Tradition Tinker: Brewster’s Monopoly

Salutations Everybody!

Today I want to continue my series on game design with components you have sitting around. Today I’ll be taking a new theme and applying it to a classic board game… Monopoly.

Most of you probably have a copy of Monopoly somewhere in the deep back of the game closet, usually unplayed for years. The reasons are pretty simple, it can suck sometimes. If players get too into trading the game slows way down (even though that’s what excites some players about the game). Worse, the game goes until everyone but one player is out… which can take up to 4-hours (longer is statistically rare even with 6+ players if you don’t use the optional Free Parking rule).

Before I go much further, I should mention that there are a variety of great monopoly versions out there that change the rules. Beyond simple re-skins, Monopoly Junior addressed many of these issues, and even added a credit card system in some releases.  This update by Hasbro serves to better teach young kids about money and spending (in the same way an allowance would). If you have kids, I recommend it.

But moving on, what do you do with that old box with Mr. Monopoly on the front? Well, here is Brewster’s Monopoly. Named after the 1985 classic staring Richard Pryor and John Candy, this game is all about being the first to run out of money. Here are the rules changes:

  • The first player to run out of money wins.
  • Players start with $2000.
  • If all of a property color is owned by a player (even another player) you may build houses and hotels on that property if you own at least one property of that color. The building player pays for the improvement (even if it is not on a space he owns).
  • Properties do not need to be improved at the same rate, one property may have a hotel, for instance, while other properties of the same color have no improvements.
  • Players may never sell houses or hotels, but they may mortgage un-improved properties as normal.
  • There is no optional free parking rule in effect.
  • If a player lands on an unowned property he cannot afford, he may not “pass” on purchasing it. Instead, if he cannot afford the property, it is free. The player claims the property and spends no money (he may not make a partial payment).

And that’s it. These little changes make for a very different game. The first rule simply ends the game when a player goes out, thus drastically shortening the play time (my tests have been about 45 minutes, but most of that was players grasping the idea).

The second rule simply adds a bit of oomph early on. We want properties being purchased and improved frequently. Building hotels is fun, and now doing so is an act of aggression!

The third and fourth rules are the tricky ones. This is what makes the game work, by allowing a new way to build improvements on an opponent’s space. You build hotels on an opponents space in hopes of landing on it yourself later. It’s a gamble, and properly managing those improvements is the subtle path to victory, as you need to watch board positions and time your improvements to maximize your chances of landing on them. However, you still have to own a property in that color (and all properties must be owned) so you open yourself up to buildings as well.

Rules five and six prevent the game from taking forever. Selling off hotels/houses just makes the game drag on. The other option would track who built each house and only allow players to remove those… it’s a nightmare best fixed by not allowing them to be sold at all. If I were creating this for print, I would consider testing a version that includes houses and hotels of various colors, so that we could track who built what. But for now, we simply don’t allow selling of improvements.

A lot of people play with the free parking rule. It’s fun for kids (it’s a bit like the lottery) but it is the primary culprit in games that take 6+ hours to play. If you’ve had a game go on for days, chances are that Free Parking was secretly to blame (although you might not notice). So we also got rid of that option.

Lastly, rule seven simply prevents game stalls. A strategy would be to buy nothing and waiting till the board costs more than $200 to circle… it’s a dull strategy we want to avoid. So if you land on it… you’re going to get it… so buy it if you can!

In the end, the game plays in about 45 minutes, although it can go up to an hour sometimes, depending on the player skill level and speed. I really enjoy this version, and when I break it out at holidays my friends and family don’t groan about Monopoly any more… it’s one of our go-to games.

Boxes Part 2: Revenge of the Sandpaper

I’ve been working on a new batch of boxes for the LVO this year. I got a dozen of these boxes from Micheal’s. They’re about the same price as the little jewelry boxes I used last year and they are far larger. They are also significantly less expensive than the initial ones I did for the Hobbytown Smackdown in December (in my last blog post).

I spent most of today sanding the boxes, going from 320 grit through 1200 grit. My arms are quite tired, though I’m very happy with the finish.

