Beyond the Byline: Add, don’t discard, Monopoly pieces

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected] | March 18th, 2017 10:33 am - updated: 9:50 pm.

WILKES-BARRE — Long ago, in a far-away place, before electronic games were ever even thought of, rainy days would find children gathered around the kitchen table playing board games.

And the most popular board game of all — at least in my neighborhood — was Monopoly.

What was great about Monopoly was that everyone could play — little kids, bigger kids, adults — it didn’t matter. Once you grasped the spirit of the game — buy everything and destroy your opponents’ will to exist — you could win.

And the games often got spirited. Right from the start, there would be arguments over who would get what piece as their very own to travel around the board. Sometimes we would have to put the names of the pieces in a box or hat and draw them out.

Although that was the fairest way to handle it, I can recall at least one incident (more like 20) when someone quit because they got a piece they just couldn’t accept, like the iron, or the thimble or the purse. Usually, one of the adults would find a way to resolve these issues and allow for a swapping of pieces.

And then the game would begin — roll the dice, buy a property, go to jail, inherit $200, pass Go. And neighborhoods would begin to rise up, eventually leading to hotels and, after a couple of hours, a winner would become apparent. By this time, the rain hopefully would have stopped, and we could go outside and play.

So on Friday — St. Patrick’s Day, mind you — you can understand why I was upset to see a story on the Times Leader website about Hasbro’s decision to swap out some traditional, iconic Monopoly pieces for some new ones.

According to the Associated Press story, “The boot has been booted, the wheelbarrow has been wheeled out, and the thimble got the thumbs down in the latest version of the board game Monopoly. In their place will be a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a penguin and a rubber ducky. The existing Scottish Terrier, battleship, race car, top hat and cat tokens will carry on.”

Are you kidding me? A rubber ducky?

The story says more than 4.3 million voters from 146 countries weighed in on which tokens they wanted to see in future versions of the property-acquisition game, which is based on the real-life streets of Atlantic City.

Not to question the authenticity of this “vote,” or to cast any doubt over the integrity of the process, but nobody asked me what I thought. Were any of you asked to participate in this vote?

Jonathan Berkowitz, identified as Hasbro’s senior vice president of marketing, said he grew up playing the game with his family. Berkowitz said he was “sad to see the iconic thimble, boot, and wheelbarrow tokens go, but it will be fun to have some new, fan-sourced tokens in the mix.”

I can see adding some pieces to try to attract some younger players to the game. But why discard any of the old ones?

After some extensive research — on Google — I found that the original six tokens were the top hat, thimble, iron (now retired), shoe, battleship and cannon (also now retired). A few more were added in 1935 and 1936 — the race car, and the retired trio of the purse, rocking horse and lantern. Then in the 1950s, the Scottie dog, wheelbarrow, horse and rider (retired) and sack of money (retired) were added. The cat was added in 2013.

The AP story says Monopoly was “born” on March 19, 1935, when Parker Brothers acquired the rights to it. In the decades since, an estimated 1 billion people have weighed the merits of buying up utilities and railroads or trying to hit it big with Boardwalk hotels.

The game was always fun to play, but the real motive behind anyone’s desire to win at this game always rested on which piece you would choose. With a battleship or cannon or race car in hand, you always felt over-confident when going against an iron, a thimble or a shoe.

That was the first journey into the psychology of winning. This is how we learned to get in our opponent’s head, a strategy later used on the backyard basketball court and the baseball field in the street.

Monopoly was always fun, even when I had to accept defeat of my battleship to my cousin’s thimble.

Bill O’Boyle O’Boyle

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]