You might wonder why you'd want one of the best Monopoly board game alternatives. With endless local editions and huge sales figures, Monopoly is one of the world's best-selling board games. Not bad for a title that, ironically, started life as the anti-capitalist Landlord's Game in 1903… but it's not one of the world's best board games, in our view, and though it's common for families to play, it's not one of the best board games for kids.
Among board game lovers, it has a reputation for ruining too many people's enjoyment of tabletop play. Monopoly can run long, offers players limited control of their fate, and losing can leave a nasty taste.
It may surprise you to learn that several of these faults come down to common misunderstood or intentionally changed rules. Putting fine money on Free Parking, for instance, isn't in the printed rules and causes the game to take much longer than it should. Likewise, it's easy to miss the rule stating that if a player doesn't want to buy a property, it goes up for auction. But these auctions are an important and fun part of the play.
If you want to enjoy Monopoly anew, maybe check the rules and make sure you're playing it as the designer intended. If not, then here are six alternatives you might appreciate instead, which push the same buttons that make people like Monopoly, but without the downsides.
And we have loads more board game recommendations of all kinds in our guides, of course.
Rolling to see how far you move is a pet peeve about Monopoly because it leaves a lot of your fate in the hands of the dice – but there's a better way! If you enjoy the excitement of rolling and moving but want a bit more decision making and feeling of control in a quicker game, try Camel Up. The twist is that rather than rolling to move your own pieces, you're rolling to move racing camels instead, and betting on the outcome. So, also like Monopoly, you're in it for the money.
To give players a bit more to do, rolling is only one of your options each turn. You can also pick up a betting slip to increase your winnings, or even cheer or boo particular camels to change their performance. With a bunch of other bizarre rules including camel stacking and partnering other players, it's as much about comedy as strategy. Top it off with high-quality new components in the latest edition and you'll be racing to play a second round.
At first glance, you might not see the similarities between Monopoly and this clever game of gem trading. The idea is that you can use gem tokens to buy new gem cards (stay with us), with each card you buy increasing your purchasing power to buy higher-tier cards. As the game progresses, you build a kind of gem-generating engine designed to acquire more and more gems, with the more expensive cards also being worth points, crucially. The winner is the first player to cross the finish line of 15 points, thanks to their economic momentum.
Step back, though, and you can see you're collecting sets that give you greater economic clout, just like the grand old game itself. Plus the game is gorgeous, full of hefty poker chips that representing the gems you use to buy things – their click and clack is one of the few gaming components to stand up the glorious feeling of holding a wad of cash in Monopoly. If that's not enough, Splendor is a superb game in its own right, accessible for all ages yet still rewarding skill and strategy. And it always results in tight games that could have yielded a different winner just one turn later.
Like Monopoly, Sushi Go is a game where collecting sets of matching cards yields you growing rewards the more you get. But instead of auctions or purchases, it has a neat twist: you draft them. This means everyone is dealt a hand of cards, and from those you pick one to keep, and pass the rest to the adjacent player, with another player passing you their hand. Then you do it again, and again, with fewer cards to choose from each time, until the hands are empty.
Your aim is to collect matching sets of cute sushi cards, with different sets scoring in different ways. Tempura and Sashimi, for instance, score in sets of two or three only. Maki, meanwhile, scores depending on how many you have compared to other players. Wasabi can multiply the score of a card placed on top of it! It's about risk and reward – each time you take one card, you're hoping that more to match it will come around… but should you try to collect the sets worth the most points, because won't everyone else want those ones too, meaning no one gets to actually make a set? No, better to go for something low point and safe… except will that mean someone else actually does get the high-scoring set and beat? Maybe you should take the first one…
It's a super-quick game of memory and bluffing as you try and build a high scoring set while denying important cards to other players. It cranks up the tension as you wait to see what cards remain when they come back to you again. If you like the sound of this, Sushi Go Party is the same game with dozens of variations of the sets to swap in and out so you can mix it up more.
For many, negotiating over property is one of the most fun parts of Monopoly. If that’s you, then Chinatown should prove a treat, because it's nothing but negotiations. It’s a little more involved than the other suggestions on the list when it comes to strategy because it's so open, but it's actually a surprisingly simple game to play. As traders, your goal is to build a network of profitable shops on the grid-like board. But the vacant lots you own won't always match up with the businesses you want to run, so you'll have to strike deals with other players.
Cue the heart of the game: trading where anything goes. Players will be swapping cash, vacant lots and types of shops to try and make the most money over several rounds. There are no rules governing what you can trade, only your own sharp wits and calculations.
What's that flower shop on the corner worth to you compared to your fellow players, and what's the most ruthless way to leverage the difference? If someone has a space you really want, what kind of offer can you make? Could you swap with a third player to get what you really need? Making the shrewdest deals will carve you out a victory.
Not for nothing is Catan famed as the gateway to modern board games. It's fast-playing, exciting and easy to learn but demands a fair amount of strategy to succeed. But it's also a great entry point because it feels a bit like Monopoly. It uses dice, although here the roll picks which tiles will generate goods, so instead of the roll potentially punishing you, it brings new possibilities… though they can benefit other players too (and you can benefit on other players' turns). It also features negotiation as players then swap said goods to try and get what they specifically need.
What you're trading for are the resources needed to build your villages, roads and cities across an island. So it features a satisfying sense of building a property portfolio, similar to its more famous forebear. But with a variable board of hex tiles instead of a fixed track, and dice that can benefit all the players at once, it's much more a test of skill than luck.
Here's another one you might have heard of, and that deserves its reputation. Ticket to Ride has been a big seller for both family and hobby play. Like Monopoly, it revolves around collecting sets of colored cards and trying to control parts of the board. Instead of buying these cards, though, you get to just take them: you can either take face-up ones from a small selection, or take a chance and pick random ones off the top of the deck. That gives players more strategic levers to work in their attempts to win.
When you get enough cards of the right colors, you use them to claim a train route on the board. Each player has secret cards that tell them two locations they need to connect with continuous train routes they've claimed. Here's where things get cut-throat, because the routes are limited, and if someone else claims one you need, you'll have to find a longer, harder route instead, so while you can just focus on making sure you get the routes you need, a big part of play can also be guessing what routes other players want to claim and getting there first! And it won't outstay its welcome either, because every turn ticks the clock towards the end: the game finishes when someone runs out of the train tokens you use to claim routes, and everyone else just doesn't get to use what they have left, meaning everyone wants to make sure they're not being left behind.
In another similarity to Monopoly, this fast, fun formula has led to a huge number of spin-offs. There's the original, or a Europe version (we personally prefer the original of those two, but opinion varies!), or a version called 'First Journey' that's a little simplified to be more kid-friendly, and two great miniature versions ('London' and 'New York') that pack almost all of the strategy into a tiny box that plays in just 20 minutes – perfect for gifts.