Ever since Parker Brothers created Monopoly in 1933, people have tried to find ways to cash in on the popularity on the property based economic game. One of these games was the board game Hotel which was created in 1974. The objective of Hotel was to purchase various hotels and build them up in order to charge more to the other players when they stayed at the hotel. In 1987 the game was picked up by Milton Bradley and renamed Hotels and in 2014 it was once again renamed Hotel Tycoon by Asmodee. While I don’t have a lot of memories of playing the game when I was a kid, I had some vague memories of really enjoying the game. That was a long time ago though so I was curious if the game was going to hold up. While Hotels has a lot of things going for it, the game fails to live up to what it could have been.
How to Play Hotels
- Assemble all of the hotel pieces.
- Place the board on the table and place the bank and town hall on the corresponding spaces.
- Place the other buildings, recreational facilities, entrances, and titles to the side of the gameboard.
- Each player is given money depending on the number of players:
- 3-4 player games
- 2 player game
- 3-4 player games
- Each player chooses a car and places it on the start space.
- Every player rolls the number die with the highest roll getting to go first.
Playing the Game
On a player’s turn they roll the number die and move their car the corresponding number of spaces clockwise around the gameboard. If a player’s car lands on a space occupied by another car, the player must move their car to the next unoccupied space. The current player will then take an action based on what space they landed on.
When a player lands on a space featuring a stack of money they have the opportunity to purchase a piece of land.
The player can choose to purchase a piece of land adjacent to the current player’s space that currently has no buildings on it. To purchase the piece of land the player has to pay the land value printed on the title to that piece of land. If no one currently owns the piece of the land, the player pays the amount to the bank. If the land is owned by another player but they haven’t built a building on it yet, the player can buy the land from the player for the price listed on the title. The player will pay the value of the land to the player who previously owned it. The player that owns the land cannot deny the purchase. When a player buys a piece of land they take the title card to indicate ownership.
When a player lands on a space featuring a metal beam they have an opportunity to build onto one of the properties that they own.
Before building the player has to choose which buildings they want to add. A player can add multiple buildings/extensions to one property but they must be built in the order that they are presented on the card. The amount that each building costs is shown on the title for that property.
Once a player has chosen what building(s) they want to add they roll the colored die. This roll determines if the player can build and how much they will have to pay.
- Red Circle: The player is unable to add any buildings this turn.
- Green Circle: The player adds the buildings they chose for the price printed on the title.
- H: The player adds the buildings and has to only pay half the price printed on the title.
- 2: The player will have to pay twice the cost shown on their title if they want to add the buildings. The player can choose not to add the buildings. The player has to either add all or none of the buildings.
A player can only add a recreational facility to a property if all of the other buildings have already been added to the property. The facilities cannot be added on the same turn as other buildings. The player does not have to roll the color die to add a recreational facility.
If a player lands on a building for free space they get to add either the main building, an extension or a recreational facility to one of their buildings for free. A player still has to follow the rule where buildings have to be added in order to a property.
When a player passes the town hall they will have the opportunity to purchase one entrance for each of their properties at the end of their turn. To add an entrance a player has to pay the cost indicated on the title card to the bank.
When placing an entrance the following rules must be followed:
- The first entrance for a property has to be placed on the star space in front of the hotel.
- For spaces with a star, an entrance can only be added to the side with the star.
- Only one entrance can be placed on each space. If an entrance is placed on one side of the street, an entrance cannot be added to the other side of the street.
- If a hotel has no more valid places to place an entrance, the hotel cannot add anymore entrances.
- An entrance can only be added to a property if the property has at least one building on it.
When a player lands on a free entrance space, the player gets to add an entrance to one of their properties for free.
When a player passes the bank they will collect $2,000 from the bank. In a 3-4 player game, once there are only two players left neither player will collect money after passing the bank.
