'Monopoly Millionaire' Brings The Bling And A Surprising New Way to Play

"Monopoly Millionaire " is not the "Monopoly" of your childhood, and it says so right on the box: "First to a million wins!" While that's the most major of rules changes, several more tweaks separate "Monopoly Millionaire" from its predecessor. In this case, change is a good thing. "Monopoly Millionaire" is a surprisingly entertaining take on a classic that, let's face it, has gotten a bit long in the tooth.

Over the years, a longstanding tradition of house rules has turned classic "Monopoly" from an average game into a torturous 3+ hour experience. Money on Free Parking and the elimination of property auctions do nothing but inject randomness and added time, an undesirable combo to say the least, and "Monopoly" has earned a bad rap among gamers as a result. The unexpected benefit of "Monopoly Millionaire" is that its numerous changes conspire to make you actually read the rule book!

Just the Facts:

Players: 2-4

Playing Time: 45+ minutes

Age: 8 to adult

Publisher: Hasbro

MSRP: $19.99

Release: Summer 2012

The Gameplay:

"Monopoly Millionaire" may have some significant rules changes, but the core gameplay is still "Monopoly." Players roll and move around the board, buying up the properties they land on (or auctioning them off) and collecting rent from other players who land on already-owned properties. You'll build houses and hotels, go to jail, get out of jail, and drive a hard bargain when other players want to negotiate a property trade.

The biggest gameplay change was already mentioned above: you win "Monopoly Millionaire" by being the first player to reach $1,000,0000. Instead of doing whatever it takes to bankrupt other players, players are more concerned with lining their own pockets.

A million dollars is not as daunting a goal as it may seem since players start with $372k and will earn between $150-250k with every pass around the board. It's also a bit easier to get around "Go," since the board itself is shortened; "Monopoly Millionaire" does away with the utilities and railroads, leaving only 7 spaces between each corner spot. The game can actually be won in as little as four turns if you decide to spend none of your money and are lucky enough to dodge all of your opponent's properties.

Getting around the board without spending any money is easier said than done, though. Every property in the game is initially seeded with a Fortune Card, hitting the first player to land on that property with a random effect. While Fortune Cards typically benefit the player who lands on them, many of them grant the power to steal money and property from other players, so they are just as likely to be used against you.

If you pay money to upgrade your lifestyle, you'll also upgrade your ride

Another addition to "Monopoly Millionaire" is the addition of a lifestyle rank. Players start with 1-star lifestyles, but upon passing "Go," can opt to pay $50k to upgrade to a 3-star and later 5-star lifestyle. The more luxurious your life, the more money you'll collect when you take a lap around the board, but all of the games random effects are amplified. Land on a "Chance" space and prepare to either give or get much more money than you would have earlier in the game. Living the high life means the good effects are better but the bad effects are worse.

The Components:

  • 1 Game board
  • 4 Sets of player tokens (3 per set)
  • 1 Deck of property cards
  • 1 Deck of fortune cards
  • 1 Deck of chance and millionaire lifestyle cards
  • 2 Dice
  • 1 banker tray with cardboard tile money
  • House and hotel models

This is definitely rich people "Monopoly." No, it's not like those $300 collectors sets made with real gold and gems. The graphic design and artwork of "Monopoly Millionaire" feels more like a gaudy "new money" sort of rich, which is fun and fitting for a game that isn't meant to be taken too seriously. Everywhere you look, there are large shiny diamonds and gems plastered all over the games board and cards.

Beyond over-the-top artwork, there are actually some really nice touches to the components in this game. As I mentioned before with leveling up your lifestyle, this actually earns you an upgraded player token. You can start as a go-kart, scooter, skiff boat, or even a paper airplane, but as you start rolling in the dough, your piece will be upgraded (twice) to earn you a limo, motorcycle, yacht, or jet. Yes, getting a cool looking piece may have no real bearing on the game, but its undeniably fun. The upgraded pieces manage to tap into some of that "Monopoly" nostalgia where it really mattered who got the car and who was stuck with the thimble.

The house and hotel models are re-designed to a simple A-frame shape made out of translucent plastics with sharp lines

Only one part of the game feels cheap, and that is the Fortune Card deck. These tiny cards come still attached to a large perforated sheet of card stock, and you'll have to spend a few minutes punching out them all out, leaving you with a bunch of fuzzy edges on some rather flimsy cards.

Of all the components, though, the money does the best job of giving Monopoly Millionaire its luxury feel. Cash is placed on a tray in the middle of the board, and players act as their own banker (which helps keep the game moving along quickly). The upgrade over traditional "Monopoly" is that you won't find any paper money here. Instead, all of the denominations are printed on cardboard tiles.

Paper money is a hassle in almost every game, so its absence is welcome here, but the cardboard tiles do manage to help out the game's theme. This is about as close as I'll ever come to handling those high-value slab chips in a casino.

Some of the best in-game currency I've ever seen.

Final Thoughts:

What surprised me the most about "Monopoly Millionaire" is that its new victory condition actually presented two different paths to victory: play traditional Monopoly strategy, or save all of your cash and hope to skate around "Go" enough times to crack $1 million. What further surprised me was that players taking these opposing routes could actually have a competitive game.

My wife is about as fierce as "Monopoly" players come, and she took the traditional strategy while I tried my hardest to spend zero dollars. In about 8 turns and a little over a half hour, she beat me with $1,005,000 to $924,000, a pretty tight game by any standard. With one more roll of the dice and I would have lapped the board and claimed victory myself. The important note is that we managed to have a good amount of fun with "Monopoly Millionaire."

Let's be honest though, I'm not going to race over to my "Top 10 Games of 2012" notes and scribble Monopoly Millionaire in as a contender, but the game deserves a fair shot to be judged for what it is and the audience it's intended for. Monopoly Millionaire is undeniably a significant improvement over its predecessor, and I'm sure plenty of families will enjoy it. After all, the silver lining here is that maybe we'll see a fresh generation of kids who don't hate on board games because of a bad experience with "Monopoly."

Disclaimer: Hasbro provided a complimentary review sample of this game