If you were going to pick one game which was full of gaming flaws yet has stood the test time and sold countess copies, you would probably end up picking Monopoly.
This is one of those games which truly is unusual. First published in 1935, the game was designed by Charles Darrow, Elizabeth J. Magie and George Parker, and the fact you can find it on the toy shelves of any big department store today shows it has survived the test of time – only two years shy of 75 now.
It is a game almost everybody has played at least once, and many households harbour a copy in some closet of the basement alcove.
Yet, the game has some serious gaming shortcomings too.
Let's deal with the flaws first.
To begin with the components leave much to be desired. The money is always a piled mess, requiring pre-game, in-game, and post-game sorting, which is basically tedious work to play the game.
The pieces are small and frigidity. It's hard to get four houses properly situated on any property location, and should one ever fall to the floor it's easily lost where it becomes a hazard should it be found by a young child, or a bare foot.
The game is also designed for two to eight players. With two or three it is slow to develop and rather boring. With more there is some joy provided as friends land on your property and have to dole out the cash, but as players lose out they are forced to watch, which has to be the height of boredom, or they are off to the TV which is what you are trying to get away from with a boardgame. The best multi-player games keep everyone involved until the end, such as Ticket To Ride.
As for the mechanics of Monopoly, it's a double barrel case of luck. Your piece moves on the whims of the dice gods, and depending on where you land you can find yourself drawing a Treasure Chest or Chance card, which adds yet another layer of luck.
The lone aspect of skill is the ability to wheel and deal to some advantage.
On the positive side, you can teach the game pretty quickly to anyone.
And, the game obviously has a level of popularity given its continued sales. It's one of those games that always seems to be under the Christmas tree for someone.
Of course it helps that the game has been licensed to a number of sports leagues and other interests, resulting in multiple editions of the game being produced with collectors in mind. There are Monopoly games dedicated to particular cities, to the National Hockey League, NASCAR, Disney, the U.S. Marines and Army, Chronicles of Narnia, Pokemon, The Simpsons, Harley Davidson, Spiderman, Elvis and Star Wars to name a few, and that has opened the game to new sales. It is likely there are now people who simply collect Monopoly editions.
There is even cross marketing, with familiar Monopoly icons showing up on sneakers, glasses, and even a series of Johnny Lightning collectible cars.
As flawed as the game is, Monopoly isn't going anywhere. It will remain a board game standard. It may not be one to run out and buy, but it is one everyone should play once just so they can determine for themselves if the game has merit.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 13, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada