The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Monopoly vs. Settlers of Catan

First of all, I would like to point out the obvious: Monopoly sucks.

Who likes to play Monopoly these days? Maybe back when board games were fairly rare and Monopoly seemed somewhat sophisticated, it made sense to play the blasted thing, but Monopoly is fairly obsolete at this point. Moreover, as Russ Roberts points out, it is based on bad economics:

In Monopoly, hotels never get a makeover and railroads, unlike Amtrak, are always profitable.

In Monopoly, getting rich and succeeding in business only comes from exploiting unlucky suckers who randomly enter your life. There's no role for hard work or creativity— figuring out what customers might want to buy that isn't being offered by a competitor. There’s no competition.

I know. That’s why it’s called monopoly. But only Marxists look at the world of capitalism the way the game of Monopoly does—as an unrelentingly gloomy system of exploitation where the rich eventually wear everyone else down.

Ironically, most of the new board games with more realistic economic lessons come, like Karl Marx, from Germany.

In games like The Settlers of Catan players compete, but they also cooperate and trade in various ways. One player’s economic success can end up benefiting fellow players. Yes, there’s a random element to success but life has that too. And in these new German-style board games as they’re sometimes called, strategy and skill matter more than the roll of the dice.

Read the whole thing. I would also like to point out that in any given game of Monopoly, the banker is much more likely than anyone else to win.

Settlers of Catan really is vastly superior to most board games, and Monopoly really shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath, but it is useful for contrast here.

Here's a list of 10 board games that are more fun to play than Monopoly, and that teach a superior lesson.

10. Sorry!

Sometimes it is better to backtrack a little now (using the "go back 4 spaces" card) than it is to rush blindly forward.

9. Crossbows and Catapults

Usually a precision weapon is better than a high destruction/low accuracy weapon, however, if your opponent becomes desperate, the high destruction weapon will always be used.

8. Taboo

Think before you speak.

7. Clue

If you need to kill someone, you're not limited to a gun or knife. Improvise with a candlestick or a wrench. It also teaches logical deduction, if you like that sort of thing.

6. Popomatic Trouble

Gadgets will always sell, even if they're not particularly useful. The Sharper Image is based entirely around this concept.

5. Trivial Pursuit, Genus 1

Genus 1 teaches you the important lesson that people used to read enough to warrant a "literature" category. In later versions the literature category was replaced by the completely awful "Wild Card" category. I love Trivial Pursuit, but everything after Genus 2 is complete garbage. The reason for this is that Genus 1 and Genus 2 cover all of human history until about 1984, whereas all subsequent versions cover the year before the game was released.

The removal of the "Literature" category from Trivial Pursuit, combined with the Nerf Corporation's decision to stop manufacturing squishy sports equipment and instead focus on manufacturing kid-safe automatic weapons, temporarily destroyed my general optimism about humanity for a few years.

4. Scrabble

Spelling is important! I could use a few refresher courses myself.

Even better than Scrabble is Speed Scrabble, which I played a few times over the break. In Speed Scrabble you don't use the board. You place all of the letters face down in the middle of a table, and everyone draws six tiles. Someone yells out go, and you then try to create a valid Scrabble crossword in front of you with your 6 tiles. If you are the first to do so, you yell out "go!" and everyone draws another tile. You then have to incorporate that tile into your personal scrabble crossword. When all of the letters are taken, the first person to successfully use all of their letters and to say go gets to add everyone else's unused letters to his/her point total.

It is fast and furious, with none of the waiting around that you get with basic Scrabble. It's hard to explain in a short blog entry. Here is a close approximation of the rules that we use.

3. Fireball Island

If you don't have much in the way of a plot, pile on the special effects and people will line up in droves to play. Most Hollywood execs grew up with this game. Here is a detailed account of the game.

2. Balderdash

This game teaches you how to lie convincingly.

1. Scene It

Everything else being equal, people like to watch TV.

I would also like to express a special scorn for Pokemon, which, as far as I can tell, teaches children the joys of cockfighting.

In conclusion, Monoply sucks.


  • Backgammon, anyone?

    Teaches you to: control the corners, use the buddy system to cover yourself, and eventually, what moves to make based on the roll of the die. (Like in blackjack, you get to know whether to hit or hold based on your hand.)

    Also, Battleship:
    Just clump them all together and let your opponent loose their cool when they've got like seven "hits" in a row but still haven't sunk anything. :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:28 PM  

  • backgammon... the divine game.

    ahhhh... the hours spent playing fireball island at the noonan house... i'd forgotten until just now.

    By Blogger ahren, at 4:27 PM  

  • Backgammon is cool. I was trying to stay away from the "classic" games a bit.

    I like Battleship, but you really can't top Electronic Battleship. It's like Battleship with Stephen Hawking doing play by play.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 4:45 PM  

  • I haven't tried the Electronic one, but your description is great.
    Btw, you have a really good thing going here. Diverse topics, and you come across as even keeled. Thanks for giving me something enjoyable to read between other less enjoyable reading.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:53 PM  

  • Hey I loved your comments - i haven't played Monopoly for years just for the reasons you mentioned. You may have missed one though. Cranium! It's complete fun and watching your friends make fools of themselves is cool.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:03 PM  

  • Finally, someone that gets Monopoloy as a game I love to hate to play. I am learning to restrain my sarcastic comments in the moments leading up to the start of the game as well as the ending moments of the game itself.

    Like a fool, I asked for and received Pixar Monopoly for Christmas, hoping that it won't improve my outlook on the game.

    It didn't.

    I'll take backgammon in any form, any day. :D

    By Blogger Joy in the Journey, at 9:08 AM  

  • I like the idea of Pokemon but not the implementation. Honestly, if you are going to indoctrinate young people into the joys of cockfighting, why not teach them how to train a fighting rooster properly?

    Show them light deprivation, poking, starvation and sharpening techniques so that when they do venture down to Tijuana and partake in America's greatest Mexican passtime, they can do so properly and with the intent to win some much deserved pesos!

    God damn I love cockfighting!

    By Blogger E.S.K., at 10:49 AM  

  • Good post, but Scene It? Really? Relatively little strategy, just answering questions about one topic: movies.

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 4:00 PM  

  • Perhaps monopoly should be improved, after remaining the same for all those years. I think that some modified versions, like this one:
    Monopoly online
    are very entertaining to play.

    By Anonymous Paul, at 8:03 AM  

  • You are right! backgammon is the best game in the world! I like it so much.... :)
    btw - nice site to learn how to win. this one is my ;)
    so, monopoly is not my style

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:22 PM  

  • Very nice post. Thanks for sharing the information

    Child safety | Kids belt for children

    By Blogger KidSafe Belt, at 3:30 AM  

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