Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Card Game Review - Monopoly Deal
Being on Hasbro's list of favored reviewers has its upsides and down. For instance, I once got Operation. It was fun - when I was seven. But I also got Risk: Black Ops, which was close to the highlight of my reviewing career. Recently I got a press package for Spongebob Squarepants Sorry, and I can tell you, I'm hoping the actual game does not arrive.
When I opened the most recent package from Hasbro and pulled out a little card game called Monopoly Deal, I was initially a little chagrined (for those of you who don't know what that means, go look it up). A card game spinoff of Monopoly is not the first game I would generally bring to the gaming table. However, I have a fairly solid policy of reviewing anything someone sends me, so I broke it out and read the rules anyway.
Turns out, it's not Monopoly (cue all the people saying, 'well, duh', including me if you had said the same thing to me). It's a set collection game using Monopoly properties. The winner is the first player to get three full sets of properties. You can't bankrupt your opponents, so everyone is playing until the game is over, and there's no such thing as Free Parking. Also, nobody gets to be the race car, which I found a little disappointing (I'm always the race car).
On your turn, you get to play three cards. You can bank a card - there are cards that are specifically money, but every card also has a value if you decide to turn it into money. You could play a property, placing it in front of you, or you could play an action that lets you do something like charge rent, pass Go, or steal money when nobody else is looking (you don't actually need a card for that last one - it's actually cheating, so you only get to do it if you can get away with it).
Every one of these possibilities is important, but you only get to play three cards, so you have to plan ahead. Sometimes you might even pass, just to make sure you set up your killer play for next turn. You can swipe money from other players with some of the action cards, and if they can't pay, they have to give you properties (cha-ching!). Since you also have to set up those collections, and you only get three cards per turn, you have to be building as you go. Playing money might seem like kind of a waste, but if you don't have money in your bank, you can't protect your properties, and you'll spend the whole game with nothing in front of you.
Monopoly Deal is a surprisingly good game, considering that the publisher of this game is also responsible for the intensely boring Game of Life. It's also really fast, so you can play with four people in 15-20 minutes. There's planning and strategy and luck and all that stuff you like in a decent card game.
Now, I do have a complaint. There are a couple cards that absolutely ruin the game, in my opinion. Of course, this is a mass-market game by the people who make Chutes and Ladders, so they probably don't mind if you can build a game-breaker hand with just two cards, but for those of us who like games that reward skill over blind luck, those cards just suck. For instance, in one game, I went from having nothing on the table at all to a sweeping win in just one turn. It's fun to win, but that's a crappy way to do it.
But this lucky card thing is not enough to keep me from playing Monopoly Deal again. For one thing, there are only two of the game-breaker cards, and we've pulled them out, so that we don't have a great, tense game ruined by one stupid card draw. Without these lucky cards, Monopoly Deal is a fun combination of luck, strategy and good card play that can lend itself to a fantastic, tense endgame where anyone could win.
Which is funny, because I would not have expected that from the people who make Candyland.
Easily learned and fun
Really tense end game
Lots of strategy and quick thinking and planning
A couple cards completely ruin the game for serious gamers
There's no effing way Dogstar Games has Monopoly Deal. But you know what? Target does.
Posted by Matt Drake at 5:41 PM