Monopoly might be an institution, but it’s also a bad game. It’s capricious and imbalanced and drags on forever, and is so poorly designed that players just made up a rule about the Free Parking spot that everybody’s spent the last several decades thinking was real. The only thing it has going for it is tradition. If anything is great about Monopoly, it’s its history, its longevity and how thoroughly it’s permeated American culture. So of course, in an attempt to get some attention, Hasbro has decided to mess all that up and ditch one of the game’s iconic tokens.
Last month the toymaker, who subsumed the Parker Brothers brand several years ago, announced an online poll to determine a new line-up of tokens for the game. Voters could pick any eight tokens, including the eight currently in the line-up, out of a group of 64 total possibilities. The eight pieces with the highest votes would become the new official line-up, meaning it was entirely possible for every classic token to get swapped out with something new. (Probably a smartphone, or like the Facebook logo, or something.) We won’t know the final results of that vote until March 19, but earlier today the AP announced that the thimble missed the cut and would no longer be in the game.
This isn’t the first time Hasbro or Parker Brothers have fiddled with the tokens, of course. The horse and rider you might remember from childhood was ditched around 2000, and the iron was sent home after a 76-year-run in 2013. That year the iron lost in a more restricted vote that wound up introducing a cat into the token line-up. Hardcore Monopoly fans (who surely exist) have probably been stressing out on Monopoly message boards (which also surely exist) about the thimble going the way of the iron ever since.
It’s easy for lay people to mock the disquiet of passionate fans over such seemingly insubstantial changes. Again, though, Monopoly’s greatest (and perhaps only) appeal is its history, its tradition. This is the game you played with your parents, who played with their parents, who maybe played with their parents. That legacy is the only reason to introduce it to your own children, especially now that the modern board game revolution has so broadly expanded our tabletop options. Instead of half-formed attempts to stay cool or relevant, Monopoly should be squarely focused on its past, prioritizing the elements that might seem odd or outdated today, like the thimble.
If Hasbro really wanted to revitalize this game for the modern generation, they’d have to fundamentally change how it’s played, and that’s apparently a step too far for them. So instead they stick to meaningless cosmetic changes that will only serve to upset some of their players. It makes you realize that the goal is less about improving Monopoly and more about scoring some easy headlines, which, in this case, clearly worked: we can’t imagine any other reason we’d ever write about Monopoly here.
The new token line-up will be announced in March. The new edition will hit the shelves in August. The classic you know and tolerated sits unchanged in the basement of your parents’ house. And you can buy ten real thimbles for $1.32 on Amazon.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games, comedy and wrestling sections. He always picked the top hat. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.