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OED definition: "Monopoly (noun) - the exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service". Not always a good thing economically, especially when capitalist pigs take over, but there's no denying it makes for a good board game. So, as crazy as it sounds, for those few who are unaware of the Monopoly game here is a quick run-down of how it all works based upon the original British version:
In a game for 2-6 players aged 8+ your true capitalist nature is represented by either an iron, a wheelbarrow, a Scottie dog, a cannon, a car, a top hat, a boot, a battleship, or a thimble (either in, on or as...I guess it must be "as" since swanning down Mayfair in a wheelbarrow will most likely get you ostracised by your rich peers...or promoted as the Mayor of London...not sure which is worse) which you move round the streets of London searching for properties to buy and build on. There are 22 streets to develop on split into 8 groups, 4 stations and 2 utility companies to buy each at differing values, but the more you spend buying houses and eventually hotels, the more you can charge in rent.
Each player starts with £1,500 (back in the days when you could buy more than a cardboard box with that amount of money) and rolls two dice to determine how many spaces to move. If you land on an unsold property you can buy it or elect not to if you're feeling skint. Passing Go will add £200 to your bank balance, but there are plenty of traps with taxes lurking around the corner, not to mention your ruthless opponents trying to bankrupt you whilst building up their own property empire by charging you rent if you have the misfortune of stepping on their territory. If that's not hard enough, fate often intervenes in the form of a Chance or Community Chest card which is sometimes lucrative, but often hinders your progress. Plus, the law seems particularly overzealous and you will often find yourself in jail for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time or rolling too many doubles with all your assets frozen, but if you are good at throwing doubles the prison wardens tend to let you out, or if that fails a bribery of £50 seems to do the trick. The winner is the last inanimate object (apart from the dog) standing after all others have had to sell off their assets one by one to pay off ludicrous debts while your stockpile of illicit gains grows until you have a complete monopoly.
That's pretty much the gist of how the game of Monopoly (owned by Parker Brothers/Hasbro and traced back as far as 1904 and commercially in 1935) works and since its inception I think there is up to about 78,964 different variations of the game...oh how I exaggerate - it is probably closer to 1,700 but one of the best variations I have found is the unofficial game Cat-opoly, inspired by Monopoly but manufactured by the company Late for the Sky.
Rather obviously this game is all about cats so if you're not a cat lover, avoid. So, what are the main differences? Well, the playing pieces are now a bed, a milk bottle, a ball of twine, a fish, a mouse and a food bowl and instead of buying properties, you get to buy exotic cats...and I guess pay rent/a fee if you stroke them or something. Each cat's rent is determined by how many litter boxes they have with the ultimate dream to have a fishbone, nobody cares about puny houses or hotels in this game. There are still taxes, with an irritating Dog Tax to have to pay, plus severe fines for fleas, and you still get busted for lawlessness but since no jail could hold a cat they are instead cast into water. When Fate takes it upon itself to intervene it now does so through either Purrrfect or Cat-astrophe cards. Go has become Scat, Free Parking has become Free Catnip, the stations become Cool Cats, Scaredy Cats, Copy Cats and Stray Cats and the utilities are now a scratching post and a mouse. I'm not going to go through all 22 cats, but there's an amazing array of exotic breeds such as the Egyptian Mau, Maine Coon, Persian, Sphynx and at the more bargain end the British Shorthair and Ocicat.
But to be honest, apart from the aesthetics this is where the differences mostly end, the gameplay is exactly the same as with normal Monopoly, with the same frustrations of fiddling with $1 notes to pay stupid $14 rents, the same anguished cries when your opponents land time and time again in between your fishbone owning cats thus avoiding extortionate rents and, when they finally do, naturally you're in the water with your assets frozen whilst at every opportunity you land on your opponents' cats in a seemingly planned and unerringly sequential manner. You also get the same frustrations as your pile of cats become barer and more mortgaged as you inch closer and closer towards bankruptcy. If you have a lot of players the game can also take a very long time to complete and it does start to drag a little after a while - we're talking hours here so you may want to pre-arrange a time limit. I always forget how much I hate losing this game to the point people have to keep sharp objects away from me. Although, some people are actually capable of winning this game (never me), so for them they probably experience the euphoric highs of destroying all competition.
The Purrrfect and Cat-astrophe cards also offer up a lot more spicy benefits/hindrances with such extra things as stealing your opponent's fish bones for 3 moves, moving all playing pieces to a space of your choice, losing your next go, your cat getting stuck in a tree so moving back 7 spaces, running a Cat Parade which all opponents are forced to watch for $25 and so on. You still also get the same domestic disputes with accusations over money mismanagement and the usual controversy where everyone seems to be playing different rules to everyone else, like if the option to purchase a cat is passed up it then goes to auction, or collecting fine money if you land on Free Catnip etc so it is handy to have the rules and/or police on standby, but somehow the quirks of this game make it all a little bit more light-hearted. On top of all the fairly imaginative and clever attention to cat-like detail which will probably tickle all the cat-lovers out there, each of the 22 purchasable cats have fun little facts on the back of their cards, for example, "Cats rub up against other cats, and people, in an attempt to mark them with their scent glands." - just ewww.
So, whilst Cat-opoly is simply another variation on the game of Monopoly, and whilst I may be biased as a cat lover, I find all the attention to detail and little twists on the fate cards from the original really brighten up this version, and my only real niggle is you can only get a US version so are forced to deal in dollars rather than pounds, but that really is a silly niggle. I would say this version is probably best suited to cat-lovers as what makes this game stand out is how it is directed at this target market so if you really can't stand cats I wouldn't recommend it for you, but if you love them then this game is purrfect...Damn it (©Jack Bauer)! I swore to myself I wouldn't use that pun. Finally, it is, however, not the easiest game to get hold of; I purchased it from The Cat Gallery for £25 which I think is probably the most you'd want to pay, so do shop around on price.