Love it or hate it but no one can deny that Monopoly is one of the most popular board games ever created. Without even counting all of the different themed Monopolies, there have been quite a few games that have used the Monopoly theme. Five different card games have even used the Monopoly theme. Today I am looking at the Monopoly card game released in 2000 aptly named Monopoly The Card Game. Before playing Monopoly The Card Game I didn’t have high expectations since too often card game based on mass market board games have not gone well. After playing Monopoly The Card Game though I have to admit that while the game has flaws it was better than I was expecting.
How to Play Monopoly The Card Game
Shuffle the cards and deal ten cards to each player. Each player takes the ten cards into their hands. One more card is dealt face up to each player which forms the trading pile for each player. The rest of the cards form the draw pile. Chose a player to start the round.
Playing the Game
The object of Monopoly The Card Game is to collect properties to create sets like in the normal version of Monopoly. The game is played in rounds until one of the players has acquired enough money/points to win the game. On a player’s turn they can choose one of the following actions:
- Draw a card
- Trade for cards from another player’s trade pile.
- Lay down their hand in order to end the round.
The draw action is pretty self-explanatory. The player will draw one card from the draw pile. Since the player should have more than ten cards in their hand, they will have to place one of their cards on the top of their trade pile (the pile of faceup cards in front of them).
After performing an action, play passes to the next player clockwise.
If a player chooses to trade cards they can trade up to the number of cards they have in their trade pile. Before making a trade a player is able to add one card from their hand to their trade pile. Throughout the game everyone’s trade pile should be fanned out so each player can see all of the cards in each trade pile. When making a trade the player gives the number of cards (from the top of their trade pile) to the player they want to trade with. They then take the same number of cards from the top of that player’s trade pile. The other player cannot deny the trade.
Both players take all of the traded cards into their hands. If the current player has more than ten cards in their hand they have to discard cards to their trade pile until they reach ten cards in their hand. The player they traded with can keep the extra cards until the end of their own turn.
Laying Down Hand
The third action that a player can take on their turn is to lay down their hand. A player can only choose this action if they haven’t preformed any other actions and they meet the requirements to lay down their cards. If a player has more than ten cards in their hand they can discard cards to their trade pile and still lay down their hand. For a player to lay down their hand they must meet the following conditions:
#1 The player must have all of the cards of a color set in their hand or be able to use wilds to make up for missing cards. For the railroads you need to have at least two railroads.
#2 If the player has any house or hotel cards they must all be playable. For a house or hotel to be playable the player has to own all of the preceding house cards and have a complete color group to play them on (does not include utilities or railroads). For example if a player owns a 3rd house, they must also own the 1st and 2nd house for the 3rd house to be playable. To be able to play a hotel the player needs the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th houses.
#3 Tokens, Chance, Go and Mr. Monopoly cards do not need any other cards to be valid.
If all three conditions are met the player can choose to use their turn to lay down their cards ending the round. The player can choose not to lay down their cards even if they meet the requirements to do so.
Scoring The Round
When someone lays down their hand, the round ends immediately. As a reward for laying down their hand, the player gets to draw the top five cards from the draw pile and add any cards that would score points to their hand. All cards in the trade piles, the draw pile and any reward cards not used are removed from play. Every other player then lays down their hands and scoring begins.
During scoring a Chance card can act as any other card. The only player that is able to use this ability though is the player that was first to lay down their hand. The Chance cards are worthless for the rest of the players. Players will score points as follows:
- Each complete color group or utility set is worth the amount of money printed on the cards. The value of railroad cards are dependent on the number of railroads controlled by the player.
- Every house added to a completed color group is worth the set value printed on the card. A house is worth nothing if the preceding house cards are not in the player’s hand. A hotel adds $500 to the value of the property that it is placed on if the property has the other four houses.
- A token card is worth the value of the property that it is placed on. If the token is placed on a color group that also includes houses and/or a hotel, the token is worth the combined value of the property.
- The player with the most Mr. Monopoly cards gets $1,000. If two or more players have the most Mr. Monopoly cards, no player receives the $1,000.
- Every Go card is worth $200.
