Like most people, I have many fond (and some repressed) memories of playing Monopoly. I always tried to be the battleship, because, well, it had guns. I generally lost, but this was obviously an omen that I was intended for something other than a life of commerce.
While much of my gaming today is computer or console based (I even have a copy of Monopoly for the Xbox 360 in my house), I still have a boxed set of the classic game in my closet, along with my copy of Axis & Allies, Clue and other such games. After all, there is a lot to be said for gathering around a table with friends, snacks and some dice.
I had heard that Hasbro was updating Monopoly for the video game age, but did not think much about it until I saw a video of the new game. It struck me as some sort of horrible science fiction scenario: the beloved land of Monopoly had apparently been conquered and the black and red tower of the new master surveys the vanquished land.
This new monarch purports to be a benign overlord: it replaces the dice, money and rules of the game, thus freeing the players of the strain of rolling dice and the burden of basic math. Players play at its behest and obey its commands (or, presumably, Daleks are summoned to exterminate the transgressors).
The folks at Hasbro see this as bring a video game like experience to the game. However, I think they are fundamentally misguided.
First, as I mentioned above, there already is a Monopoly video game. So, people who want to play Monopoly as a video game can do that. There seems to be no real need to make a board game that tries to be a video game as well.
Second, the board game experience is fundamentally different from the video game experience and this difference provides something valuable. In video games, you are at the mercy of the rules set in the game (aside from using mods or hacking). With a board game, part of the game is agreeing on and applying the rules as a social group rather than having the rules inflicted by a small plastic tower. True, players sometimes try to be little dictators about the rules-but those are the game sessions that tend to really suck. As such, the new game seems to capture one of the worst aspects of live games while not providing the compensation that good video games provide in return for their lordship over the rules, such as impressive graphics. Thus, the democracy of the live game is replaced by the tyranny of the computer, without any of the awesomeness of actual video games.
Third, that tower set up looks stupid. Vaguely menacing, too. Red and black? Seriously?