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Letters to the Editor
Monopoly: The Card Game
I'm about to say something that may shock you. Something so outrageously improbable, you'll be tempted to check the sky for pigs or toss a snowball into the fireplace for a reality check. If you hear Rod Serling in the distance, your senses are playing tricks on you. Open your mind to the realm of extreme possibility and prepare yourself. Here it is.
The Monopoly Card Game is good.
Astounding, I know. Derivative products are virtually always worse than the original-- throwaway items produced for a quick buck, beneath notice if not for the license upon which it is based. Monopoly, despite its devotees, embodies virtually everything that's wrong with the traditional American game. How remarkable that its namesake card game, shackled by the trappings of the brand, is actually worth playing.
Before you get too excited, you should know that this is a rummy variant-- so we haven't branched off into truly original territory. But it's a rummy variant with some fairly fresh twists which, combined with the familiar theming, make it a very playable family diversion. The deck contains all the familiar Monopoly properties as well as cards for houses, hotels, tokens, Go, Chance, and good ol' Rich Uncle Pennybags (who has apparently been rechristened Mr. Monopoly throughout the product line). As in rummy, the goal of each hand is to go out by melding all your cards.
Not surprisingly the basis for a meld is a complete color group of Monopoly properties, the values of which are scaled similar to their corresponding worth in the board game. Houses and hotels increase a group's value, but houses are numbered 1-4 and you can't meld one unless you also meld all the lower-numbered houses. And of course, you need all four houses to meld a hotel. Tokens multiply a group's value and are therefore highly prized. Each Go is worth a flat (and paltry) $200, but can always meld.
Chance cards (there are two of them) are wild and can be anything you need-- but if someone else goes out and you're caught with one in your hand, you score nothing for the round. Otherwise, when someone goes out everyone else scores for whatever parts of their hand they can meld. Echoing Knizia's It's Mine!, whoever holds the most Mr. Monopoly cards scores a $1,000 bonus. There are only four of them in the deck, however, so gaining a majority isn't arduous (although you have to watch out for the 2/2 split, since nobody gets the bonus in a tie).
Well and good so far, but fairly conventional. The most interesting part of the game is the trading system, and again one wonders if Reiner's been whispering sweet nothings into Phil Orbanes' ears because what we have smells a lot like Knizia's Money. Everyone starts with a trade pile consisting of a single face-up card and can add to it each turn. A player can trade any number of cards from the top of his pile for an equal number from the top of an opponentís. Both players take the traded cards into their hands. Hand size caps at 10 cards, and all discards go to the playerís trade pile. Players want their trade cards to get taken so they have more freedom of what to discard, without giving up anything an opponent really needs.
The Monopoly Card Game is light and hardly revolutionary, but itís a fun family game with a recognizable and easily approachable theme that should get any group past Go.
The Game Report Online - Editor: Peter Sarrett (firstname.lastname@example.org)