When the original Animal Crossing was released on the Gamecube I immediately became addicted to the game. I have no idea how much time I spent playing the original game. Since the original game though, I haven’t been as big of a fan of the franchise. I still like Animal Crossing and can appreciate its style of gameplay. My video game tastes have changed over the years though, and the franchise just doesn’t have the same appeal that it once had. Animal Crossing is still going strong with the latest game in the series, Animal Cross New Horizons being a huge hit for the Nintendo Switch. To cash in on the popularity, Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons was created to fill the never ending need for new versions of Monopoly.
Monopoly is arguably the most popular board game ever created. Despite this I have never reviewed the original Monopoly. Monopoly has to be one of the most debated board games of all time. A lot of people love the game. It is probably the best selling board game of all time after all. There are a lot of people that absolutely hate the game as well though, as it has a number of issues. I personally would say my feelings towards the game are somewhere in the middle.
Most themed Monopoly games take the traditional Monopoly gameplay and just paste on a new theme. Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons is different though. There are actually a lot of differences in the gameplay as it tries to utilize the Animal Crossing theme. Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons is a unique twist on the Monopoly formula improving upon it in some ways while introducing its own issues.
When you first look at Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons it may look like every other Monopoly game. Outside of the board featuring less spaces, it does have a similar feel. You move around the board acquiring control of different spaces like the original game. This is where the similarities basically end. Instead of trying to bankrupt the other players, you are just trying to furnish your home with the best items to earn Nook Miles. This mostly entails acquiring items from the different locations which you will then sell for money. The player who acquires the most Nook Miles at the end of the game wins.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for the game, check out our Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons how to play guide.
With the game being quite a bit different than the normal Monopoly, I hoped it would fix many of the original game’s issues. In some ways it does.
Probably the biggest issue with the original Monopoly is that the game takes forever to finish. There is no set end to the game. You just need to keep playing until all but one player has gone bankrupt. This can take forever in some games. Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons has a definitive end though. When someone acquires their seventh Decoration card, the end game is triggered. The rest of the players can finish their current turn around the board, and then the game ends.
In theory Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons is considerably shorter than the original game. This is an improvement in my opinion. Monopoly can be fun at times, but it almost always overstays its welcome. If the players don’t drag the game out for too long, I can’t see Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons taking longer than maybe an hour. I could even see the game only taking around a half hour if players aren’t too obsessed with always making the best move.
Another issue with the original Monopoly is that the game can be pretty cutthroat. That is the nature of the original game since to win you need to bankrupt everyone else. This regularly leads to one player getting a big lead and then slowly crushing the other players until the game finally ends.
In Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons there is not nearly the same amount of confrontation between the players. While players will claim locations on the board, this doesn’t mean that you owe them money. Instead the player who lands on the space will receive the corresponding resource as well as the player that controls the space. Players aren’t eliminated in the game. This creates a more relaxed, laid back experience which is welcome. I have never been a fan of the player elimination mechanics from the original game.
This more laid back feeling is one of the reasons why I think the game actually does a decent job replicating the Animal Crossing theme. The theme is not a perfect fit naturally as things like free parking and jail are still a thing. I think the game did about as good of a job as you can expect from a Monopoly themed around Animal Crossing. The game utilizes a number of elements from the video game. From collecting bugs, fossils, fish, and apples to acquiring items for your house; the game didn’t just paste the Animal Crossing theme onto the original Monopoly and call it a day.
The component quality is pretty solid for a Monopoly game as well. I was actually impressed by the quality of the playing pieces as they show a lot more detail than I expected. I think it is odd that two of the pieces use the same color base though making it harder to remember who is each pawn. Otherwise the game utilizes the artwork from the game well for the gameboard and cards. I think fans of Animal Crossing will appreciate these elements of the game. Otherwise the component quality is pretty typical for a Monopoly game.
In a way Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons kind of feels like a more streamlined Monopoly game. As for difficulty I would say that it is on par with the original game. It may take a little longer explaining how to play the game due to the differences from the the original game. I would guess it would take around 5-10 minutes to explain the game to new players. There is nothing in the game that is particularly hard to understand though. Once players get adjusted to the differences from the original game, I see no one having any real issues playing the game.
There are a lot of things that I liked about Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons. It could have just been another Monopoly clone with a new paint job. Actual thought was put into the gameplay though to try and tweak it for the theme. The game does improve upon the original in a number of ways. The problem is that it ends up introducing several new issues into the game.
A lot of the game’s problems come from the item cards. In theory I like the idea of acquiring item cards to increase your final score. The game is based entirely around them though. The amount of money you acquire in the game has no impact on who wins. Whoever gets the opportunity to acquire the best item cards will win the game. Unfortunately what cards you can purchase relies entirely on luck.
Each time you pass go you will be able to purchase items from the store. There are only three items available at any given time, and those are the only items that you can purchase on your turn. You can choose to purchase one, two or all three of the cards that are face up on the gameboard. In theory all of the cards are of an equal value. You will basically receive twice as many Nook Miles as you spend on the card. Therefore you don’t lose value purchasing one card over another.
The problem comes from the fact that you can only acquire a total of seven of these cards. Therefore you want them to be as valuable as possible. Why purchase a card that is only worth 10 points, when you can just wait for one that is worth 40-50 points? This dilemma is easily the biggest issue in Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons. There is no incentive for a player to purchase the cheap items. Outside of early in the game, you will have plenty of money to purchase what you want. In fact money becomes inconsequential at the end of the game. We ultimately ran out of money towards the middle/end of the game.
