Hasbro recently announced a crowdsourcing ontest to pick new tokens for the classic Monopoly game. (I vote for "Boaty McBoatFace.")
If Hasbro is just tinkering with the esthetics, that's fine with me, but I hope Hasbro isn't planning on changing the game itself because Hasbro stinks at game design.
For Christmas, my kids (ages 10 and 12) received a couple of spin-offs of Hasbro's Monopoly: the "Ultimate Banking Edition" and "Monopoly Deal."
Both games have joined another spin-off, "Monopoly Empire," at the bottom of the game drawer because, well, they basically stink.
- "Ultimate Banking Edition" replaces the paper money with credit cards and a cheap plastic "reader" so that nobody is forced to do any math. It's essentially a simulation of being a convenience store clerk.
- "Monopoly Deal" was unplayable because 1) the package (which was supposed to contain 110 cards) only contained 53 cards and 2) the rules were so unclear that they were forced to plead "just try it and you see it's easy to play." Not.
- "Monopoly Empire" is a bit like the original except that you collect brands rather than property. It also has cards that let you steal brands from other characters. It bears exactly zero resemblance to real business or branding.
The experience of playing (or attempting to play) this trio of monstrosities reminded me of all the reasons why classic Monopoly is such a great game and why I'll continue to be playing it with my kids.
1. It teaches the financial basics.
Yes, we now live in a world of virtual currency and lightning-quick financial transactions. However, kids can't possibly learn and understand how finances work if they don't first understand the basic concept of cash.
2. It forces kids to do math.
The ability to do quick math is enormously useful in life and in business. Classic Monopoly creates and reinforces addition, subtraction, and even fractional multiplication. The "improved" versions require little or no math.
3. It teaches property ownership.
Buying and developing rental properties is a classic small business strategy that requires neither a pricey education nor a lot of seed capital. Your kids could do whole lot worse, career-wise.
4. It teaches how loans work.
The mortgage rules in classic Monopoly brilliantly illustrate that it costs money to borrow money. In a world where debt can cripple, this is a life lesson that every child should learn early.
5. It develops negotiation skills.
In the "improved" versions, there are no negotiations. You just follow the rules. In classic Monopoly, as in real-life business, you must negotiate with human beings to get what you want.
6. It explains the basics of taxation.
While classic Monopoly only weakly alludes to the advantages of taxation (i.e. sidewalks and road repairs), it correctly identifies and explains the two most common taxes: income and property.
7. It illustrates economic inequality.
While everyone begins with the same amount of money, those who secure monopolies quickly become difficult to beat. This is an illustration of "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" - an important fact of life.
8. You can make the "world" nicer.
Classic Monopoly (like real-life finance) tends to be cutthroat. However, players are free to add house rules (like "Free Parking" bonuses) that spread the wealth around--an impossibility with "Ultimate" and meaningless in "Empire."
9. It's stood the test of time.
There are only a few board games designed over 100 years ago that remain playable today: Scrabble, Chess, Mancala, Pachesi, Checkers and Monopoly. Why monkey with elegant perfection?