Staying At Another Player’s Hotel
When you land on a space that has an entrance to another player’s hotel, you will stay at that hotel. The player landing on the space rolls the number die to determine how many days they will stay at the hotel (only impacts how much you pay). The player then looks at the chart on the title using the row matching how many buildings they have added and the column based on what the player rolled. The current player pays the amount to the player that owns the hotel.
If the player that owns a property doesn’t notice the player landing on their property before the next player takes their turn, the player doesn’t have to pay them anything.
When a player cannot pay their whole bill to another player they are forced to put up one of their properties for auction. When auctioning off a property you must sell the entire thing and cannot sell off buildings or entrances from the property.
When starting an auction the player declares which property they are selling. The opening bid for the property has to be the cost of the properties’ land. If no one is willing to meet the opening bid, the land is sold to the bank for the cost of the land. All of the buildings and entrances to the property are removed from the board. The land is now for sale like at the beginning of the game.
Otherwise the players keep bidding until no one wants to raise the bid. The player who bids the highest pays their bid to the prior owner and then takes control of the land, buildings, entrances and facilities that were added to the hotel. The prior owner gives the title to the new owner to indicate the transfer of the property.
When one player runs out of money and has no more property to auction off, they are eliminated from the game.
End of Game
The game ends when all but one player has been eliminated. The last remaining player wins the game.
My Thoughts on Hotels
Generally when I talk about board games the first thing I want to talk about is the gameplay. After all if the gameplay is bad the game is not going to be very enjoyable. When you talk about Hotels though you really have to start by talking about the game’s components. Of all my childhood memories of the game the one thing that always stood out was the components. While the components don’t live up to the level of today’s designer board games, there is just something about Hotels’ components that draw you in. While the components only serve a cosmetic role it is hard to not love the 3D hotel buildings as it feels like you are really building up a boardwalk as you add buildings to the board. The buildings are only made of cardboard and plastic and yet they really add a lot to the game’s theme. I would say that Hotels has some of the best components that I have seen in a Milton Bradley game. The fact that I remembered the components from a board game that I haven’t played in 10-20 years shows exactly how memorable they are.
While I knew the components for Hotels were good, I was a little curious about the actual gameplay as I didn’t remember anything about it from when I played the game as a child. It was pretty obvious that the game was going to be an economic game in the same vein as Monopoly where you collected property and tried to bankrupt the other players. After playing the game I have to say that my initial impression was correct but at the same time Hotels has some unique mechanics that I wasn’t anticipating.
So let’s start with what the game has in common with Monopoly. Just like with Monopoly, Hotels is a roll and move economic game. You move around the board landing on spaces that are connected to various properties that you can purchase. Players can purchase these properties in hopes of charging the other players when they land on them later in the game. Hotels also gives players the opportunity to improve properties in order to charge more to the other players. Hotels even lets you earn money when you pass a spot ($2,000 instead of $200). The end game is even the same as you are trying to bankrupt the other players.
That probably sounds like a lot of similarities which is an accurate statement. Most of the differences in Hotels come in the details though. Lets start with the most important mechanic in the entire game: entrances.
Basically entrances are the key to winning the game in Hotels. Since you earn no money from your properties if you don’t have any entrances, the more entrances you can add to your property the more likely you are going to succeed. I think this is the biggest difference between Hotels and Monopoly. While in Monopoly you only collect rent when the players land on the property itself, in Hotels every property is connected to several spots on the gameboard. The catch though is that each space on the board can only be connected to one of the adjacent hotels. Once that space has been claimed the other hotel is unable to build an entrance on that space. This leads to a race to take control of the spaces before another player is able to take them. Players that can get control of the most entrances have a good chance of winning since the other players will have to avoid more spaces. I actually really liked this mechanic as it gives players a decent opportunity for strategy as they build up their own properties while denying the other players entrances.
The other significantly different mechanic is how building on properties is handled. In Monopoly once you buy a property you control it until you sell it off. In Hotels you can purchase a piece of land but that land can be stolen by any other player until you place a building on the land. Adding buildings to a property also drastically differs from Monopoly. In Monopoly you just pay the money and get to add the house/hotel. In Hotels you actually have to “ask for permission” to build which involves rolling a die. The die can either let you build, prevent you from building, let you pay half as much to build, or make you pay twice as much to build.
While this mechanic adds more luck to Hotels, I actually kind of liked it. The mechanic kind of felt thematic as in the real world you also have to apply for building permits. There is a little strategy to this mechanic. Before rolling the die you have to choose which upgrades you are going to try and add. This is important because the die has the opportunity to let you pay half or pay double. If you choose to build several additions in a round where you only have to pay half, you can save a lot of money. If you choose to build several additions and you roll double you will likely decline wasting your turn.
The third unique mechanic in Hotels comes from how rents are handled. The main difference in rents comes from players having to roll the die to determine how many days they stay in the hotel. In Monopoly you just pay a set amount based on how many houses/hotel are on the property. In addition to being able to upgrade your hotel, Hotels makes players roll the die to determine how much they pay. This roll is key as the difference between a one and six night stay can be huge for some of the properties. If a player keeps rolling high numbers they are going to have a hard time winning the game.
The last difference in mechanics between Monopoly and Hotels is the fact that you don’t actually have to collect monopolies in Hotels. Once you have bought a property in Hotels you don’t have to worry about purchasing additional properties before you can improve the property. Instead of having to wait to collect two or three properties you can immediately start improving it. This allows players to start building valuable properties much earlier in the game.
While Hotels only has four major mechanical differences, it actually plays quite a bit differently than Monopoly. I think the most notable difference is that the game is a lot quicker than Monopoly. One of the biggest gripes most people have with Monopoly is that the game takes forever to end. It just takes too long to bankrupt the other players. While Hotels can still be a long game, it is much shorter than Monopoly. I think this can be attributed to a couple things.
In the early game turns can take a while as players debate whether to purchase land, when to expand, and where to add entrances. As the game progresses though players have less and less things to do on a turn. Towards the mid game you get to the point where you will occasionally add to one of your properties but that is all you will do on a given turn. Eventually almost every space will have an entrance which will force players to pay rent. Since you don’t have to collect monopolies in order to improve your properties, every property will also eventually be improved. This leads to a lot of passing money back and forth as you stay at each other’s hotels. Eventually a player will land on more properties owned by other players than players will land on their properties and they will go bankrupt.
Hotels also seems harsher when it comes to not being able to pay your rent. In Monopoly you can sell back houses/hotels and can mortgage properties before you have to sell/auction off properties. That is not the case in Hotels. If you can’t pay your bill you will have to auction off one of your properties and all of the buildings and entrances on it. This prevents players from hanging on as long as they can in a game of Monopoly. While this shortens the game I am not a big fan as you rarely get good value when you auction off a property. Basically if you are forced to auction you are circling the drain waiting until you eventually go bankrupt. It is really hard to catch up in Hotels.
This eventually leads to the game having runaway leaders. In a four player game one or two players will likely get out to a big lead. These players will likely be the players that get valuable properties and get out a lot of entrances for those properties. Once a player gets out to a lead they will use that money to make the property even more valuable and add more entrances. Eventually it will get to the point where it is almost impossible to avoid their property. You will then go bankrupt and they will end up buying your property at auction expanding their lead even further. Sadly I don’t see many games of Hotels ending in a close victory.
I think one of the most unexpected developments while playing Hotels is the fact that the strategy seems to be quite a bit different than Monopoly. In Monopoly the goal is usually to acquire as many properties as possible since they are hard to acquire later in the game. In Hotels you have to be really cautious about expanding too quickly though. The key in Hotels is to always have enough money to pay off your bills in order to avoid auctions. It seems more beneficial to focus on one property adding as many buildings and entrances as possible instead of trying to build up several different properties. If you get a really valuable property you can start raking in the money which you can then start using to expand other properties.
