If there’s one fun, friends-and-family pastime that’s sure to drive a temporary wedge between even the best of pals, it’s Hasbro’s Monopoly. The brutal banking-and-buying game that sees players attempting to out-earn, out-bid, and outlast their competitors may be marketed as teaching basic math and money-management skills, but it’s also infamous for pointing out your family members’ particular corporate sins. (Dad gets sticky fingers when he’s the banker, and your brother always hides an extra Benjamin under the board when he thinks no one is looking.) So with a new twist on an old favorite, Hasbro’s Monopoly has gotten decidedly more villainous by design.
Hasbro’s Monopoly: Disney Villains edition embraces the antagonistic side of both the Disney universe and the game’s mechanics itself by letting players take control of the villains for once and pitting them all against each other. You don’t have to feel bad when Jafar steals money from Cruella, or when Hook re-rolls out of paying rent on Maleficent’s property, because all of these characters are dastardly do-wrongs. You just want to be the last king or queen or villain in between when the dust settles.
Hasbro was kind enough to send me a free copy of Monopoly: Disney Villains to review, but if you’re not familiar with the classic game or characters, here’s the synopsis:
Imagine classic Disney villains stealing, scheming, and competing to see who is the most evil of all! In this Monopoly: Disney Villains Edition Game, players travel around the board using a villain token and play as Cruella, Jafar, Scar, Evil Queen, Maleficent, or Hook. The more villains a player hires, the more rent they’ll be able to collect. Activate a character’s special ability by acquiring the Flames of Power ring, change gameplay with Poison Apple cards, and advance on the board by landing on a Vehicle space. The last player with money when all other players have gone bankrupt wins!
I’ll spare you from going over the particulars of Monopoly rules because they’re largely the same as they have been for decades. It suffices to say that your player character — represented by a villain token — moves around the perimeter of the game board via die rolls (singular in this edition). You want to land on properties you can afford to own while avoiding those your competitors own, especially if you can’t afford to pay. That’s the crux of it, and Monopoly: Disney Villains keeps those basics intact. It’s in the changes, however, that the truly devilish fun begins.
Let’s start with the characters: Each of the tokens comes with an associated game card explaining that villain’s particular ability. “Abilities?” you ask. Yes! This is a great addition to the edition, a clever tweak that adds strategy to choosing your token before the game even begins. (For my paper play money, Hook is your best bet. The crafty captain is the only character who can re-roll, a powerful and multi-faceted ability.) Players can pick their favorite Disney Villain or just take a chance on which one of them they think will help win the game. But here’s the catch: Your Villain’s ability is only active if you wear the crown of the Flames of Power!
This is the next big change to the original game. A little translucent green ring of flames adorns your chosen token if you’re the first player to Pass Go. That’s the Flames of Power, and it activates your special ability. BUT! As soon as another players passes go, so too passes the crown. (Again, Hook’s ability to re-roll may help you keep the power longer than other players.) This is a super-fun addition to the game and will absolutely cause fist-fights to break out more often than they normally do in plain-old, bog-standard Monopoly. Delight in it.
Other minor changes include the swap of Poison Apple cards in for Community Chest cards; they amount to much of the same thing. Occasionally they’ll have a quote from a classic Disney Villain. (One of our House Rules was that if you could quickly and correctly identify who said the line, you’d get 1 Monopoly Buck to add to your pot. Another rule was to dump “taxes” and cash penalties into the center pot; whoever landed on the otherwise useless Free Parking space first got to cash in on it.) The last change is in the “railroad” properties; these are no longer spaces to purchase but rather villainous conveyances that can take you to any spot on the board, just without the bonuses that come with Passing Go. It’s a great blend of new, fresh, and relevant changes to a classic game with time-tested mechanics.
Hasbro did skimp a bit on the quality of the tokens themselves though. They’re sufficiently weighty but good luck distinguishing the normally instantly recognizable villains out of context. For example, Scar looks like a vaguely lionesque statue that’s been weathered by time while Cruella’s coat is without a defining detail, a fashion faux pas at the very least. The artwork elsewhere, however, is gorgeous, pulled right from Disney greats. I could have done with a re-imagining of both Free Parking and the Jail corners, but I digress; Hasbro never does this, for some strange reason. And the “cash” is simplified by using pressboard punch-out tokens rather than stacks of cash, a similar treatment found in other branded Monopoly properties. Overall, those minor marks against the game are outweighed by the mustache-twirling machinations you’ll get to employ.
Sometimes it’s just more fun to be the villain.