There have been dozens upon dozens of Monopoly variations released since the board game formerly known as The Landlord’s Game was rechristened almost a century ago. There’s a Monopoly for every pop culture mainstay from Fortnite to Warhammer 40,000, every place from Swindon to Coronation Street, and even self-aware editions that make light of the game’s interminable length and bank-robbing cheaters (without actually making it any more enjoyable to play).
Yet, somehow, there has only been one Monopoly game that’s really worth playing - and, dare I say it, that’s actually... fun? Monopoly haters, prepare to eat your top hat token: Monopoly Deal is a Monopoly that’s good.
Monopoly Deal is a card game version of the classic board game that takes everything you’re familiar with from the original and turns it into a single deck of cards. Cards can be properties from around the board, arranged into their familiar colour-coded sets, money cards or action cards. Setup - especially for a Monopoly game - is startlingly quick: shuffle the whole deck together, deal five cards to each player and you’re ready to go. No need to check how much cash each player starts with or argue over how Free Parking works.
What’s particularly impressive about Monopoly Deal is the fact that it manages to still feel like Monopoly. On your turn, you draw two cards and then play three: adding a card to the properties in front of you, playing a card to your bank (action cards can instead be turned into money) or using an action card. The aim is to complete three sets of properties before your opponents. It’s Monopoly distilled to its very basics: collecting properties, charging rent, building up your fortune and outlasting your rivals.
The slow, painful crush of an inevitable winner in Monopoly becomes the electric shock of Deal.
More specifically, Monopoly Deal is the meanest parts of Monopoly. It’s a card game all about “Take that!” moments - charging so much rent on your set of Park Lane and Mayfair (plus a hotel) that your cash-strapped opponent is forced to give you some of their properties to cover the cost, swapping cards using Forced Deals and even nicking entire sets using powerful Deal Breaker cards. In other words, it’s a game where almost every move is a dick move.
But somehow, it works. When the inherent capitalist cruelty of Monopoly is packed into 10 minutes rather than multiple hours, the frustration is washed away quickly enough to make it an enjoyably warm bloodbath. Monopoly Deal fits into the same kind of dagger-shaped hole as Love Letter: it’s vicious, random and often unfair, but never hangs around long enough to matter. The slow, painful crush of an inevitable winner in Monopoly becomes the electric shock of Deal. The sting fades fast, and you’ll soon be tempted to grasp the wire again.
Monopoly Deal succeeds where Monopoly fails because it leans into the parts of the classic family game that people remember, but erases the tedious moments between. The luck of rolling becomes the luck of drawing cards, but there are no wasted turns spent sat in jail, fruitless attempts to strike a trade with another player or desperate reliance for someone to land on your square - opportunities to steal what you need, charge rent and force players to give up their precious properties come thick and fast.
Deal succeeds where Monopoly fails because it leans into the parts of the classic family game that people remember, but erases the tedious moments between.
It also understands that Monopoly is about being bad. Players are the villains of the world - landlords, debt collectors, wealth hoarders - and the ruthless gameplay doesn’t pretend otherwise. It’s maybe the truest successor to Elizabeth Magie’s satirical Landlord’s Game since the original, capturing the all-for-one spirit of capitalism without bothering to dabble in any possible philanthropy or diplomacy. There are no Community Chest cards, and you can’t trade, auction or even pay tax - which seems about right.
Monopoly Deal isn’t a fantastic game in a vacuum, but it’s easily the best Monopoly out there. If you can stomach its mean-spirited free-for-all, it’s an entertaining twist on the board game that understands why Monopoly sucks - and somehow makes that fun while still staying true to the classic. Yes, it’s still Monopoly, but don’t let that be a deal-breaker.