Monopoly board game review
By Ed Appleby, Illustrator
Monopoly is everywhere: board games, apps, and even in your Happy Meal. And it is, and always has been, awful.
Monopoly (1935) is a finance-themed board game for two–eight players “designed” by Charles Darrow and originally published by Parker Brothers. The goal of the game is to purchase property and drive all other players into bankruptcy by rolling dice and moving about the board.
Many a family has been broken up by its grossly unbalanced gameplay. Player dominance is mostly based on random dice rolls in a game that takes hours to play. Hasbro, who now owns Parker Brothers, has made Monopoly versions of everything from Star Wars, to Adventure Time, to dogs. Almost everyone owns a copy, and I own three (Classic, Lord of the Rings, and Simpsons). Monopoly’s domination of the board game world would be unfathomable but for the fact that it was the standard bearer of “modern” board games like Clue (1949) and Risk (1959), the product of bored family evening games in a world before Netflix and the Internet.
But being an awful game isn’t Monopoly’s worst sin. As regular readers of this column may know, I like to credit the designers who make board games. This comes from my background as a cartoonist and illustrator, careers plagued by rampant plagiarism and straight-up theft. It pains me to credit Charles Darrow with Monopoly because it is just a copy of Elizabeth Magie Phillips’ The Landlord’s Game (1906). This was a not-at-all-fun game meant to explain Henry George’s tax theories and the dangers of capitalism. Darrow simply added a few tweaks to make the game more enjoyable, and then sold it to Parker Brothers.
Never buy Monopoly. There are so many better games that are quicker, more fun, and better tested, especially contemporary games like Catan (1995), Carcassonne (2000), and Ticket to Ride (2004).
If you already have a copy of Monopoly at home, at least the lid makes a nice litter box.