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Sandbox Gaming volunteers test game, but only one is crowned Rich Uncle Pennybags
Branded as a fun game celebrating the City of Legends, St. John’s Opoly is on the shelves at Wal-Mart this Christmas.
Jean Paul Tesky, senior vice-president of Outset Media, the Canadian company which makes the game, says Wal-Mart Canada approached the company after seeing how popular a region-based version of Monopoly was in America.
“This is our second year of doing it and we have just over 50 different cities and communities across Canada that we’ve developed these customized Opoly games for,” he said.
“We’ve had phenomenal success.”
Tesky says there will be a limited run of 720 games.
Places on the board include tourist attractions like Signal Hill and George Street, several of the city’s parks, schools and museums, a number of local businesses, and local events like the
George Street Festival and the Royal St. John's Regatta.
The game has a few different features as well. For instance, there is no jail. Instead, players get caught in a traffic jam.
As well, there are Big Fun and Contingency cards, rather than Chance and Community Chest.
A couple of details are unrelated to St. John’s. One of the Big Fun cards says, “IRS audit!” rather than CRA, and the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve makes an appearance, despite not being in St. John's.
Another St. John’s-themed Monopoly game, called St. John’s On Board, was released in 2003. That particular board game raised funds for the St. John’s Boys and Girls Club. That edition did a first run of 3,500.
To test this newest game, The Telegram enlisted the help of Sandbox Gaming, a non-profit organization that raises money for children’s charities that promote play and development.
Thomas Rahal, one of the directors of Sandbox Gaming, says the organization also strives to build and promote a healthy gaming community.
“You want to have somewhere where people feel included,” Rahal said. “In terms of how we raise money for these charities … (we have) carnivals, Pokemon days, (and) our 75-hour charity marathons.”
Since its beginning in 2010, Sandbox Gaming has raised $97,000 for eight charities in Newfoundland and Labrador, through its bi-annual, live-streamed gaming marathons that can last for days.
Last weekend, the organization raised $5,918, which will go to Easter Seals NL, Kids Help Phone and the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We have a hobby, let’s do something good with it,” Rahal said.
However, should anyone think these gamers aren’t serious, the smack talk started before the box was even opened, with Christopher Pickett stating his main goal was to make Daniel Lanigan O’Hara lose.
The rules were read and the money divvied out. A few rules were more in line with what the competitors recognized as unofficial house rules. For instance, rather than paying taxes into the bank, they go into the centre until someone lands on the "I Heart St. John’s" square, which would be Free Parking in the original. That person can then collect the money in the centre.
There weren’t enough one-dollar bills, a possible manufacturing oversight, so the competitors decided amongst themselves that rounding would be the appropriate work around.
The dice were rolled and the game began.
Strategies were devised. Streets, buildings and parks were landed on and bought. Real estate was built larger and larger. Offers were made, mostly turned down, occasionally accepted.
And despite laughter, a tangible tension rose as the game progressed and the landowners multiplied and divided their fortunes with each role of the dice.
“Monopoly gets really cutthroat later on,” Rahal said.
Rahal secured a monopoly over the corner following the Go square. Players who landed on either Trapper John’s or Jellybean Row had to dish out substantial amounts of money, practically destroying their hopes of winning. Because of the fear this corner inspired, the players began referring to it as "Tom’s gauntlet of hell."
Small quibbles were had over the rules, but ultimately the five men resolved the matters in a sportsmanlike manner.
In the end, despite coming out of the gate with a less-than-enthusiastic attitude about his chances, O’Hara’s purchase of Downtown St. John’s and Signal Hill proved to be the winning investments, as the other players' roll of the dice placed them directly on his properties.
The champ had the last word.
“It feels the same as winning regular Monopoly, to be honest,” O’Hara said.
“(There’s) a bit of extra house rules that a lot of people use anyway. … It’s a novelty (so) people here might be interested in (the game), I’d say. There’s a few little manufacturing things that are weird, but other than that it’s perfectly fine.”