Would Starfleet Barter the Borg?

by Michelle Erica Green

From the first time I saw it, I thought the Star Wars Monopoly game was a great idea. What an innovative, peaceful solution to the problems of that galaxy - let's just BUY Tattooine and Endor and all the rest, build bases on them, and kick the Empire's butt! We know that virtually everyone uses currency in the Star Wars universe; even the Rebel Alliance had a bunch on hand to pay Han Solo for his trouble rescuing Princess Leia in the first film. Though I couldn't imagine what might constitute "Get Out Of Jail Free" with Darth Vader in charge, I just loved the thought of playing Monopoly - that perennial avaricious childhood favorite - set in the universe of one of the most lucrative film franchises of all time.

However, I felt a frisson of fear at the discovery of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Monopoly set. Monopoly's competitive capitalist system is practically the antithesis of the Federation! Could a TNG player be reduced to paying cash to the Cardassians in order to keep Bajor free? Would one have to choose between buying Vulcan or saving the money to build hotels on Risa? The horror! Then again, the idea of owning Angel One - that planet where women rule over scantily-clad men - does have a certain appeal.

The TNG Monopoly set comes with eight very recognizable pewter figurines of the Enterprise 1701-D crew (with an insert to order Pulaski, Guinan, O'Brien, and Yar). When I played, I chose to be Wesley Crusher - that way I could not be held responsible if I made any stupid mistakes a Starfleet officer would have been trained to avoid. However, I think the Trek character most qualified to become a Monopoly piece is the Ferengi Quark.

As a collectible, TNG Monopoly is an attractive item. In addition to the character-based pewter game pieces, there are little plastic ships and space stations to replace houses and hotels. The board itself features color graphics of the TNG cast, many familiar alien faces, and some of the expected Starfleet logos, in addition to the familiar Monopoly locations (which unfortunately have not been renamed "The Brig" or "Free Docking").

For the most part, the Trek trappings have simply been dropped in over the Monopoly names and graphics; there hasn't been much rethinking of the game. Sure, Electric Company has become Warp Core, but it costs the same as Electric Company and you still can't build houses on it. The railroads have become shuttlecraft, but one crewmember can still monopolize their use. Most distressing, the "Alliance" cards still say Title Deed on them. And how, precisely, can one mortgage an alliance? In addition to the Prime Directive, this game should have come with the Rules of Acquisition.

On the other hand, the Chance and Community Chest cards have been renamed "Captain's Log" and "Starfleet Orders." With color photos of Picard on the former, color Starfleet Command graphics on the latter, they sport stardates timed to the events they commemorate from the TNG timeline. Unlike traditional Monopoly where the cards seem to be printed on construction paper and disintegrate quickly, the cards in this special edition are printed in color on glossy paper. And instead of winning second prize in a beauty contest, you get such causes for rejoicing as, "Contact with Ambassador Spock! Advance to Go and collect 200."

Note that there's not a dollar sign in front of the 200. That's because one plays not with dollars, but with gold-pressed latinum bars (which come in familiar denominations and colors - only the 500s are actually gold). And, to my great relief, we are playing not to purchase other planets, but to forge alliances with their people for technology and resources. It's still pretty greedy, but at least it's honest...unlike the Federation at times. Thus, the Pakleds - "We are not smart" - are a relatively inexpensive property, I mean ally, while The Traveler is rather more valuable.. And sitting where Broadway is regularly situated, Q is the most expensive friend you can acquire.

The little volume which explains the rules is called the "Prime Directive," and explains these significant differences in its first several pages. It also advises you that the Paulson Nebula operates like Income Tax in the original game, and warns you not to call the Trader's Tray a Banker's Tray "since there are no banks in the 24th century." After those early pages, however, the reader is advised to study the rules of the game as it was played in the 20th century. The traditional rules of Monopoly follow, complete with greedy 20th century phrases like "The richest player wins."

Is it worth nearly $50? I guess that depends on how serious you are as a collector of Trek or Monopoly. (We already own a Pennopoly based on our alma mater, a Chicagopoly based on our former home, and a Monopoly Jr. for our kids, so we wanted this one for both collections.) The cards in TNG Monopoly are all printed in color; the box comes with a photo divider with information about the eight main crewmembers; plus there's a 52-page Ship's Manifest and Alien Species Identification Guide with color photos and more details about all the aliens and planets in the game.

Each set comes with a numbered certificate of authenticity imprinted with the signature of Majel Barrett Roddenberry. I was quite impressed with the likenesses of the miniature pewter figures. Overall this set is sturdier than original Monopoly, so it should last through a generation of parties and make a great conversation piece besides.

But lest anyone should be fooled into believing that the 24th century version of Monopoly has values other than acquisitiveness, the Prime Directive informs players that TNG Monopoly is only the first of four planned Trek-themed Monopoly sets. The subsequent editions will be set in the Beta, Gamma, and Delta Quadrants (presumably with the other three series casts), and there will be special rules included with final version to play a four-board Monopoly game linked through a "wormhole." For a mere $200, you can own the universe! With that kind of opportunity, who needs Marvin Gardens?

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