Monopoly is arguably the most popular board game ever made as it has sold millions upon millions throughout the world. With its popularity it is not surprising that Parker Brothers and Hasbro have tried to make as much money as possible out of the franchise. This has lead to quite a few spinoff games being made over the years that have applied the Monopoly theme in order to attract people to purchase them. We have actually looked at quite a few of these spinoff games in the past and today I am looking at the game based off of the most misunderstood space on the Monopoly gameboard. For some reason a whole card game was made based on the Free Parking space. I can’t say that I had high expectations for Free Parking as most of these spinoff games are pretty average, and in many ways it looked like a game that was mostly made to make a quick buck off of fans of the franchise. Free Parking is a decent simple card game that you can have some fun with even though it has little strategy and relies heavily on luck.
How to Play Free Parking
- Each player takes a parking meter and sets it to zero/violation.
- Shuffle the cards and deal five to each player. The rest of the cards are added to the draw side of the card tray.
- The person to the left of the dealer will start the game.
Playing the Game
On each player’s turn they can choose one of two sets of actions to take on their turn.
- Draw a card(s) from the draw pile. Draw enough cards so that you have six cards in your hand.
- Play a card from your hand. Check the cards section to see what each card does.
- Draw a Second Chance card (optional)
- Discard three cards from your hand to draw three new cards from the draw pile.
- Draw a Second Chance card (optional)
Feed the Meter Cards – These cards indicate a number of minutes on them. When you play one of these cards you will raise the amount of time on your meter equal to the number on the card. You can play a card that will raise your meter above 60 minutes, but your meter will stop at 60 minutes. After adding the time to your meter, the card is discarded.
Point Cards – When you play one of these cards you will place it face up in front of you. To play the card you will subtract the number of minutes shown on the card from your meter. If you don’t have enough time left on your meter, you can’t play the card. The card will be worth the number of points shown on it as long as it sits in front of you.
Officer Jones – This card may be played at any time and doesn’t count as the card that you play on your turn. If a player is currently at zero/violation on their parking meter, you can play this card against them. That player then has to choose one of their Point cards in front of them and discards it. After taking the action the Officer Jones card is discarded.
Free Parking – When you play this card it will be placed face up in front of you until your next turn. This card protects you from a player playing the Officer Jones card against you and also from any Officer Jones that show up on a Second Chance card. On your next turn you can then play any point card from your hand. Instead of reducing the time on your meter, you will discard the Free Parking card. This is done at the beginning of your next turn.
Time Expires – On your turn you can play this card against any other player. That player will immediately reduce their meter to zero. Once you take the action, the card is discarded.
Talk Your Way Out of It – This card can be played to block any action that is done against you including Second Chance cards. The card can be played at any time. Once its action is taken, the card is discarded.
Second Chance Cards
At the end of each of your turns you have the option of drawing the top Second Chance card. Some of these cards will help you and others will hurt you. This action is totally optional. Once you choose to take a card though, you must do what the cards says even if it hurts you.
Some of the cards use terms that need further explanation:
Take a point card from another player – When a card says this the player you choose will take the Point cards in front of them and mix them up. The player who drew the Second Chance card will then randomly choose one of the cards to add to their set of played Point cards.
Give an opponent one of your Point cards – You will choose one of your played Point cards and give it to the designated player. If you don’t have any played Point cards, you don’t have to give the other player anything.
An opponent loses a card – The opponent will choose one of their played Point cards to discard.
Trade places with another player – You will choose another player. Both players will switch seats with all of their cards and meter remaining in their original position. Play proceeds as if the players never switched positions.
End of Game
The first player to get 200 points worth of Point cards in front of them wins the game.
My Thoughts on Free Parking
For the most part Free Parking ended up being a lot like what I expected it to be. I don’t know what went into the designing of Free Parking, but in a lot of ways it feels like it was a game that Parker Brothers was already working on and then just put the Monopoly theme on it in order to help it sell more copies. The gameplay has basically nothing to do with Monopoly as it better resembles a traditional card game like Mille Bornes for example. Honestly the only area where the Monoply theme shows up is in the artwork and the theming of the components. I wouldn’t say that the theming is bad, but it is more cosmetic than actually impacting the gameplay. On top of this how exciting is it that the whole theme is built around putting money in a parking meter so you can perform your chores around town. Thus unless you are a huge Monopoly fan, the theme is nothing special.
While it is nice when the theming of a game is good, it rarely makes or breaks a game. This is where the gameplay comes into play. I honestly don’t know exactly what to think about Free Parking’s gameplay. There are things that I liked about it, but there are issues as well.
