Monopoly lands on Facebook: Will it pass go or go directly to jail?

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If there's one thing you can say in favor of Monopoly Millionaires -- the new Facebook version of the classic board game -- is that you don't have to worry about the designated banker swiping extra Monopoly money from the till when no one's looking. In fact, you don't even have to worry about finding people to play the game with you at a designated time, this game takes the 2+ player experience and turns it into a game you can play with dozens of friends ... whenever you want.

In theory, that all sounds fantastic, but the end product falls somewhere between gloriously nostalgic and vaguely confusing. For board game enthusiasts, it could take a while to get used to the idea of playing Monopoly without other people sitting around a table and playing at the same time. At some points in the game, I felt thrilled about re-visiting good old Park Place and getting an extra $400 at the Community Chest, and then was left scratching my head trying to figure out what happens when you land on someone else's property and when someone lands on yours.

The first step to understanding Monopoly Millionaires on Facebook is that every player has their own game board. On your own board, you set up houses and hotels on different properties, deck out other parts of the boards with decorations and set up traps on your board that will cost other players extra cash, force them to move two extra spaces, lose a roll, etc, when they pass by.

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The rest of the game is played by visiting friends' Monopoly boards. Visit a friend's board and then roll the die to make your move around the virtual game board, landing on properties, utilities, Community Chest, Chance or the dreaded 'Go to Jail.' You start out with a limited number of rolls and once they're used up, you can buy more rolls using Monopoly Gold (which costs real-life cash), you can beg your friends to send rolls via a Facebook wall post or you can wait patiently until your rolls regenerate over time. I found that I ran out of rolls too quickly, and was left with nothing else to do but leave the game and check in on my FarmVille crops.

Properties work a little differently in Monopoly Millionaires than they do in the board game. When you land on a property, you will then be asked to choose a card from several displayed onscreen. If you choose wisely, you will be rewarded with a property card, which can then be used to upgrade your houses that sit on those same properties on your board. You don't actually pay friends from your stash if you land on their properties, (and you get money when people land on your properties) The more you upgrade houses, the more money you'll get when someone lands on the property or when you 'harvest' your house (kind of like you do in CityVille) every few hours. To upgrade your hotels, you'll need help from friends, which you can get by posting a message on your Facebook wall. Other social interactions in the game include sending each other free gifts, and, for now, that's pretty much as social as this game gets.

My biggest gripe? Since you don't actually pay your friends money for landing on their properties, the competitive edge to the game seems to be missing. Aside from the passive leaderboard at the bottom of the page, there's no real way to 'win' the game. And, isn't that really what Monopoly was all about -- bankrupting your friends and then gloating by waving your fat wad of Monopoly money in their faces? I deeply appreciate the idea of bringing Monopoly to Facebook, but it will need to cater more to players' competitive sides (much like PopCap's Bejeweled Blitz and Zuma Blitz) to strike social gaming gold.

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