An Unpopular Opinion: The Hate for Monopoly has Gone Too Far

For the tabletop uninitiated Monopoly hate may sound like lunacy, it’s the bestselling game of all time, but in the board game community, saying that Monopoly is a good game is akin to claiming that one prefers the prequels to the original Star Wars trilogy.

Monopoly’s average score on Board Game Geek hovers around 4.3 out of a possible 10. It’s rated 15,760 out of a qualifying, as in enough reviews, 15,763 games. Tic-Tac-Toe may be the most famous game rated below Monopoly. Tic-Tac-Toe! Many true analog gamers hate Monopoly. Hate may not be a strong enough word. They loathe the game.

Keep in mind that a 4.3 rating tallies up several people who gave the game a perfect 10 and still, there are plenty of people giving it a 1 or a 0 to bring the overall score to below average, but the hate may have gone too far.

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Yes. Monopoly shows its age. It takes a fair amount of time to play. 80-85% of modern games play in a fraction of the time it takes to play Monopoly and the games that take as long as, or longer than, Monopoly create a world, a story, characters, or all three for players to latch onto. Yes, modern gamers have—for the most part—moved beyond simple roll and move. They want more choices and not leave huge decisions to a simple roll of the dice. And yes, Monopoly is one of the hardest and therefore worst games to teach someone as their first board game and countless people are introduced to board games with Monopoly—more on that in a minute—and the game does a good job of ruining friendships and familial bonds. How many games of Monopoly end with someone getting upset and quitting? But it doesn’t deserve to be in the bottom four rated games. There’s a reason, beyond licensing, that Monopoly is a classic.

Monopoly is a balanced game. If you look beyond the roll and move mechanism, it has deep strategy. It teaches math and introduces people to a market place. Countless designers have been inspired by Monopoly. Yes, plenty of modern game designers avoid making a game like Monopoly, some of them may actively make a game that isn’t Monopoly, but one can’t ignore the cultural significance of the evergreen game. I wonder how many game designers today began with a Monopoly clone or tweaked the game with their own house rules, and for those of you who may question Monopoly’s balance it’s a house rule that disrupts the game’s balance the most. The worst house rule of all time is one that’s included with the base game today: money on Free Parking.

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Little good can come from playing the game with money under Free Parking. If the leader lands on the space, they get further ahead of the other players, creating a runaway leader. If someone trailing by a lot lands on the space, they’re given the equivalent of a meaningless run during a 10-run baseball game, right before the mercy rule to end the game would occur, and now they have to keep playing a game they know they’re going to lose. That isn’t fun. It definitely isn’t fun when “I’m smarter than you” cousin Justin won’t let you call the game early. I don’t care if I landed on Free Parking, Justin. You own the blue, yellow, and green monopolies and they all have hotels. I’m just going to give you all my money the next turn. I quit!

Never play Monopoly with money on Free Parking, but one can’t hold the sins of Free Parking against the original Monopoly.

MonopolyTropicalTycoon

Other house rules and new game variants do more to modernize this older game. Holding an auction before the roll of dice adds strategy and can speed things up; you don’t have to wait for someone to land on each space for each property to be owned and money exchanges hands quickly. Some newer versions of Monopoly have express dies that shake up things a bit. If you can find 2007’s Monopoly: Tropical Tycoon DVD Game, I’d highly recommend playing it. Besides the inclusion of a DVD, players have jobs and individual powers that give them unique advantages. It’s a game that shows that there’s a lot of design space with Monopoly because of its universal theme.

So, why all the hate? There are countless games ahead of Monopoly that are broken and unbalanced. Plenty of older games hold a higher rating than Monopoly too. True. The hate may come from Monopoly tearing friends and family apart. Player elimination in a longer game is a tough pill to swallow. Just ask Risk. One hates being eliminated early from a long game and being forced to watch, but I’d wager the hate comes from Monopoly’s place as one of the first games people play.

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Monopoly is a tough game to learn. How many kids under the age of ten would know how to calculate 10% of their total assets for Luxury Tax? How many people can add up what they owe for maintenance in their head? Even if you can, would you want to? There are few modern games that require players to use a calculator or tax their brain with needless math, and it’s this barrier to entry that turns off a lot of would-be board game enthusiasts from the hobby.

I’ve lost count of the many people who don’t play board games who’ve said that they’ve only played Monopoly and board games aren’t their thing.  If you played Monopoly as your first or only board game, I could see someone not liking board games. Tabletop gamers resent Monopoly because it has single-handedly prevented them from sharing their hobby.

 Monopoly isn’t a beginner board game, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a game that’s so below average that it gets rated beneath unbalanced and broken games.

Is there another board game that gets too much hate? Does Monopoly deserve all the hate it gets? Let us know in comments.

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