I’ve written about Monopoly Cheaters Edition before, but here’s a crash course on how it differs from the original.
- Cheat Cards allow players to legally cheat in specific ways.
- You don’t build houses on Properties. Only Hotels.
- Players that are in Jail put on a plastic Handcuff. It’s mostly a gimmick, but it does tie into one of the Cheat cards.
- You don’t have to Bankrupt everyone else to win. The game ends when all properties have been purchased and the players have returned to Go. Whoever has the most cash wins.
I felt a burning need to play Cheaters again after reading some other essays on Monopoly’s history and the meaning of the mechanics. That inspiration was compounded by a recent purchase I desperately wanted to test drive.
The Game Changers is a deck of cards that hack, modify, alter, and otherwise fuck up your game. 80 cards, split into 11 different modules. There’s no listed limit to how many you should add to a game, but I held my self back and used only two:
- Play Together — turns the game into a cooperative challenge
- Saboteur — introduces a traitor mechanic (maybe)
Wheeling and dealing has always been part of Monopoly, but the Play Together module hammers home the idea that rich bastards collude (there’s that word) as much as they compete. Now the players have to end the game in a particular financial order. Otherwise they all lose.
The Saboteur represents the possibility that someone intends to screw the other two. The rules say you’re supposed to definitely use the Saboteur card, but I shuffled it in with the four non-saboteurs and dealt the cards randomly. That way there’s a 40% chance that NO ONE is a Saboteur. This injects a LOT of uncertainty and distrust into the game.
Combined, the two modules change the whole point of Monopoly. Players are supposed to win or lose together. But is someone trying to take it all? And if no one is trying to screw the other two, can the distrust still ruin the plan?
The players were to come in like so:
- The Car: 1st
- The Dinosaur: 2nd
- The Hat: 3rd
The first few turns went pretty quick. At first, it seemed like the only thing we had to keep track of was how much money each of us had. If everyone kept to the agreed upon financial hierarchy, then no one was the Saboteur. But as we continued, the flaws in our ad-hoc variant became clear.
Bankruptcy added a potential hiccup to this remix. We established at the start that if a player goes Bankrupt, everyone loses. Because they don’t finish “third”, they simply don’t finish at all. But a Saboteur could have Bankrupted themselves and crashed our little cartel.
But that didn’t happen. As we collected more and more properties, everyone maintained the hierarchy. Any time the wrong person pulled ahead, they just gave money to someone else. Trading cash and property was still allowed.
On top of that, because we were all dirty bastards, The Car could cheat without fear of anyone calling them out. If anyone did, they’d out themselves as the Saboteur.
About 20 minutes in, we realized the game was TOO easy. The Dinosaur suggested we change the rules mid-game to disallow “deals”, which were just money transfers at this point.
That’s when the trust stopped.
I, The Hat, shot The Car a glance, and The Dinosaur immediately tried to reassured us that he just wanted to add spice to the game. But the damage was done. Suddenly the game felt like financial Werewolf crossed with, Dog help us, TRADITIONAL Monopoly. Not only did we suspect our so-called partners, we were committing to a game what wasn’t all that fun mechanically. But we continued, now with an eye on everyone’s cash, property, Chance and Community Chest cards.