By purchasing the cheap items you are only helping the other players. The store only gets refreshed when an item is purchased. If you purchase a cheap item you will get an item that doesn’t help you much. You also open up a spot in the store so a new item will come out for the next player. This card could be quite a bit better. Therefore there is no incentive to buy a worse item just to let the next player get a better card. You eventually get to a point where the store is filled with items that no one wants to purchase.
If the players are stubborn this is where the game grinds to a halt. By clearing up the logjam in the store you are only hurting yourself and possibly helping the next player. This might not be a problem for some groups, but if you play with a competitive group it likely will become one. To resolve the issue you basically need to create some sort of fair house rule that clears out the store of items no one wants. Coming up with this rule is easier said than done. We ended up deciding that each player could discard one card from the store and draw one new card before they started purchasing items. This cleared out the store a little as players discarded the cheap items. It wasn’t a perfect solution though.
Even when you clear out the logjam in the store, it just reinforces the idea that the items available in the shop when it is your time to purchase likely will determine if you can win the game. I think it is kind of silly that you can only purchase item cards each time you pass GO. If you pass GO at the right time you will be able to purchase the good items increasing your odds of winning the game. If you aren’t so lucky, you either won’t purchase anything or you will get worse cards.
I am kind of curious how the game would work if you ditched the store entirely. Instead you could maybe draw three cards at the beginning of each of your turns. You could then choose which of the cards you want to purchase. If a card isn’t purchased, it would be returned to the bottom of the draw pile. You would obviously have to increase the number of cards that you could acquire before triggering the end game. This won’t completely fix the game’s issues, but I think it might help.
Speaking of luck, the special abilities that you eventually acquire are unbalanced as well. They are not even at all. The ability that lets you collect two resources instead of one each time you land on a location space is way overpowered. You will get considerably more resources than the other players which ends in you receiving more money. The selling and purchasing abilities have their own advantages, but they are not as good in my opinion. The worst is the ability to sell two different types of resources. You likely will never have trouble selling off your resources, so this ability is rarely used.
The final thing that adds to the game’s reliance on luck, is fact that claiming more spaces gives you an advantage in the game. Like the original game, the more spaces you control, the better chance you have of winning the game. Spaces don’t even cost you money in Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons. Whoever is lucky enough to land on the most new spaces is just given an advantage in the game. By claiming a space you get free resources anytime someone lands on the space. In addition to receiving resources for the spaces you land on, you get a resource when someone else lands on one of your spaces. Players will likely get a similar number of spaces, but if one player gets considerably more, they will have a big advantage in the game.
Ultimately Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons relies on a lot of luck. In a way I think it might rely on even more luck than the original game. If you are the type of player that gets frustrated when luck ultimately determines who wins, you likely will hate this element of Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons. To enjoy the game you need to accept the fact that luck is going to play a big role in who ultimately wins. To clear up the logjams in the store you may occasionally have to make a move that might help other players more than yourself. There is ultimately only a limited amount you can do to help yourself in the game.
Basically to get the most enjoyment out of the game, you need to not care much about who wins. If you worry about winning, the game’s issues are going to annoy you. Players that just have fun playing the game without caring who wins, are going to have more fun. In a way this fits the whole laid back feel to the whole game. This is still an issue with the game, but how much it impacts you depends on if you are going to accept the game for its faults.
After playing Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons I ultimately was left conflicted. There are things that I truly liked about it, but it has quite a few issues as well. On the positive side the game actually differs from Monopoly more than your typical themed Monopoly. Elements of the game were designed with the source material in mind. The game in theory plays quicker than the original game and has a less confrontational feel to it. The game utilizes the theme better than I was expecting as well.
The problem with the game revolves around its reliance on luck. The item market is an interesting idea, but it just leads to gridlock as there is no reason to purchase the cheaper items. A player either needs to make a play that will help the next player more than themselves, or some sort of house rule will need to be implemented. Otherwise the special abilities are not even and the player that claims the most locations has an advantage. Ultimately luck has a huge impact on the outcome. To get the most enjoyment out of Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons, you need to not really care about who ultimately wins.
Because of my conflicting feelings towards the game, I don’t know what to say about recommending the game. If you hate Monopoly or aren’t a pretty big fan of Animal Crossing, I don’t see the game being for you. As for fans of Animal Crossing, I am not sure whether you will like the game. If you can look past the game’s faults, I can see you enjoying Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons and you should maybe consider purchasing it. Otherwise you will need to figure out some house rules to fix some of the game’s issues.
Monopoly: Animal Crossing New Horizons
Year: 2021 | Publisher: Hasbro | Designer: NA | Artist: NA
Genres: Economic, Family, Roll and Move
Ages: 8+ | Number of Players: 2-4 | Length of Game: 45-60 minutes
Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: High
Components: gameboard, 4 Character Tokens, 4 Skill Cards, 35 Decoration Cards, 14 Chance Cards, 14 Nook Miles Cards, 160 Resource Chips, 40 Five-Bell Coins, 54 Bell Coins, 40 Player Markers, 1 numbered die, 1 Nook’s Cranny die, instructions
- Actually differs from the original Monopoly in some interesting ways.
- Utilizes the Animal Crossing theme better than I was expecting.
- The item market is broken where there is no point in buying cheaper items.
- Relies heavily on luck.
Recommendation: For fans of Animal Crossing and Monopoly that can look past some of the game’s reliance on luck.