One fact that supports this strategy is I don’t think the game was really balanced when it was developed. Some properties seem to be quite a bit more valuable than others. Basically the value of a property comes from three different things. First the number of available entrances. The more opportunities for entrances, the more likely that a player will land on your property. Second the cost to add buildings to the property. The cheaper it is to expand the quicker you will be able to maximize a property. Finally there is the maximum rent you can get out of the property. In the late game the most valuable properties can easily bankrupt the other players.
With these three criteria there seems to be two properties that are clearly the best in the game. The best property in the early game is probably the Boomerang. The Boomerang is valuable for three things. First the property is really cheap to expand. The Boomerang only needs two additions to reach its’ max value which is almost as high as several of the other properties that cost a lot more to expand. Second the Boomerang is tied for the second most spaces for entrances. Finally the Boomerang is the first you encounter in the game so if you build it up early you can bankrupt the other players quickly. The other rigged property is the President which is the best long term hotel. The President is the most valuable and is tied for the second most entrance spaces. If you can build up the President you can bankrupt the other players pretty easily.
The balance issues point out that Hotels relies on quite a bit of luck. While there is some strategy to the game, your fate in the game relies a lot on luck. Roll well in the game and you likely will do well in the game. Good rolls will help you avoid other players’ entrances, make you pay less when you actually land on their properties and even get you free things which could save you thousands of dollars. Meanwhile if you roll poorly you have little chance of doing well in the game.
While on the topic of luck I can’t say that I am a big fan of the game determining your action for a turn based on the space that you land on. I don’t like the fact that you need to roll the right number in order to take a particular action that you really want to take. You might really want an entrance or to build an expansion but can’t just because you didn’t land on the right space. This gets even worse late in the game when you land on one of the land spaces because once all of the land has buildings on them, these spaces become pointless. I really wish the game could have just let players take one action on their turn. While there might have to be some rule regarding entrances (otherwise players would use all of their turns purchasing them until they were all taken), I think giving players more choices could have added quite a bit more strategy to the game while also reducing some of the luck.
When you compare Monopoly and Hotels it is kind of hard to determine which game is truly better. In some ways Hotels is better and in other ways it is worse. In some ways Hotels has less reliance on luck but in other ways there is more luck. The same applies to strategy. The big advantage for Hotels is that the game is quite a bit shorter and is more thematic. On the other hand Monopoly seems to give you more control over your fate in the game and seems to be a little more balanced than Hotels.
Before wrapping up I want to quickly talk about Hotel Tycoon. After the game was out of print for over ten years, Asmodee decided to reprint Hotels as Hotel Tycoon. I am actually kind of curious on how much the game was changed from the original Hotels. The game seems to have different hotels and the theme seems to have changed. The component quality seems to be comparable to the original game. I am kind of curious whether any of the actual rules have changed though. The main reason I am curious is that Hotel Tycoon is significantly cheaper than Hotels. While Hotel Tycoon generally retails for around $15-20, Hotels is one of those older Milton Bradley games that have actually gone up in value over the years and regularly sells for $100. If you don’t have to own the original version of the game you could save a lot of money by purchasing the newer Hotel Tycoon.
Should You Buy Hotels?
Hotels/Hotel Tycoon is one of many games that have tried to cash in on the popularity of Monopoly. While the game shares a lot in common with Monopoly it actually plays quite a bit differently. When you first see Hotels the first thing that stands out is the components as it is kind of hard not to notice the three dimensional buildings. Other than the components though the game has some interesting tweaks to the Monopoly formula. Some of these mechanics improve upon Monopoly while others make the game rely on more luck than Monopoly. At the end of the day Hotels is a game that had a lot of good ideas and yet a lot of them just don’t work as well as I was hoping. The game is not terrible but it has some issues.
If you aren’t really a fan of Monopoly style economic games, I don’t see you really enjoying Hotels. If you like Monopoly style games and want a unique twist on the formula I think you could get some enjoyment out of Hotels. If you don’t have fond memories of the original version though I might recommend picking up Hotel Tycoon as it is considerably cheaper than Hotels.