The well-known board game Monopoly was released by Parker Brothers in 1935.
In the game, players roll two six-sided dice to move around the board, buying and trading properties, and developing them with houses and hotels.
This gives players the opportunity to be greedy landlords as they shove a Battleship, Boot, Iron, Race Car, Scottie Dog, Thimble, Top Hat, or Wheelbarrow around the mean streets depicted on the board, while experiencing the thrill of collecting rent, the exultation of placing a gleaming red hotel on an upmarket street, and the hands-rubbing pleasure of bankrupting opponents.
The original version of Monopoly was based on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey, as any trivia buff can tell you. Since then, there have been countless editions and spin-offs, some simply to reflect the cities and cultures of other countries. Some don’t go far enough. In the Myanmar edition of the game, for instance, all players should be able to simultaneously receive the same Chance card that reads: “There has been a military coup – return to Go and await further instructions.”
There are also novelty themed versions, like those based on Star Wars and Godzilla, or set on a cruise ship –beware of mabuk laut. There is even a cryptocurrency version, and an official Socialist one, where there are no properties to buy, only community building projects to undertake. Doesn’t that sound fun? There might well be a galactic version of Monopoly, where players buy planets and stars and get sucked into black holes.
The version I’m interested in is, of course, the Indonesian version, or versions, for there are many of them – even one in which you buy countries instead of streets. They all have one thing in common, and that’s their terrible quality. They are cheap. The boards feel like something you would wipe up a spill with, the Chance and Community Chest cards are scattered by the slightest draught, while the player pieces, or “tokens”, made of pewter in standard editions, might as well be replaced by different shaped clusters of uncooked rice.
While Jakarta seems the natural city to base the Indonesian game on, with the leafy streets of Menteng found on the upper end of the board and the clogged streets of Tanah Abang on the lower, and with its many railway stations and large utility companies, there’s no reason why any other city shouldn’t be used, the one provision is that is has a minimum of twenty-two streets of ascending desirability.
How about Banda Aceh? This version could be given an Islamic twist, with mosques instead of railway stations, and the haram dog token replaced by a halal goat. “Chance” could be ironically renamed Insyaallah, and all players would be required to cry Allahu Akbar when throwing the dice. Community chest cards might include “You have won second prize in a Koran reciting contest – collect $10”, or “Go directly to paradise – if you pass go, collect 200 virgins.”
What I’d really like to play is an Indonesian version of Monopoly set in sunny Bali, with beaches instead of streets, let’s say Nusa Dua occupying the blue high-end neighbourhood of the board, and Kuta slumming it down with the UK version’s Old Kent Road. While the hotels could stay, the houses should be renamed villas. Has anyone ever used the word ‘house’ in relation to Bali?
The Indonesian version would require other changes, like replacing the race car with a bajaj, the wheelbarrow with a kaki-lima, the boot with a flip-flop, and the iron with a sambal sauce bottle. There’s no such thing as free parking in Indonesia – doubtless not in any other country either these days, so that square perhaps should be renamed
“Kiri! – kanan! – terus! Parking” or just “parkir parking”.
The command to “Go to Jail” might be too harsh as well, since you wouldn’t wish Indonesian prison conditions on a rat. Prisons like Jakarta’s Cipinang or Bali’s Kerobokan are hellholes where inmates live several to a cell without furniture, sleep on rattan mats, and pass the time playing makeshift Monopoly (you never know), where the card directing a player to “Go to Jail” always gets a sardonic laugh.
The ultimate Indonesian version of Monopoly would, in my frequently tipsy view, be based on Bintang beer, perhaps called “Bintangopoly” – there’s already a Piss-Opoly available, but it’s more of a live drinking game. In my version, there would be bars instead of streets and breweries instead of railway stations. The tokens would be a miniature Booze-Cruise Boat, Barrel, Tankard, Ice Cube, Ashtray, Bar Stool, Bottle Opener or Sack Truck, and the Go to Jail card would read: “Go to jail, do not pass Jalan Jaksa, do not pick up a crate of Bintang”. Players would be compelled to cry “Cheers” when throwing the dice and to clink together their pewter tokens.
Lastly, I’d like to consider what a COVID-19 version of Monopoly (‘Covipoly’ or ‘Pandopoly’) might be like, not necessarily an Indonesian one, for that would involve some sky-high numbers, for nearly every square to be a hospital, and every hotel a quarantine centre. Best played during the lockdown, in general, the game would include a giant board in order to keep players socially distanced, separate pairs of dice for each player, and collapsible Perspex dividers provided in the box. Warehouses containing the four different types of COVID-19 vaccine would replace the railway stations – Whole Virus, Protein Subunit, Viral Vector, and Nucleic Acid – and Community Chest cards would say things like “You have mutated – collect $50 from each player” or “PCR test error in your favour – collect $200”.
Also Read Jakarta’s Bucket List