If you tell anyone outside of the gaming community that one of your hobbies is ‘board games’, the inevitable next question you’ll hear is “Oh, like Monopoly?”. It’s unbelievably ubiquitous even now, 86 years after it was first released. Several generations of players have been introduced to it throughout their childhoods – it shows no sign of going anywhere.
Which is weird, because Monopoly as a game is, by modern standards, full of absolutely terrible mechanics and design decisions. It’s a game that’s simultaneously hugely popular and synonymous with board gaming itself while being reviled by nearly everyone who ends up playing it.
It has a reputation for simply taking too long to play, for example, as well as featuring player elimination that can cause losing players to just sit around twiddling their thumbs, sometimes for hours, while the remainder of the game plays out. A clear winner can emerge relatively quickly, but due to the random nature of the game it can still take a really long time for them to actually win. There’s also that just-mentioned random nature of the game: your turns can often feel as if they’re dictated by the whim of the dice, rather than by any meaningful or strategic decisions you make during play.
Yet you will find that games go on too long mostly due to house rules that players swear are the official rules (a number of times as a kid, I played with people from different households who were convinced that ‘tax money going on free parking’ was an actual rule – yet this keeps money in the game’s economy that should be taken out, thus extending play time significantly). Or they ignore rules that would help to speed the game up, such as the auctions that should take place if a player decides not to buy a property. On my last few points regarding randomness and the lack of strategy: if that’s the case, how could there be Monopoly World Championships with participants who consistently do well at the game?
So perhaps a combination of misunderstanding the rules and a lack of understanding of some of the strategies that can be employed (which also includes smart trading of properties) are to blame for the general malaise surrounding the game. Saying that, player elimination is the one overriding problem that can’t be overcome using this reasoning – as is the general lack of strategic control over the game – so while you can recognise that there’s a certain amount that can be ‘fixed’ in order to ensure that your Monopoly experience is as enjoyable as possible, the fact remains that there’s still lots about the game that remains problematic in this day and age, when so many thousands of other games exist that cater for gamers of different skill levels, ages and tastes, at bewilderingly different levels of complexity.
Monopoly Plus then, is a game that does well to translate the basic feel of the game into the digital realm – and does an awful lot right too. There’s the option to add or ignore a variety of house rules so you can play exactly how you choose to, as well as the option of playing in multiplayer or with bots in any combination required. The presentation is faultless too, with a lovely 3D representation of the board that makes it seem both alive and physical, with the throw of the dice affecting player tokens in a way that gives it a really satisfying and tangible feel. Sound effects and music are nicely implemented – and there’s an array of bizarre premium DLC boards that tie into the fact that UbiSoft have produced this version of the game – including Just Dance and Rabbids, along with a My Little Pony board too. Each feature animated tokens that give an extra layer of charm, but none alter the basic feel of Monopoly (which is also the case when you buy any standard Monopoly variant in real life of course – though efforts have been made in recent years to change that a bit, with the Gamer and Arcade variants being notable in bringing some new, more refined and innovative design elements to the tabletop).
It can feel a little slow when you’re up against AI players as there’s little in the way of accelerating through their turns, but having the option to save a number of different games at a time is very welcome. Trading takes a little getting used to, but once you understand the controls it’s a pretty painless way of handling that aspect of the game.
If you’re a fan of the board game or a lapsed player who just fancies having a go with friends or family without having to find the space – or time, given that you can save and return to the game if it drags on – it’s a good and relatively inexpensive way of playing. More variation in the types of Monopoly on offer (why no Gamer or other design variants, given the ‘Plus’ in the title?) would be welcome, but as it is, what’s here is well produced, beautifully presented and will be just what you’re looking for even if you’re playing solo. Non-fans need not apply, of course.
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