In many ways the gameplay feels a lot like a more traditional card game. The basic goal of the game is to play cards to add time to your meter which then allows you to play cards that score you points. In addition to this there are a number of cards that you can play to protect yourself or hurt your opponents. There is a little risk reward to the game as you can sit with no time left on your meter which can save you turns or allow you to make moves you otherwise wouldn’t be able to make. You are taking a risk though as another player can play an Officer Jones card to make you lose one of your Point cards.
Arguably Free Parking’s greatest strength is probably the fact that it is really easy to play. Outside of learning what each of the cards do, the gameplay is generally pretty straightforward. I can’t see it taking more than just a couple of minutes to teach another player how to play the game. The premise of playing cards to fill your meter and then using your meter to play Point cards is quite simple. The game has a recommended age of 8+ which seems about right. I honestly don’t see the game being all that complicated to teach to any potential players.
Because Free Parking is so easy to play, I think it will do well as the type of game that you can just play and enjoy while relaxing. It is the type of game that you never have to put too much thought into what you are doing. In fact I would say that most of the decisions in the game are pretty obvious. Free Parking is not the type of game where you have to go over a bunch of different strategies to figure out which will work best. You just play the game and hope for the best. In a way the game is kind of relaxing as it doesn’t really matter who ultimately wins. This along with the fact that the game plays pretty quickly means that it should work pretty well as a filler game.
This simplicity does mean that the game has little strategy to it. You do have to make decisions in the game which will have an impact on how well you will do. If you make bad decisions it will hurt your chances of winning the game. Usually it is really obvious what you should do though, so it doesn’t really feel like there is much strategy to the game. Good use of your cards will only get you so far in the game. If you are looking for a strategic game where your decisions really impact the outcome, the game is not going to be for you.
With the lack of strategy, Free Parking ends up relying mostly on luck. How much luck you have in the game is likely going to be a pretty big indicator on how well you will end up doing in the game. No strategy is going to overcome not having luck on your side. The cards you are dealt will have a big impact on what you can do in the game. Some cards are just better than others. Obviously higher valued Feed the Meter and Point cards are beneficial as they let you acquire points quicker. Some of the special cards can also be quite powerful if used at the right times. A player that is dealt better cards is going to do better than one who gets stuck with worse cards. Luck also comes from whether the other players end up messing with you. The game has a number of mechanics which allow you to mess with other players. You usually want to mess with the player in first as it increases your own odds, but a player that can mostly avoid being messed with is going to have a big advantage in the game.
Speaking of luck I am not sure what to think of the Second Chance cards. These cards do keep the game interesting as one card can totally change the outcome of a game. That is not surprising as there is a card that literally has two players swap positions. These cards do give all of the players a chance of winning the game even if they have fallen behind. Generally speaking if you are behind you probably want to use the cards as the worst they can do is put you even further behind. If you are in first or are close you may want to avoid them though as they can actually hurt you quite a bit. The Second Chance cards are basically pure luck as they likely will either help or hurt you a lot and there is no way to tell beforehand which will happen to you. These cards basically add complete randomness/luck to the game. They keep the game interesting, but in many ways make the game feel unfair if they ultimately decide who ends up winning the game.
As for the game’s components there were things that I liked and others that I think could have been better. There have been a few versions of the game released over the years, so for this review I used the 1988 version. In many ways the components are pretty much what you would expect. I thought the meters were a nice visual representation of each player’s current positioning. The dials turn somewhat hard, but I thought these were a nice addition to the game. As for the cards they are pretty typical for a card game from the 1980s. The artwork is to the point and pretty nice for fans of Monopoly. The card tray is also pretty nice. The game does come in a box larger than it really needed to be though. The box honestly could have been cut in half and it wouldn’t have had adverse affects on the game.
Should You Buy Free Parking?
Ultimately Free Parking is pretty much what I expected from it. The game kind of feels like the Monopoly theme was pasted onto another game in order to try and sell more copies. The theme is not bad, but it has very little to do with Monopoly. The gameplay is pretty simple and to the point. This leads to a game that is easy to learn and play. The game is fun if you are looking for a game where you don’t have to put too much thought into what you are doing. The problem is that the game’s strategy is generally pretty obvious. This makes Free Parking a game that relies heavily on luck. Whoever has the most luck on their side is likely going to win.
My recommendation for Free Parking mostly comes down to your feelings towards simpler card games. Unless you are a diehard Monopoly fan, the theme is not enough to warrant purchasing the game. If you want a card game that has a decent amount of strategy and limits the role luck plays, Free Parking is not going to be for you. If you are looking for a simple card game that may rely on quite a bit of luck though, you could do quite a bit worse than Free Parking.
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