It came in a shiny tin box for Christmas. The Romanian version, with credit cards instead of cash.
There were four of us: me and Alina; Lara, who is 9, and Luca who is 6.
We laid the board out on the floor of the kids bedroom, which is a bit cramped. But we were enthusiastic, especially Luca whose only aim in life is to play, and we had the whole weekend ahead.
The game dragged on and on. Hours passed before anyone won a street, without which you can’t sting people for rent. Avoiding bankruptcy was a constant struggle. I became irritable and annoying.
And Luca wasn’t taking it seriously. He couldn’t sit still, couldn’t concentrate. He kept fiddling with toys and he would climb onto his bed, which is shaped like a little VW Beetle, then slide down into the midst of us, sometimes upsetting the pieces.
“Shut up”, Lara would shout. But he couldn’t. He was bored and he wanted some action, not just shaking some dice every five minutes. I kept saying “go and play in the next room and I’ll tell you when it’s your go”. This would give us a couple of minutes of peace.
Lara flipped between joy and misery. She was the banker, wielding the credit card machine and constantly checking to see how much money we each had. Whenever she had more money than the rest of us she could cry “I’m winning”. At one point she mocked Luca for being a penniless loser and he stomped off in a huff, and crawled off to sulk under his bed. I tried to tell her that having the most money doesn’t mean you’re winning, but she wasn’t listening. She was enjoying her moment of glory.
I was broody and snappy for most of the game, hassling the others to get a move on. But I gradually developed a plan: invest everything in the most expensive properties and don’t worry about being broke. Being poor worked to my advantage as the others didn’t see me as a threat and they didn’t stop me buying a few key properties.
Alina was steady, predictable and kind. She bought mid-range properties and helped out the kids when they were in trouble. She lacked my killer instinct and didn’t seem to have much of an ambition to win. She was the only one who wouldn’t snap at Luca or go into a sulk.
By the end of day one I was a basket case, permanently broke with a string of mortgaged properties. My only break came when I had a spell in jail and was able to avoid the exorbitant rents that were now being charged by the ladies. There was no way I could win, I thought, and I was losing interest. Luca was also doing badly but he couldn’t care less, he was playing with a ball in the other room.
After a good nights sleep I had recovered my determination and I had a “yes we can” moment. I realised that with the right attitude I could win this; if I could just get some houses onto my top notch street then I could bankrupt the others — which is the object of the game. We moved the board from the floor to the dining table.
Luca was also changed by day two. He’d been stung by the relentless criticism that he hadn’t been taking it seriously. Now he was on the case. Not that he did well, he was always on the margins of insolvency but he survived, and that’s all that matters in this game, and we tended to take pity on him and let him off with the odd rent bill.
Lara and Alina started out on day two as respectably rich, with a comfortable range of houses for rent. But they thought they had it in the bag, they were complacent, and I knew that once I had a hotel on my dark blue properties I could clean them out.
Soon enough their wealth had been decimated and their properties were being re-mortgaged. Alina was first to go down; she lost heart and said she had to go and make lunch. All very good natured. No hysterics. And Lara was quick to follow. Her glorious wealth from the day before had proved to be a chimera and her whole posture, slumped over in despair, said that she had given up. Before going she gave her properties to Luca, who suddenly joined the big league.
By now I was in an unassailable position of wealth and power, with hotels and killer rents. The only thing between me and victory was Luca, my 6 year old son, and I would show him no mercy. But then I landed on the hotel he’d just inherited from Lara and I was stung for a 15 million euro bill. suddenly I was bankrupt.
The next day I discussed Luca’s surprising victory with him and he came up with the winning formula: “never give up”. This was the mantra he had heard from Sportacus, a character in the Icelandic-made TV show called Lazy Town. Not taking it seriously had also worked for him