to constantly drop coins, or the ones that allowed us to steal from her, we were able to mitigate her dominance.
In fact, she only won by 100 points, with a final score of 390 points. That may seem like a lot, but if I had beat Bowser Jr. instead of her, she would’ve been down to 330 points, and I would’ve gone up from 290 points to 350 points.
More importantly, however, is that being down in Monopoly Gamer doesn’t mean that you’re out. My dad (who chose to play as Mario, largely because he was the only character he knew about) spent about 80 percent of the game unable to catch a break. He wasn’t hitting the tiles he needed and only landed on the super star a couple of times.
For a very large portion of it he sat at about 10-15 coins with three total properties, and never enough to be able to risk trying to fight a boss. For several agonizing rounds he had less than five coin, and was at one point on the brink of having to sell one of his properties.
By the end of the game, he managed to collect over 40 coins, including having the funds to be able to afford to take a shot at Bowser Jr. He ended the game with 220 points, which may not have given him enough to have won if he had beat Bowser Jr., but it was enough to keep him competitive. On top of that, he never felt like there wasn’t anything he could do. He was in probably the worst case scenario for a player, but he never lost a fighting chance.
Does Monopoly Gamer measure up?
To me that’s possibly the most important part of any game. If a game is done right, no one should feel like they don’t have a chance of winning at all. There should always be a chance something can happen that’s going to upend the tides of battle, so everyone can feel engaged with a game at all times, even if they have a weak start.
No game should be decided within the first half an hour. Monopoly Gamer succeeds admirably at that.
In all, Monopoly Gamer is a very well-rounded game that brings the idea of Monopoly into a new era, into a better way of thinking. Tabletop games should be a place where people can come together, to be able to bring people together. Monopoly Gamer does that, does it well, and does it in a way that I can see with significant replayability, which will only be expanded with each character you buy, as well as with each new version of the game.
I put my full recommendation behind this game. I hope you enjoy it nearly as much as I did. Stay Nerdy.