Well balanced and entertaining alternative to Monopoly,
= Durability: = Fun: = Educational:
This review is from: Hotel Tycoon Board Game (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It is not possible to do a review of a property-based game without comparison to the behemoth of the genre, Monopoly. I will assume that readers are familiar with that game.
I play-tested this game with my 9 year old daughter. This review is based on our experience
Unlike Monopoly, this is not a game that can be played straight out of the box. First you have a one-off construction task to do. The game features large "buildings", which are put together from plastic and cardboard. Most of these take the form of a flat cardboard template, which is folded into a rectangular tube. The ends of this tube then insert into plastic end-pieces that form the roof and base. To put all the pieces together took us a good 30 minutes, and I would say that it is sufficiently fiddly to be beyond a young child on their own. Given that the pieces will be used throughout the life of the game, it will be worth the investment of adult time at this stage to avoid future tears of disappointment. Even so, I managed to slightly rip one of the cardboard tubes, fitting it into the channels in the cap, and one of the more unusual pieces (a plastic dome with a cardboard insert) simply would not stay together. Both issues were solved with a little sellotape.
Once constructed, the pieces are surprisingly solid, and the tightness of the end-pieces (that makes construction tricky) also means that they stay together well. These buildings are definitely a "wow" factor for this game, compared to the little green and red blocks in Monopoly, with the tallest tower standing about 4 inches (10cm) high.
Also worth noting that, despite my fears, all the hotel pieces went back into the box (with careful packing) without needing to disassemble.
The board and other pieces:
The game is played on a colourful board. The play area consists of a winding circular road, divided into marked spaces. Alongside the road are `properties' - areas representing different hotel resorts, with spaces marked for the corresponding hotel buildings to go.
All the resorts are strongly themed, in Las Vegas style, and each has a clear dominant colour. The theme and colour is carried on through the buildings, an "overlay" which you put on top of the resort to "develop the grounds" and a `property card' corresponding to each resort which covers the cost of purchase, development and hotel charges. The clever use of graphics and colour meant that we never got confused about what went with what.
The other pieces involved are 4 coloured tokens (one for each player to move around the board); a supply of "money" in different denominations; two dice - one a normal 1-6 die, and the other a special die for property development (more later); and small red pieces representing "entrances" to the hotels (also, more later)
Players take turns to move their token round the road, throwing the 1-6 die. Each square on the board is marked with a symbol, determining the action that the player may (or must) take. These actions drive the actions in the game: purchasing a resort, developing a resort, creating an entrance to a resort.
In summary, the game goes something like this:
First phase is acquisition and construction. If you land on the right square, you can opt to buy a resort next to the square. If you have a resort and land on a development square, you can opt to build on the resort.
Building is not the simple Monopoly process where, provided you have the money, you build what you wish. You need planning permission. This is where the special die comes in. You declare what you wish to develop, then throw the die. Depending on what comes up, you may be denied permission, allowed permission, allowed permission but at double cost, or allowed permission at zero cost. As with Monopoly, judicious but aggressive development is the key to success. More developed properties can charge more for "guests" (other players) to stay, and the rewards escalate as the properties develop.
Once you have a resort and are developing it, you need to get some income. Apart from a "pass Go" type square, there is no other source on income (and for 2 players, the rules bar even this). Unlike Monopoly, players do not "land" on the resorts. Instead, resort owners develop "entrances" by placing a little red plastic rectangle at the edge of the road. Since each space on the road can only have an entrance on one side or the other, it is possible to largely "strangle" an opponent whose resort is on the other side of the road, by putting your entrances on many of the spaces before they do so. Entrances can be purchased once in each circuit of the board (at a particular point) or by landing on the right square you can get a free one.
When an opponent lands against one of your entrances, they have to "stay" at the resort. The 1-6 die is used to determine how many nights, and there is a grid on the property card to read off the cost depending on how "developed" the resort is.
So, the game progresses with players juggling money between purchases, with income coming in (or not) from hotel guests. I have always found Monopoly to be a bit of a grind after the initial flurry, and often the result is largely inevitable from early events in the game. Hotel Tycoon is a genuine roller-coaster by comparison. There are so many elements of luck - landing on the right space at the right time, landing on spaces that give free buildings/entrances, how many nights a guest stays. Playing with 2, our finances fluctuated up and down several times before the final result.
Unusually, the game was genuinely entertaining played by 2 (again, Monopoly is far less so). With 3 or 4, it would be even better. With 2, we never had enough money or inclination to buy all the resorts, so we each had as many as we wanted/could afford. With 3-4, the competition and fluctuations would be even greater.
Although it will never challenge Monopoly as the "classic" of the genre, I think Hotel Tycoon wins out on several points:
- The hotel pieces are genuinely impressive - large and dramatic - and the board, etc. are all gorgeous and colourful
- The additional elements of luck serve to greatly even the playing field for players of different ages and strategic abilities, and bring entertaining changes of fortune throughout
- The game was relatively quick to play. The blurb says 40 mins, I would say it took us more like an hour and a half, but that was first play, so might speed up as we got more experienced/ruthless! Monopoly sometimes goes on for days!
- There are several options given in the game instructions to vary the rules, to speed up or simplify the game. This gives some flexibility to match the gameplay to your preferences.
My only concerns would be:
- Careful construction needed at the start, with adult supervision/involvement, to avoid spoiling the hotel pieces
- There are enough rules that you will need to refer to instructions constantly for the first play. Nothing is hard or complicated, and all quite well explained, but the nature of the game means there is some inherent complexity to get your head round (no different to Monopoly there)
Overall, this game is a winner.