Unpacking the Monopoly box, I started to get a bit excited. Granted, this is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Monopoly, a fair reason to be excited, but it was also because it had been so long since I last played the classic board game Monopoly and I couldn’t wait to get a game going. Monopoly is so fun.
Monopoly have been doing ‘themed’ sets for a while. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is very much the Park Lane of my favourite things, so this was one I was particularly keen to have a look at. It’s based on the current cartoon show from Nickelodeon, which is terrific and comes highly recommended.
Over Christmas, I sat down versus my wife for a game of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Monopoly (I know, Monopoly is less fun with two people), because nothing strengthens a marriage like simulated property warfare.
“No, I’m being Michelangelo!”
The game pieces included in the set are beautiful. They’re tiny, detailed Ninja Turtles. There’s also a Splinter and a Shredder, who is the smart choice if you’re looking to be a ruthless tycoon with no mercy and forearm blades. These metal tokens are so great that they were responsible for the first argument of the game.
After a little back and forthing, we settled on Leonardo and Donatello, because no one was willing to give up on Michelangelo and somehow Raphael got pulled into the bitter dispute too. But that’s fine. Leonardo can lead all he wants, without Donatello doing machines… you know what? We don’t need to get into this again. It’s honestly fine.
The front of the box boasts that these are ‘Exclusive tokens’. I’ll take a moment to question why this is on there; of course they are. Where else would you expect to find tiny Ninja Turtles Monopoly pieces? Or are they just clarifying that Splinter isn’t a standard Monopoly piece? I seem to remember them replacing the iron from traditional Monopoly sets a few years ago, so I suppose it may be important to highlight that they didn’t replace it with a giant mutant rat.
In the centre of the board you get a big lovely action shot of the Turtles with the city behind them and some supporting characters dotted about. The places have all been renamed, with the exception of the big ‘uns like ‘Go’ ‘Go to Jail’, ‘Jail’ and ‘Free Parking’. Everything else, though, has been named after a location in the recent cartoon series.
It is worth noting that the show really hasn’t been running that long and aren’t that many places in it. Locations like ‘Rooftops’ and ‘Alleyways’ are included, despite that slightly muddling the idea of a game about buying property. I’m no expert, but I think a roof is usually considered to be a part of the package when you buy the building below it. I suppose there were going to be some problems in mashing together the not entirely suited concepts of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and property trading. You’re going to have to meet them halfway is all I’m saying.
Then there are the cards. They’ve been changed from ‘Chance’ and ‘Community Chest’ to ‘Turtle Power’ and ‘Mutagen’. That’s about it as far as alterations go, though, and again, most of them don’t make sense, contextually. Like, I don’t know how, as Donatello, I get a speeding fine. If I get caught speeding by the police, that’s a game changer. Mutant Turtle taken into custody, handed over to scientists or the military, Michael Bay probably gets involved (I bet he’s brilliant at Monopoly). It would just be a huge thing; a blockbuster, even. A $20 fine would likely be the least of my worries.
But certainly the cards would have benefited from further customisation.
Everyone has their own way of playing Monopoly and it’s up to you to employ a strategy that you’re comfortable with. My wife and I have different strategies, which eliminates some of the competition for buying certain properties. She’s a volume buyer. She likes lots of mid-range properties. In the case of Ninja Turtles Monopoly, she ended up spending a lot of money on sewers.
I prefer to buy fewer, but higher end, properties. The most expensive properties are Donnie’s Lab and Splinter’s Dojo. The vehicles are all nifty Ninja Turtles vehicles from the show. I put The Shellraiser on my shopping list, too. Not really a tactical decision, but I really wanted The Shellraiser because it’s cool. My favourite alteration is the changing of the ‘Power Station’ to ‘Kraang Power Cell’, which is brilliant but probably only if you’ve been watching the show, which we’ve covered (you should be).
There is little different in this version of Monopoly that will impact on your ability to cheat. I had incorrectly expected brighter notes, which would have made sneaking a few pre-game $500 bills more difficult. So, it’s just dirty business as usual. Swiping property cards, moving houses/hotels, ‘miscounting’ moves and general mischievery continue to be dictated by your moral compass (mine points south) and your cunning (mine went south some time ago and I couldn’t cheat if I wanted to, which I desperately did).
No, it’s fine. Just keep playing.
Brief squabbles over minor variations in how we played Monopoly as kids kicked off about 10 minutes in, which isn’t at all bad going. Yes, the answers do lie in the rule sheet that came in the box. No, we didn’t refer to it at all. If you like the rules so much you read them.
Contrary to my suspicions, a brief stay in jail did not make me seem like a sexually attractive bad boy to my wife. It made me seem like “an idiot who can’t roll a double.”
“But, an idiot how? How does rolling a double make someone not an idiot? How dare you!”
“Okay, you’re not an idiot, you’re just petulant, stupid and losing quite badly.”
“Thank you. Oh look, I had a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card the entire time. Can I have my money back and just use it now?”
“How dare you!”
Deep, burning resentment
How long does it take for civility to break down and for you to turn on the people you love? Over a board game? Well, for us it took 19 minutes. Again, this was pretty good going when weighed against our previous games, and that’s something I attribute to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theming, so that’s another plus for this set. The minus against it is the hour we spent at war, with insults being traded that were too incisive to be taken as gamesmanship. They were brutal.
Particularly hard for me to swallow was that my wife was beating me at a game themed after my beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I couldn’t even work out how she was cheating, which she definitely was.
I’ll concede here that I perhaps added to tensions by shouting “Booyakasha!” and “Cowabunga” every time I moved my game piece. That was my fault. I’ve learned a lesson from that and I’d say that I’m unlikely to do it again.
My attempts to generate money weren’t working. You know what? Actual estate agents do charge admin fees, so I don’t think it is cheating if I charge a percentage to pass you the property card. But apparently that wasn’t allowed.
By the end of the game I was quite aware that I’d perfectly executed a terrible game plan. I opened up two hotels in the hidden, underground lair of four mutant turtles and a mutant rat. Even if customers did know these hotels existed, they were only accessible via the New York sewers. What kind of business plan was this? An infuriating one, particularly when your wealth is being chipped away every time you take a stroll across a rooftop or a ride in a Patrol Buggy. Eventually, you’ve got almost nothing left. But then, just when you need it, just when you’re on your ‘once more round the board then finish’, she’s right there. All it will take is for her to roll a 6 or an 8 and then she’s paying out big time to stay at the Splinter’s Dojo Hilton. She rolls a 7.
The board is sturdy. It survived being thrown against a wall. The pieces were also very easy to find and none of them broke, in spite of some stamping.
The severity of the fallout will depend on how seriously you take Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In my household we take it very seriously indeed, so the problems this game caused were quite severe. To start out, I just needed someone to be angry with, so I watched a few episodes of the live action series Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. Of course, that’s a kind of hatred that’s difficult to sustain, and the show is so incredibly awful that I soon moved on to simple, quiet sulking.
I had to read a lot of comics to get out of my funk. Full arcs, spin-offs and one shots. Hardback volumes, trade collections and digital singles. It took the addition of cartoons, both old and new, to get me back to normal over the course several weeks.
All in all, then, I’d rate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Monopoly quite highly. It’s a fun twist on the traditional game, albeit a minor one, that just freshens things up a touch.
Onto the next game, then…
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