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After I finished sanding (and took a shower….I was covered in sawdust…), I started taping off part of the boxes for staining. I wanted a 2-tone stain (they are books after all). So the area that would be pages is getting a much lighter stain. I am rather happy with how it came out in the end.

This is the stack mid-taping. Many inches of Blue Tape gave it’s tack to deliver these boxes.
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This is the stack of boxes after round 1 of staining.
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This is a finished one in terms of staining.
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The 2-tone thing is a bit less similar in person, but I’m happy with it. For anyone interested, the stains I’m using are Varathane’s indoor wood stain. Antique Walnut and Golden Oak are the colors.

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I also started casting up more of the symbols that go on the front of the boxes. I had to wait until today because I was out of resin and my Smooth-On Smooth Cast 300 arrived today. It’s just 2 of their pint kits, because that’s about all I will need. I got 6 castings out of the mold with 1 kit and a little bit of leftover from a previous batch. I should be able to get another 5 out of the 2nd kit and that leaves me with an extra (just in case something goes awry!). Not terribly interesting, but here’s a pic!

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And the resin:
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And here’s a pic of everything I’ve got done. I would really like to get these all done this next week. I have a couple of bits to finish painting on my actual army. It’s just a couple of guns, but it needs to get done nonetheless. I have about 2 weeks to finish, which should be plenty of time. So long as the siren call that is Fallout 4 doesn’t grab a hold of me, I should be okay!

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Tradition Tinker: “Assault Chess”

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a series of articles on tinkering with classic games. Before I get started, I want to make an important blanket statement. This series is not about “fixing” classic games. They are classic for a reason and don’t need my help to be fun. Instead I want to use this series to show some modern tabletop game design techniques in a fun way.

The games I’ll be talking about are the kind that you might find in almost any game closet. Even people who aren’t gamers will likely have some familiarity with games like Chess, Clue, Monopoly, or War. So with any luck you’ll have a copy nearby, and you can give this variant a try some time.

So without further caveats, let’s talk chess…

Chess is possibly the most popular game in the world. It started in India or Persia (sources differ), but people from all nationalities are likely to know the rules today. For the most part, the rules were passed on through word of mouth and they have evolved into what we popularly know today over about 500 years.

Those rules, however, aren’t as fixed as most people think. Many cultures have their own variants, and many of them play in very different ways. The rules for Chess aren’t sacred, they weren’t laid out in a holy text. The basics are pretty fixed (players take turns moving pieces) but even the win conditions and pieces can change.

So what contemporary mechanic do I want to try adding to Chess? I want to change the rules to simulate two armies charging at each other. If it helps, imagine the king as the standard bearer for a group of soldiers, the goal is to break their line or take their standard, whichever comes first. To achieve this goal, I’ll be using some modern style mechanics that bring a game to a close faster, and provide an alternate road to victory.

Here are the addiitional rules for Assault Chess:

  1. When a piece reaches a space along the opposing player’s board edge the piece is removed from play. The piece’s controlling player gains 1 point. If any player has 8 points the game immediately wins with him as the victor.
  2. Pieces may not end their turn in a space closer to their starting board edge than the space they began their turn in. This rule does not apply if the piece captures an opposing piece with its move.
  3. If 8 or fewer pieces remain on the board, the player with the most points wins (with a draw if both players have the same points).

That’s it. Just those 3 rules. All the standard rules of chess still apply. If you checkmate the opposing players king you still win.

The first rule is simple, it’s there to bring the game to a close when you’ve managed to get half your force off the opposing players board edge. The second rule keeps everyone moving in that direction, but still allows backwards movement to grab an opponent’s pieces. The third rule ends possible stalemates, and makes late game capturing important for the player who is ahead on points. Many games might be won with only 2 or 3 points.

When played, the game focuses on moving forward while stopping your opponent from reaching your board edge. Another possible name for the variant is Football Chess, as each game can feel a bit like American Football, with the King representing the quarterback who needs to be protected. Obviously there are two balls in play in this metaphor, but I feel like the gameplay is fairly representative otherwise (with the scoring pieces representing receivers down field).

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of tweaking, and hopefully it inspires you to break out that old chess set and play a few games. Next week I’ll be tackling Monopoly!