Fortnite Monopoly is a much better board game than anyone expected
The only edition worth playing this Christmas?
Like many board game enthusiasts, I have little interest in Monopoly. I think of it as a game that lives off franchise reskins and never really innovates on rules that have largely remained unchanged since 1935. It’s also a simple game. That might appeal to some people, but not to me.
Yet Monopoly: Fortnite Edition has not only caught my interest, but become the board game I’ve most wanted to play in recent years.
The reason for this was initially straightforward: it’s a funny idea for a crossover. Hasbro making a Fortnite Monopoly game sounds like a teacher trying to get down with the kids by dabbing; it’s extremely dorky. I had to have it.
But reading through the rules, I found this was the game I never expected them to make. It takes big swings, changes up Monopoly’s core rules and, remarkably, feels like an entirely new game.
Like, how much money do you start off with? None! This edition gets rid of money and replaces it with hit points.
Then, how are you rewarded for winning second prize in a beauty contest? You aren’t! The Community Chest has been replaced with the Loot Chest. You gain single-use items like guns, chug jugs, bushes, traps, bombs and walls.
Monopoly Fortnite takes big swings, changes up the core rules and, remarkably, feels like an entirely new game.
Wait, did you say walls? Yep! If you walk into a wall while moving, you’re forced to stop, even if there’s a trap there. However, if you’re standing behind a wall, it serves as cover and you cannot be harmed by any attack.
Can I play as a shoe or a thimble? Absolutely not. Instead, you pick your favourite Fortnite skin, such as Fishstick, Peely, Meowscles, the Troy Baker-voiced Jonesy or one of the 23 other classic Fortnite characters.
How does the game end? When the other players straight up kill your character! Then, whoever lands on your space first gets your loot. Only the last surviving player wins.
That’s right: one of the Fortnite edition’s biggest swings is adding tactical combat to Monopoly. I’ve mentioned the wall mechanic, but this game also uses line of sight: You can only shoot another player if they’re on the same side of the board as you. If you’re on a corner square, you can shoot - or be shot - across more than half the board. Certain items also let you snipe anyone on the board, regardless of line of sight. Or you can throw a bomb at everyone.
I love all this not only because these are wild things to find in a Monopoly game, but it also shows how well the hyper-competitiveness of Monopoly meshes with a third-person battle royale video game. Monopoly: Fortnite Edition knows itself as a demonstration of ultra capitalism and then takes the idea further. You can still backstab your fellow players, leave traps for them and target the weakest to get ahead, but this time it's literalised.
Many returning Monopoly players may worry this edition is too complex, but fret not: this is still a very uncomplicated game, which remains a blessing, but also a curse.
This is a game that largely runs itself. It’s rolling dice, occasionally deploying a loot card, choosing which player to shoot until you get lucky and win.
You might assume, for instance, that after finishing your movement, you choose whether to shoot, heal, build or, um, throw a boogie bomb. Instead, you roll an action die to determine your action. You might try to heal while at full health or shoot when nobody’s in sight. So when playing, you don’t really make meaningful choices.
You choose the starting space the Battle Bus drops you on, but it makes little difference after the first round. You can claim locations for free when you land on them, so it’s foolish not to. You move the amount of spaces the die tells you, except if you have the one loot card that says otherwise. You can deploy a loot card at any time, but they’re single use and there are only four loot chest spaces on the entire board.
The sum total of this is a game that largely runs itself. It’s rolling dice, occasionally deploying a loot card, choosing which player to shoot until you get lucky and win. It’s like the biggest choice you make is which skin you choose.
It remains a basic game and I’d be lying if I said I was entirely pleased with it. Yet it still has a hold on me. Popular games tend to be more conservative in their design; I love when creators are allowed to take big swings. Fortnite has become almost an experimental art piece that makes players float in space for 26 hours after its in-game universe explodes and holds virtual music concerts. It’s a bizarre experience that isn’t often seen outside of the weirdest indie developers. I want major corporations to feel like they have to keep coming up with very interesting and unexpected changes to keep the audience on their toes. Anything but another boring reskin.