Being a Monopoly spin-off game I didn’t have high expectations for Monopoly Hotels. Spin-off board games are usually not very good in the first place and the ones based off of the Monopoly license haven’t had a great track record. Being a sucker for a good deal though I decided to look at Monopoly Hotels when I saw it in the thrift store. After looking at the box Monopoly Hotels looked interesting as it takes the Monopoly theme and creates a two player take that game out of it. Monopoly Hotels has some interesting ideas in it that unfortunately never come to fruition due to some broken mechanics.
How to Play Monopoly Hotels
Each player takes a hotel base and inserts one floor of their color into it. Place the money to the side to form the bank and give $250 to each player. Shuffle all of the cards and deal five cards to each player. The rest of the cards form the draw pile. The youngest player gets to go first.
A Player’s Turn
To begin their turn the current player draws two cards from the draw pile. If there are not enough cards left in the draw pile, shuffle the discard pile to get new cards to draw. The player will then get to take up to three actions on their turn. There are two different types of actions in Monopoly Hotels:
- Play A Card
- Pay a Bill
When playing cards there are three different types of cards. Room and celebrity cards are played into your own hotel. Bill cards are played on a floor in your opponent’s hotel. The rest of the cards are played to the discard pile for their effect. More details on the different types of cards can be found in the next section.
The other action that a player can take is to pay for a bill played into their hotel. A player can use one action to pay the amount of the bill to the bank which lets them remove the bill from their hotel.
After a player has performed their actions for the turn they check the number of cards in their hand.
- 1-7 cards: nothing happens.
- 8 or more cards: discard cards until you only have seven cards left in your hand.
- 0 cards: draw five cards at the beginning of your next turn.
Room Cards: Room cards are placed into your own hotel floors. They can be placed into any unoccupied floor (has no bill or other room card in it) and they don’t cost any money to place.
Celebrity Cards: Celebrity cards can be placed in any of your floors that already has a room card and doesn’t have any bill cards. By playing a celebrity into a room, the other player cannot play a bill card to that room.
Bill Cards: Bill cards are played into your opponent’s hotel to any floor that doesn’t have a celebrity. While a bill card is on a floor, the player cannot collect rent from that room or they can’t add a room to that floor.
Build/Rent Cards: When you play this card to the discard pile you can either build a floor or collect rent. If you choose to collect rent, add up the rent of all of your rooms (that don’t have a bill) and take the corresponding amount of money from the bank.
When building a floor you pay money to the bank equal to the floor you are adding multiplied by one hundred. For example for the fourth floor you will pay $400. After paying the bank you add the next floor to your hotel.
Demolish & Build Cards: Remove the highest floor from your opponent’s hotel and add a floor to your hotel for free. Any cards that were in the removed floor are discarded.
Empty Room Cards: Remove a room and any associated celebrity from one of the floors of your opponent’s hotel.
Thief Cards: Steal money or a card from your opponent.
Recycle Cards: Take a card of your choice from the discard pile and add it to your hand.
No Deal! Cards: This card is played on your opponent’s turn to block one of the following cards from being played: Demolish & Build, Empty Room, Thief, Swap Room, or a Bill.
Pick Up Cards: Draw two cards from the draw pile.
Pass Go Cards: Take $200 from the bank.
Swap Room Cards: You will swap one of the rooms in your hotel with a room in your opponent’s hotel. All bill cards and celebrities in the rooms are discarded.
End of Game
A player wins the game when they add their fifth floor, each floor is filled with a room card and there are no bill cards in their hotel.
My Thoughts on Monopoly Hotels
Before playing Monopoly Hotels I was intrigued by the fact that it felt like the designer(s) were trying to do something unique with the game. While the game takes a lot of the theme from the main game, the gameplay actually differs quite a bit from normal Monopoly. While you are still collecting rent, the main mechanic in Monopoly Hotels is to build up your own hotel and fill it up rooms while preventing your opponent from doing the same. After playing the game it feels like work was actually put into making an interesting game with a Monopoly theme rather than just pasting the Monopoly theme onto another game.
The main mechanic in Monopoly Hotels is a take that mechanic. I am not a huge fan of take that games but it is not a bad idea for the game. While the take that mechanics go a little too far, the balancing act of trying to build your own hotel while sabotaging the other player’s hotel is interesting. The game will never be confused for a strategic game but you can have some fun with it if you are looking for a quick game that you don’t have to put a lot of thought into.
Instead of being a long drag as you slowly dwindle the other players’ wallets to zero like its’ predecessor, Monopoly Hotels is actually a pretty quick game. I see most games taking between 10 and 20 minutes to complete. This is due to being quick and to the point. There is no waiting around waiting to take those last few dollars from the other players as you try to bankrupt them. Along with playing quickly, it should only take minutes to explain the game to new players. Basically all you have to explain is the basic premise of the game and what the different cards do.