Each player totals up the number of points they earned in the round and receives the corresponding amount of money from the bank. If no player has earned enough money to win, another round is played.
End of Game
The game ends after a round when one or more players have earned over $10,000. The player who has the most money wins the game.
My Thoughts on Monopoly The Card Game
The main reason I didn’t have high expectation for Monopoly The Card Game was because it feels like very little effort is usually put into card games based on mass market board games. A lot of the time it feels like the designer took another card game concept and just pasted the popular board game’s theme onto it. The other way most of these card games are created is by streamlining the base game so it can be made into a card game. What is interesting about Monopoly The Card Game is that neither approach really applies to it.
When you first look at Monopoly The Card Game it seems to borrow a lot from the board game. The game uses the same properties and incorporates most of the mechanics from the board game into cards that are used in the game. Monopoly The Card Game feels like it is more than just a streamlined version of the board game though. Real effort was put into the game in order to take the essence of Monopoly and turn it into a game that didn’t just feel like the main game in card form.
In general I would classify Monopoly The Card Game as a set collection game. Just like with the board game you are trying to get sets of cards that match the different sets of properties from the board game. You are trying to collect sets of cards in order to make money/points. While Monopoly The Card Game might look like every other set collecting card game, the one thing that makes the game really stand out is the trade piles. When I first read the rules the trade piles is the one thing that made me take notice of the game. I have played other set collection games where you could pick up cards discarded by other players. Of all of the set collection games that I have played I can’t remember playing another game that utilized a mechanic similar to the trade piles.
I found the trading mechanics interesting for a couple reasons. First the game forces you to maximize all of the cards in your hand. You can only have ten cards in your hand and you want to score points from every card in your hand. While you can hold cards that you know other players want for a couple turns, eventually you will have to discard every card that you personally can’t use to score points. This means that these cards will eventually have to go into your trade pile so the other players will be able to get them.
Usually this will lead to players making one card trades as they take a card that another player just discarded. This is an unfortunate side effect of the game since it takes some of the strategy out of the game. When players have to make multiple card trades though things get a lot more interesting. To get a card that you really want you might have to trade quite a few cards to another player to get just one card that you need. With all of the cards that you have to trade you might end up giving the other player something that they need. There is also the possibility of a player being able to bury a card so deep in their trade pile that other players may not be able to trade for it.
One unexpected side effect of Monopoly The Card Game is that at times it seems more important to just fill up your hand with cards that will let you go out instead of trying to maximize the value of your hand. I will talk about it more later but it is a huge benefit for a player to go out first. This creates an interesting side effect where some cards become valuable just because they take up room in your hand and don’t prevent you from going out. While you are trying to complete sets of cards, some of the bonus cards are more valuable since they take up space in your hand.
This is where the special cards become interesting. The Token and Go cards are really strong cards since they fill spots in your hand while also being worth money. The Chance cards are the most powerful cards in the entire game as long as you go out since they can act as any other card. If you can’t go out the Chance cards are worthless though. While the Mr. Monopoly cards might seem like high risk/reward cards, they are actually quite valuable because they take up space in your hand. It would be nice to get the $1,000 but they will still take up room in your hand letting you go out quicker.
The house and hotel cards are probably the most interesting in the game. The house and hotel cards can be really good and bad at the same time. The best way to score a lot of points in a round is to use several house cards a possibly even a hotel. The problem is that you need to have all of the proceeding houses or they are totally worthless and they will prevent you from going out. This makes the houses really interesting since they can help you go out quickly but at the same time could stand in the way of you going out.
As far as difficulty I have to say that Monopoly The Card Game is an easy game that takes a while to fully grasp. None of the rules in the game are particularly difficult to understand. The game is basically a set collecting game with some special cards. The one area that somewhat confuses players at first is the idea of knowing when you are able to lay down your cards. This could take some players a couple rounds to fully understand. Once everyone understands these rules though it is quite easy to play Monopoly The Card Game.
While Monopoly The Card Game has quite a bit more going for it than I would have expected, the rounds are too short to fully take advantage of the game’s good ideas. It might just be due to some good luck but in the majority of the hands the game ended with each player getting like three or four turns. This is disappointing because the game could have been considerably better if the players had more time. With such short rounds it is really hard to take advantage of the trade mechanic. In the few rounds that actually lasted a decent number of turns, the game was considerably better since there was more opportunity for strategy.
