Hasbro added Koopa boss battles to the classic board game Monopoly (but not Waluigi).
I’ve never really enjoyed Monopoly in its purest form. I have a lot of fondness for aspects of the game, which is probably why I love similar games like Fortune Street so much. I find Monopoly and its normal rules to be a pedantic slog that I’ve legitimately finished maybe twice in my life. When details on Monopoly Gamer, a new take on the classic board game drawing inspiration from Mario, were unveiled, I was encouraged by the differing take. For the most part, Monopoly Gamer solves a lot of my issues with vanilla Monopoly, but along the way it introduces a few minor issues that hold it back from being a superb board game.
First and most importantly, Monopoly Gamer actually has a end that you can see and anticipate. Every time a character passes “Go,” in addition to collecting 2 coins (which have replaced dollars, because it’s Mario), you also flip over a boss battle card. The base game includes eight of these, comprised of Bowser and the seven Koopalings. Each boss is fought by paying an entry fee and then rolling a six-sided die. If you are at the required number of higher, you defeat the boss. Once every boss is defeated, the game ends immediately.
The winner is whoever has the most points. Points are acquired by defeating bosses, buying property, and earning coins. Properties range from 10 points to 50 points each, while bosses go from 20 points to 100. Each set of five coins earns you 10 points. Elements that recall Mario Party crop up with these points, as the Bowser boss card, which always ends the game, is worth a gigantic 100 points. It’s not always an instant win for whoever beats Bowser, but it’s close. At the same time, the lingering high value of Bowser makes it so you’re never totally out of the running. I’ve had a few games go down to the wire, while others were dominated by one player. Usually that one player played as Toad or Yoshi.
Another way that Gamer differs from the original Monopoly is the fact that it’s on a smaller board and movement is limited to a single six-sided die. Every turn you do roll another die that activates abilities. They can vary from coins that earn you cold hard cash to a green or red shell that can cause another player to drop coins on the board that can be collected by whoever next passes over the space. The various playable characters have unique abilities as well. For example, when Donkey Kong rolls a POW block, he causes every other character to drop two coins instead of just one. Additionally, each character has a Superstar ability, only activated when you land on that space on the board. These can be extremely beneficial depending on your circumstances. Yoshi’s allows for him to pick up every coin dropped on the board. Peach’s lets her collect rent from the bank for all of her owned properties.
While the ability mechanic allows for some Mario Party zaniness in your regular ol’ Monopoly game, some characters are super overpowered. For example, Toad’s two character-specific abilities lead to extra rolls, which essentially just give him extra turns. Whereas Tanooki Mario’s just lets him go to the next open property, which could be functionally useless later in the game. The base game comes with Mario, Peach, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong, which is a reasonably balanced set. The extra characters, bought in expansion packs, are largely awful when played solo. The only way some of these extra characters are useful are in the additional Party ruleset, which lets each player have two or three characters each that they can switch between each turn. That might be the optimal way to play if you want the extra characters, but to me, it discourages the viability of these extras. As it stands, with the sold-separately characters, Monopoly Gamer is an unbalanced experience in its stated ruleset.
Even with that sizable issue, it’s still a good board game that effectively blends the rules of Monopoly with some nice Mario flavoring. Hasbro and Nintendo created something that often feels more like the topsy-turvy insanity of Mario Party, or more apt for the non-Nintendo crowd, the card game Monopoly Deal. I’ll be curious to see if more characters or bosses are added to this in the future. I think the concept is rich for additional customization and expansions could hopefully fix some of the issues with imbalances. This concept can keep working with Mario, and could probably even extend to other Nintendo properties. I’d love to see a Zelda variant.