July completely blew up on me, so I'm posting two articles this month to make up for last month.
Do you love Monopoly, but you're looking for a quick and portable game instead of the boring back and forth endgame? If you don't mind playing second fiddle to your card draws, consider Monopoly Deal. It's a card game for 2-4 players that takes 20 minutes or less per hand.
What You Need to Play
Grab a set of the cards for around $6 and some friends to play with. We got a set as a stocking stuffer last year, and we finally broke it out on vacation. You'll need a table for this, since trying to juggle what's been played and what's in your hand without a large flat surface gets confusing in a hurry.
On its surface, the game is incredibly simple. Both players start with seven cards. On your turn, draw 2 cards or 5 cards if your hand is empty, then play 3 cards. You can play any combination of cards; property cards go in your property area, money cards get stacked in your bank, and action cards allow you to do something. Discard down to 8 cards at the end of your turn. That's it.
The cards control everything about the game and give it color. This version is based on the modern Monopoly set, so figures are in millions of dollars. The deck contains one card for each property on the Monopoly board, each with its own amount for rent. You also have wild cards that can add to one of two property groups - you flip the card to show the correct color stripe - plus two wild cards that work with any group.
Money cards can be played to your bank - any time you need to pay for anything, use your bank first before handing over your property cards. Here's the kicker - when you pay you don't get change. If you need to pay $4M and all you have is the $10M card, kiss it goodbye. All non-property cards have a bank value, so if you don't want to use an action card for its stated action you can bank it instead.
Action cards mimic the rest of the Monopoly rules. Rent cards allow you to collect rent from an opponent for a specific property group, netting you some cards out of their bank or some property if they're short. Action cards let you draw 2 cards, or force trades of properties, or steal properties. Some cards come straight from the Chance deck. On your birthday, every opponent gives you money. The coolest card in the deck is the "No" card. It cancels out an action card, probably saving your bacon in the process.
Game play runs the gamut from zany and fast-paced back-and-forth to almost painful one-sidedness. In a 2 player game like the most of the ones I played on vacation, if one player gets great draws the other tends to feel hamstrung waiting for some game-changing card. I imagine more players would mitigate this somewhat as more people can gang up on the leader. On the scale from Luck to Strategy, luck leads the way hands down.
It's fast. It's familiar. It's far more portable than the board game, and can be every bit as frustrating. It resets in a snap. If you want to play Monopoly in a quarter of the time, give the card game a shot.
TL;DR - Executive Summary
- Monopoly Deal is a card game for 2-4 players that plays in less than 20 minutes.
- First player to play, trade or steal enough to complete 3 property groups wins.
- Random card draws make strategy secondary in game play, though wild cards help.
- Randomness can cause frustration. I've played several games where I just hand cards to opponents.
- Recommended as a light and quick filler game. Good for 2, but more balanced with more players.