Most people like the idea of Monopoly more than the actual game itself. They like to make reference to Get Out of Jail Free cards and Monopoly money in conversation, but then complain about how the game “never ends” and always ruins family game night.
Part of the reason an 85-year-old game that everyone hates has stayed relevant in 2020 is because it is constantly being reinvented. In recent years, Hasbro has released editions of the game with countless themes, from Game of Thrones and Fortnite to Frozen 2 and Lion King. If you’re a GOT fan—even if you don’t like Monopoly—you have to have the GOT-themed game. Tack on the word “collector’s edition,” like Hasbro did for its Stranger Things edition, and fans of the show just can’t resist. All these special editions are not to mention the many variations of the original Monopoly game itself that have been released throughout the years, such as the Cheaters Edition, Monopoly Speed and the 85th anniversary edition. Hard-core Monopoly fans, like collector Neil Scallan, the Guinness World Record holder for the largest collection of Monopoly editions (he purchased his 2,00th game in 2017), buy up such games just to say they’ve played them.
If you haven’t noticed, I’m a fan myself, mostly because I actually do like the game; if played correctly and without “house rules” it really does come to an end sometime. I love the challenge of taking a handful of low-valued properties, making some good trade moves and, with a bit of luck, coming out on top. (The game’s real-world implications, however, in which one can only win when others go bankrupt, I’m less fond of.) But even I can’t resist a special edition game—in addition to the classic Monopoly, I also own Star Wars Monopoly (not my favorite) and National Parks Monopoly (as good as the original), and I grew up playing a knock-off game called Horse-Opoly, which wasn’t produced by Hasbro (fun anyway). So, when I saw that Adirondack Trust Company was promoting the release of a City of Saratoga Springs edition, I was all in.
In 2019, Adirondack Trust Company got approval from Hasbro to create the game as a fundraiser for its Community Fund, and thanks to support from local businesses, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Cooley Group in Rochester, the game became available to the public earlier this summer. This was a first for the city—a game called Saratogaopoly has existed for years, but, like Horse-Opoly, it wasn’t created by Hasbro. Other cities, such as Las Vegas, London and New York City also have Hasbro-made Monopoly games.
By the time I got around to buying the game, Putnam Market was already sold out. (They were planning to get another shipment in a few days.) With the downtown Adirondack Trust office being closed (it was Sunday), I ran over to Impressions of Saratoga and found a stack right at the front of the store. It was $49.99. (For a full list of retailers carrying the game, click here. You can also purchase it online, but there’s an additional $15.99 shipping cost.)
The game comes with everything a traditional Monopoly game would come with, but with a Saratoga twist. The money is custom Adirondack Trust Company currency, the houses and hotels are called carriage houses and mansions and the tokens are Saratoga icons—a horse, Saratoga Springs City Hall, the Columbian Spring, a Pitney Meadows tractor, a Saratoga Battlefield Cannon and the Spit & Spat fountain. The board, which features a photo of the Spirit of Life fountain by local photographer Randall Perry, is also custom: Four local hotels replace the traditional railroads, Saratoga Water Services Inc. replaces Water Works and Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce membership fees replaces Luxury Tax.
The order of the properties, which are replaced with Saratoga businesses such as Druthers and Skidmore College, is my one small complaint about the game. While I thought it was fitting that Saratoga Race Course and Saratoga Performing Arts Center took the place of Boardwalk and Park Place, I didn’t think the overall order of the properties was necessarily fitting. For one, Stewart’s Shops, a regional behemoth with more than 300 stores, was one of the pink properties, valued at only $140, while Sunnyside Gardens was one of the yellow properties valued at $260. Saratoga Hospital is one of the brown properties, worth a mere $60.
Besides that, the game was a blast. Usually, I don’t pay attention to what the Community Chest and Chance cards say—I just skip to the bottom to see if I collect $200 (the best card) or have to pay $40 per house and $115 per hotel (the worst card, if you’ve already developed your properties). But in this game, I read every single “Adirondack Trust Company Community Fund” and “Saratoga Sponsor-A-Scholar” card out loud, because they all have to do with Saratoga. A few of my favorites are “You got caught chasing ducks around Congress Park. Pay $100.” and “You bought a round of Oboys. Collect $10 from every player.”
So, whether you like Monopoly or not, if you’re a Saratogian, I’d suggest you get in on America’s favorite—or is it least favorite?—board game.