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The Most Divisive Board Game?

February 23rd, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

This is a topic addressed by the Ringer website, and millions of American families can relate to it.

Which family board game is the most harmful to domestic tranquility?

The Ringer comes up with a dozen or so suggestions, from The Game of Life to Risk to Parcheesi.

I have played several of the games reviewed by Ringer staff, but to me it is very easy to pick out the game most likely to lead to weeks of bad feelings — if not a board flying through the air before the game is actually finished.

And that game?

I believe it is an easy choice.


1) Everyone starts with the same amount of money, and in the first couple of turns around the 40-square board … just about everyone can convince themselves they can win. So there is false hope. That’s key.

2) The game’s name tells us it is about business domination. It’s about monopoly — capturing all the money and all the property. What can be more anti-social than that?

3) The game often comes down to one or two throws of the dice. That is hard to take because it is pure luck. If you can slip past Boardwalk and Park Place one more time before your opponents trip over your hotels on New York and Tennessee avenues — the game changes.

4) The depression of feeling your position fall apart can be intense. “Can’t I catch a break?” You sell back your hotels and houses, then you mortgage your properties, and your cash is about gone. Thing is? It’s very difficult to reverse a a losing position, but if four or five people are playing your demise can be quite prolonged.

5) The oft-remarked-upon phenomena of someone being sure the “banker” is cheating. I believe the sort of cheating happens very rarely because you’ve got all the other players watching the banker as he/she makes change. But that often doesn’t stop that one paranoid player from questioning the honesty of the banker, which is a gut-level accusation. “I think you’re stealing money out of the bank; and that you killed a man.”

6) Particularly infuriating is proposing a deal that will help an opponent as well as you. You know the sort — the deal where equal value would go in each direction, but the person refuses to make the deal. Because they fear you’re playing them for a fool; or because they just don’t want you to win, even if it means they will go down in flames, too.

7) The denouement is always pathetic. Whoever has become Mr. Money Bags just cruises around the board, afraid of nothing, certain in the knowledge of victory and, typically, that one other person who had a chance, a dozen dice-throws before, watches his or her position deteriorate, tripping over expensive rentals … maybe going out to something pathetic — unable to scrounge up the $75 for the luxury tax or maybe $25 for the one railroad you don’t own.

The thing about Monopoly is … there is no middle-class. The winner is the owner of just about everything on the board.

Everyone else is busted. Or in the red. Bitter. Angry. Complaining of their own bad luck or the winner’s ridiculously good luck.

But everyone knows the winner deserved it — making the key deal, skirting dangerous spots at key points, getting an early cash-infusion from a player who has landed on the future winner’s property.

I do not recall a family member tossing the board. But I remember plenty of people walking away the moment (or even before) they are wiped out. Sent to the poor farm.

It is not a game to be played without some forethought. Kids under 12 probably should not be matched against adults. Nice people should not play with cut-throats. And the winner should think in terms of modesty — but rarely does.

Yep. A recipe for a bad vibe in the home for a night or three.

Thanks, Parker Bros.!




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