“Monopoly” is one of the very first board games I learned to play, though I seldom finished a full game simply because it took FOREVER to play. When you look at the big picture, “Monopoly” is actually a fairly strategic experience in that it combines real estate & money management while emphasizing the importance of social interaction & trading. If it didn’t take hours to play, I’d probably still find time in my busy schedule to play it. “Monopoly Empire” addresses this issue by reducing the play time to almost fifteen to thirty minutes by doing away with properties and introducing brands. Rather than attempting to bankrupt everyone else, you’ll be aiming to be the first to fill your tower completely with billboard tiles.
Board – The board is similar to that of a standard “Monopoly” board in that the spaces in which players travel outline the perimeter. Unlike “Monopoly” however, there are less spaces per side and there are four empty spaces in the center of the board for the towers players will individually own.
Towers – Think of these as an individual player’s score tracker. These are placed in the center of the board and each player will be aiming to fill their tower up with billboard tiles.
Billboard & Office Tiles – Players will be using these to fill up their tower. Billboard tiles act similarly to properties in that they can be bought or auctioned when landed on for the first time. Office tiles are special tiles that are rewarded to players who own all billboards of the same color (like a monopoly).
Chance & Empire Cards – These two decks act like Community Chest and Chance cards in that they provide players with bonuses or demerits, depending on the card.
Money & Dice – There’s not much to say regarding these, except that one of the dice has a “sneaky swap” icon that allows a player to swap their topmost billboard with someone else, if they so choose to.
Setup & Gameplay
The Chance and Empire cards are shuffled separately and placed onto their appropriate spaces on the board. Each billboard tile goes on its appropriate space as well. The four Electric Company and four Water Works billboard tiles go on their spaces. Each player claims a tower, which is then placed in the center of the board into the closest slot. Each player also gets a token (which starts on “GO”), two Empire cards (which are kept secret), and 1,000 in “Monopoly” money. One player is designated as the banker and the youngest player goes first.
On a player’s turn, they’ll roll the dice and move their token that many spaces. If they roll a double, they get to go again. Three doubles will send you to the jail space, where you’ll stay until you either pay 100, use a get out of jail free card, or roll doubles. If you’re in jail for three turns and don’t roll doubles, you’ll automatically pay 50 and use your last roll to move. Those who have played “Monopoly” won’t see anything new there. If they roll a sneaky swapper icon, they’ll have the option to swap their topmost billboard tile with someone else’s topmost billboard tile…though they don’t have to. If they do make use of this power, they won’t be allowed to move. If they don’t make use of this power, they can move the value of the other die.
When passing “GO”, you’ll collect your tower’s current value. The higher your tower, the more you’ll earn. Those without a billboard whatsoever still collect 50. When landing on an unowned billboard, you’ll have the option to buy it or auction it (like a property in “Monopoly”). After buying a billboard, you’ll immediately slide it into your tower which in turn increases your tower’s value. Collecting all of the same color set will award you with an office tile to place into your tower, though office tiles can be bought for 500. When landing on a space or billboard owned by another player, the offending player will pay the current value of the owner’s tower. This is a bit different from “Monopoly”, as properties there each have their own unique value.
Some other miscellaneous things to note:
1) Utilities, when landed on, don’t force others to pay rent.
2) The Free Parking space allows the player to pay 100 and move to any space on the board. If the player passes “GO”, they’ll collect the value of their tower as normal.
3) The Tower Tax space forces the current player to return their topmost billboard to the board. The Rival Tower Tax space allows the current player to return another player’s topmost billboard to the board.
4) Like in regular “Monopoly”, you draw a Chance or Empire card when you land on the appropriate space. Most Chance cards are used immediately, while most Empire cards can be saved until you’d like to use them on your turn.
The first player to completely fill their tower, wins the game!
The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you a good idea as to how the game is played. For more information, please see the links at the end of this article.
The components themselves were of good quality and pretty colorful. I was blown away by the ambience and color schemes…everything was just so eye-catching! I do think the numbers on the towers could have been colored differently so that they’d be easier to read. There are a lot of little pieces, so I’d highly recommend keeping smaller kids and animals away from the game. The manual was an easy-read and informative to boot…I had no issues understanding the rules on my first run-through. All in all, no problems in this department.
I honestly liked the idea of building a tower, though I think there’s the potential for a bit more here. The value of your tower increases the higher you go, meaning that you’ll earn more from other players and from passing “GO” towards the end of the game. While simplistic, this system is a hugely flawed, in my honest opinion. Had the game included some sort of rule set to balance and compensate for runaway leaders, that would be one thing. As it stands, once a player has pulled ahead of everyone else, it’s incredibly difficult for the losing players to catch up especially if they land on spaces owned by the current leader. This is a case where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I really would have liked to have seen some sort of tax or penalty introduced to either the current leader or to players individually based on their tower size. I’ll have to experiment further and create some house rules to combat this issue.
Anthony (17), Carolyn (14), and Vinnie (12), on the other hand, really enjoyed playing the game. All three kids were neck and neck all the way through, with me never owning more than two or three billboards. Every time I began to make headway, I’d land on someone else’s billboard and have to pay everything back and then some. A few of the Empire cards helped me a little, but there were just as many “Just Say No” interrupt cards in play, which prevented me from being able to catch up. The three kids expressed an interest in playing again and I would too, though only because they really seemed to like it.
The game does play fairly quickly, which is a bonus. On the other hand, it’s a bit less strategic than what I had expected. Having no properties to trade and houses/hotels to build really took the depth out of the “Monopoly” experience. The Chance and Empire cards further added to the chaos, either rewarding or penalizing players on a whim. I would have prefered to see more cards devoted to penalizing the current leader(s), which would have partially solved the runaway leader problem listed above. As such, “Monopoly Empire” is a decent game to bring out on family game night, but lacks the strategic prowess and maximum player count of the original. I’d recommend it for casual gamer families but not hardcore gamer groups…it’s just too random to appease the latter, I feel. Still, ten or twenty bucks isn’t a bad price all things considered. It was an “OK” game, but didn’t “WOW” me in any particular way (components aside). I would, however, play it again for the sake of spending time with the kids…which is what tabletop gaming is all about, is it not?
Final Verdict: 6/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Monopoly Empire” by visiting the following websites: