Another Monopoly game? Really? One of the most successful board games in the world, Monopoly has a colorful past and hundreds of variants and custom editions. Who hasn’t played this ubiquitous property trading and dice rolling board game, possibly for hours beyond when you would have liked it to end? What’s interesting is that the game was originally designed to highlight the dark side of property ownership and monopolies, but has ended up celebrating all your worst property ownership, trading and management instincts.
The game has also been a favorite in our house, most recently the Nintendo edition that isn’t much of a variant at all, more of a “skin”. In fact, that’s what most of the theme Monopoly sets are, different property names, different tokens, but the same set collection and charging others for “rent” when they land on your properties.
Surprise! Monopoly Gamer is not another variation on the theme, it’s quite a different game with a lot of different mechanics and gaming concepts. Not only that, there are level bosses you encounter each time you pass Go and once you’ve defeated the last level boss the game’s over. Done. Over. No dragging it out for hours because people are negotiating poorly or hoarding all the houses. Have a look:
There are only nine spaces on a side of the board and the four corners are the familiar Go, Jail, Free Parking and Go To Jail, but the other properties are themed from various Nintendo games and are simple to work with. For example, Peach’s Castle above costs 5 coins. There are no three-property monopolies, and the spots that you might be familiar with as train stations, utilities or similar have a very different flavor as power up stars, pipes and related. The square Princess Peach is on above is the Thwomp: Land on it and you have to drop two coins on the space.
But when you’re moving around the board you can collect coins from any spaces you pass through that have coins. There are times you can pick up 3-4 or even more coins simply by passing spaces after other players have been forced to drop a coin or three. Really neat way to keep the currency moving from player to player!
The dice are different too:
Smaller board, smaller rolls: One die is numbers but the other is the power up die. Each turn you get to take your move (collecting coins as you go) and the other your action. That action can be a red shell (another player must drop 3 coins on their current location), green shell (the player “ahead” of you must drop 3 coins), blooper (steal 2 coins from any player), “POW” causes all other players to drop a single coin and the three coins symbol means you get three coins from the bank.
Surprise, though, you don’t win with coins, you win by accumulating points which can come from owning properties, but mostly come from defeating level bosses.
On the left, you can see the least expensive property, Yoshi’s Hill, is worth 10 points and has a 1 coin rent (or 2 coins if you own both brown properties). Rock-Candy Mines is worth much more, at 30 points, but Iggy Koopa, Ludwig Von Koopa and Bowser are the real winners in terms of points, at 30, 50 and 100 points, respectively. Look more closely at Iggy Koopa and you’ll see how level bosses work: you pay 3 coins to battle and must roll a 4 or higher to defeat him.
My two kids, 13 and 17, had a blast trying out Monopoly Gamer with me. Here you can see the game status at the very end:
From this view you can see a few mechanics more clearly too. For example, if you land on a pipe, you are swept forward to the next pipe on the board, collecting any coins you pass along the way.
Hasbro has also learned about modern game sales too, so in addition to the four characters that are included with the base game — Mario, Donkey Kong, Princess Peach and Yoshi) — you can purchase “Power Packs” that give you other characters, each of which has their own special ability. Yes, the tokens aren’t just tokens, each has special powers and abilities. Add-ons at this point include Wario, Luigi, Toad, Boo, Rosalina, Diddy Kong, Fire Mario, and Tanooki Mario.
Ultimately the question for any game is whether it’s fun to play. My kids and I had a good time learning and playing Monopoly Gamer and it surprised us a couple of times as we figured out the nuances of the rules. Just as pleasantly, we finished in a rational amount of time, just a bit more than an hour of play. Quite different from the long, exhausting Monopoly sessions we’ve played in the past!
Rather to my surprise, I quite like Monopoly Gamer. I recommend you check it out, whether you’re a Monopoly fan or are a bit tired of the game. And those Power Packs? We’ll definitely get some of those too!
Disclaimer: Hasbro sent us a copy of Monopoly Gamer for review purposes.