The biggest problem with Monopoly Hotels comes from the fact that the cards are wildly inconsistent. While all of the cards have their own purposes, the cards were not created equally. The biggest culprit is the Destroy & Build card. This card is so powerful because it significantly changes the game in the favor of the player who plays it. Whichever player gets the most Destroy & Build cards will likely win the game. The problem with the card is that it favors the player who plays it in several ways. First you are taking a floor away from the other player which they spent hundreds of dollars to add. This also discards whatever room card was in the floor. Second you get a floor for free which will save you hundreds of dollars. Since you gain a lot while the other player loses a lot, the Destroy & Build card totally changes the game. The Destroy & Build card is easily the most powerful card in the game but there are several other cards that also feel too powerful.
While these cards are overpowered I think you could fix some of the problems by weakening the strongest cards. Instead of being Destroy AND Build it should be Destroy OR Build. While the card will still be quite powerful, it will only help or hurt instead of doing both. Other examples could include putting limits on what cards the Recycle card can take from the discard pile. Little tweaks like this could make Monopoly Hotels quite a bit better. Without these tweaks though, Monopoly Hotels kind of feels broken.
With some of the cards being so powerful it should come as no surprise that the game relies heavily on luck. While there is a little strategy in choosing when to play your cards, the strategy doesn’t have much impact on the game due to the reliance on luck. Outside of making a huge mistake the luckiest player is basically going to win every game. Getting the most powerful cards along with the right cards at the right times is crucial to winning the game.
While Monopoly is a family game, it has developed a reputation of being surprisingly mean which leads to a lot of arguments. I have to say that Monopoly Hotels is probably even meaner than normal Monopoly. With all of the overpowered cards it is quite easy to utterly destroy another player. Monopoly Hotels is probably one of the meanest take that games that I have played in a while. The cards allow you to steal the other player’s floors while building your own, take away the other player’s rooms, or even bankrupt them with the play of a couple cards. It is very easy to ruin the other player’s strategy if you get the right cards. In one turn a player can fall from first place to firmly in second place. The best way to win Monopoly Hotels is to hurt the other player to a point that they are unable to recover. With how easy it is to mess with the other player, I don’t see many close endings to the game.
To illustrate how mean Monopoly Hotels can be, I want to illustrate something that happened in one of the games that I played. At the beginning of one turn I had both a Destroy & Build and a Recycle card in my hand. I began the turn by playing the Destroy & Build card which took the other player’s top floor while giving me a free floor. Next I used the Recycle card to retrieve the Destroy & Build card from the discard pile. I then played the Destroy & Build card for a second time that turn. In one turn I was able to demolish the other player’s top two floors while adding two floors to the top of my own hotel. With this move I was able to send the other player back to their bottom floor while I added my third and fourth floor for free which saved me $700. It should come as no surprise that I easily won that game.
I don’t know if this is really a complaint but I don’t know why Monopoly Hotels is only a two player game. Outside of the lack of components I don’t know why the game doesn’t support more payers. This is a curious decision because I actually think it would be a better game with more players. The reason I think more players would be better is that you couldn’t just focus on utterly destroying the other player. In the two player game you obviously only have one other opponent so you can use all of your negative cards to mess with that one player. If there were multiple opponents you would have to decide how to divide up your negative cards between all of your opponents. If you buy two copies of the game you could easily turn the game into a four player game. I haven’t tested playing the game with three or four players but I think it would be interesting.
Component wise the game is what you would expect out of a Hasbro game. The game basically comes with the plastic floors, some paper money and the cards. The cards’ artwork is pretty good. The plastic hotel pieces are pretty good even though at times they are a little hard to snap together. I also like that the game tried to do something different with the box even though it makes it a little hard to stack with other boxes.
The one big problem that I have with the components though is the fact that the game for some reason decided that it was a good idea not having generic backs for all of the cards. Most of the cards have some clue on the back that tells you what type of card it is. This makes it very hard to hide what types of cards you have from the other player. The rent and bill cards say how much the card is worth on the back of the card. You can also tell whether a card is a celebrity or a thief just by looking at the back of it. Since you have a good idea what cards the other player has, it is really hard to form a strategy that the other player won’t see coming. It also makes it really easy to choose which card to steal when you play a thief card.
Should You Buy Monopoly Hotels?
Monopoly Hotels was a disappointing experience. I didn’t expect much from the game when I first saw it but after reading the rules it sounded interesting. Monopoly Hotels is quick and easy to play. There are some good ideas in the game and it has the makings of a solid to good game. The problem is that the game is ruined by some terrible rules and way overpowered cards. There is little opportunity for strategy because the winner is basically always going to be determined by which player draws the best cards.
If the game’s concept doesn’t really interest you I don’t see Monopoly Hotels changing your mind. If you don’t like the high reliance on luck and don’t want to bother trying to fix the game’s broken mechanics I also don’t think it is worth picking up. If you can find Monopoly Hotels for cheap though and are willing to work on fixing some of the game’s problems Monopoly Hotels could develop into a very solid take that game.