Other than rounds being too quick I think the other big problem with Monopoly The Card Game is the fact that the game gives too much to the player who goes out first. You can somewhat use strategy in order to go out quicker but you will usually be able go out because you were lucky to draw the right cards or have someone put the right card(s) up for trade. I see giving some benefit to going out early but Monopoly The Card Game goes too far. By going out first you immediately stop the round which prevents the other players from completing the set they were working on. You also get to draw the top five cards from the draw pile which can add a lot of points to your score. Finally you get to use Chance/wild cards while the other players can’t.
Having just one or possibly two of the benefits might have been acceptable but all three benefits makes it pretty likely that the player that went out will score a lot more points than the other players. You should get some benefit from going out first but the first person to go out will usually destroy the other players. I think Monopoly The Card Game could benefit quite a bit from tweaking these rules in some way. I think implementing some or all of these rules could improve the game quite a bit.
- Either eliminate getting to draw five cards for going out or at least reduce it to two or three cards. If you eliminate the bonus cards you could give the first player to go out a fixed monetary bonus instead of the cards.
- I think you should just eliminate the Chance rule entirely so everyone can use the Chance cards as a wild. I can see wanting to have a bonus for going out first but players are basically forced to base their strategy around their Chance cards. No one is ever going to put one in their trade pile since they will be picked up immediately by another player. By making them worthless this hurts the other players quite a bit.
- Every player should get one more turn to try to maximize their hand after one of the players go out. In most cases it probably won’t make a difference but it does give players a chance to ditch cards that are worthless to them and possibly score some additional points.
Other than giving the first player to go out too big of a benefit, Monopoly The Card Game suffers from a reliance on card draw luck. This is prevalent in pretty much every card game and it is no different in this game as well. The winner of most rounds will be the player that gets luckiest in the game. Drawing the right cards or having another player put a card up for trade that you need is crucial to doing well in the game. This is to be expected with this type of game but it is still disappointing that you can’t do a whole lot to overcome this reliance on luck. You can make moves to reduce the damage from losing a round but with the rounds being so short strategy is never going to win a round for a player.
Finally the game has a couple other small issues which I think could have been fixed with a little more playtesting.
- While the game wanted to stay loyal to the board game, having only two dark blue cards messes with the game. The dark blue cards are the most valuable color set and yet you only have to get two cards instead of three like you do for basically every other set. This makes the dark blue cards way too powerful in the game.
- The one card type that might be more valuable than the dark blue cards are the tokens. If you have a set to put them on the tokens are really powerful. Since they basically double the score of your most valuable set, you can easily score over a thousand dollars from one token card. If you can get two tokens you can score up to $4,000-$5,000 in one round.
Component wise there isn’t a whole lot to say. You basically get what you would expect out of the game. The cardstock is solid. The artwork is basically what you would expect out of a Monopoly card game. The money looks like it was taken directly from another game of Monopoly. The components aren’t amazing but there really isn’t anything to complain about either.
Should You Buy Monopoly The Card Game?
Monopoly The Card Game is an interesting game. Just looking at it you would think that it wouldn’t be very good. Card games based off of mass market board games usually don’t turn out well. When I started playing Monopoly The Card Game I was surprised since there was more to the game than I was expecting. You could make a valid argument that Monopoly The Card Game is actually better than the board game that it is based off of. It actually feels like work and effort was put into the game. The trading mechanic in particular is a clever idea that I am surprised that I haven’t really seen in other set collecting games. Unfortunately Monopoly The Card Game’s rounds are too short to take full advantage of the potential strategy from the trading. The first player to go out also gets too big of an advantage and there are some other small issues with the game. Monopoly The Card Game has some interesting ideas but also has some problems.
If you don’t really like set collection games or don’t want to try and tweak the rules to get rid of some of the issues, Monopoly The Card Game is probably not going to be for you. If you like set collection games though and think the trading mechanic is interesting I think it would be worth looking into Monopoly The Card Game.