Hasbro is forcing us to choose.
The maker of Monopoly has announced that whichever one of the game’s eight iconic pieces — the iron, the racecar, the dog, the wheelbarrow, the thimble, the shoe, the top hat, whatever that other token is — gets the fewest votes online will not get to pass Go or collect $200 any longer. And it will be replaced by whichever of five new pieces — a cat, a robot, a diamond ring, a guitar, or a helicopter — strikes the public’s fancy.
Frankly, all the new tokens underwhelm me. Perhaps this is because of my innate aversion to all change. The Obama campaign in 2008 constantly terrified me; it was only in 2012 when their slogan became “Like the Past 4 Years, But More So,” that I was able to breathe freely.
Monopoly is one of those games that requires little skill or attention, beyond the ability to sit still for a long period of time and come up with arcane house rules to punish your visitors. As a child with exactly those skills, I loved it.
Here’s a breakdown of the obvious choices. Feel free to disagree!
Oddsmaker R.J. Bell of Pregame.com says the wheelbarrow has the best odds, 2-1, of being ousted because of “unstable board play” and it being “even less attractive to aspiring tycoons in today’s wired world.” That’s followed by the iron at 5-1 (“Who wants to iron in 2013?”); thimble, 6-1; battleship, 7-1; shoe, 8-1; and hat, 20-1. The two he thinks are pretty safe are the Scottie dog at 25-1 (“No one chooses to retire a dog”) and the race car, 30-1 (“Only if they want half as many kids to play”).
“No one chooses to retire a dog” are words to live by.
DOG: “No one chooses to retire a dog.” This is also my personal favorite: I always pick the dog, if only because for years I labored under the misapprehension that it was a cat.
RACECAR: It’s the right size, it moves well, and without it, Free Parking would be meaningless. “Place To Put Your Thimble With No Charge” just lacks a certain something.
THIMBLE: In theory, it has the same problems as the iron (too 1930s housewife-y), but in practice it is much more fun to play with, has better balance, and you can wear it on your finger like a hat if gameplay stalls.
HAT: Same pros as the thimble. Also, seems iconic for Monopoly, a game based on the premise that if you land randomly on enough properties, win second prize in enough beauty contests, and have enough money on hand, you, too, can become a monocle-and-hat-wearing titan of industry. Sometimes you have to dress the part before you get the part.
WHEELBARROW: The odds are correct. It doesn’t even roll! The wheelbarrow tips over constantly and undermines people’s confidence in the structural integrity of your hotels. (Although you could make the argument that it is worth keeping the wheelbarrow in the game so that Cousin Eustace can get what is clearly the lamest piece and his gameplay may suffer.)
IRON: This is weirdly sized. And who glorifies ironing any longer? I guess you could suggest that it is a powerful commentary on something to have the Iron rule the boardwalk, but — if you are the sort of person who talks about the iron making powerful commentaries, you probably are not fun to play Monopoly with.
BATTLESHIP: Is there someone out there who really likes battleships? If so, that person is playing the wrong board game. But it balances all right.
SHOE: I have no feelings about the shoe, but I hear Ernest Hemingway always used to pick it, saying that it was “in a word, the saddest story you would ever read about a one-legged baby.”
ROBOT: It has the right Things That Would Have Impressed People in the 1930s vibe to it. Futuristic, but not really. Also, look at the other options.
CAT: What is this cat doing? I don’t like it. The only time a cat should be on the Monopoly board is when yours is jumping up and disrupting gameplay by knocking your hotels over with its tail. I wish they’d gone with a scale image of Grumpy Cat, but I hear his manager makes it difficult to contact him.
GUITAR: Frankly, I can’t see how a guitar implies you have the right cut-throat business mentality to take on Marvin Gardens, but maybe I’m missing something. Even Hasbro’s Token Facts on USAToday.com notes that Maybe This Is A Reference To Those Kids Who Make It Big On The YouTube, so clearly we’re all grasping at straws here.
DIAMOND RING: I have mixed feelings about this one. It seems like it might be a choking hazard. Also, any gains in correctness-of-relative-scale achieved by getting rid of the creepily large thimble or the oddly tiny battleship would be totally offset by adding an Unusually Massive Ring.
HELICOPTER: Hey, you need free parking for a helicopter.