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There are few activities that can turn the polite and civil discourse of a family gathering into a shouting match faster than a game of Monopoly. The latest edition replaces the designated banker with an intelligent, voice-activated top hat that handles all of the game’s financial transactions, giving players an outlet for their frustrations, without hurting anyone’s feelings.
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As intelligent voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant have become more common and more capable, there have been a handful of board games that use them as quiz masters, scorekeepers, or even just impartial timers. But since they require players to have access to a smartphone or a smart speaker, limiting their accessibility, and since board games are most often played by children, they also raise privacy issues. So for Monopoly Voice Banking, Hasbro included its own smart assistant that doesn’t need access to your wi-fi network.
Arriving July 1 for $30, which is about $10 more than the basic version of the game, Monopoly Voice Banking features none other than Rich Uncle Pennybags himself as the voice of the virtual assistant-although he’s apparently now simply known as Mr. Monopoly. As smart assistants go, Mr. Monopoly is nowhere near as intelligent as Alexa, or even Siri. Players use one of four buttons on the top hat speaker to identify themselves (it can’t tell different voices apart on its own) and then make verbal requests like “Buy Boardwalk” or “Build a hotel.” All of the financial transactions are handled by Mr. Monopoly electronically. As with previous iterations of the game, physical cash isn’t even included, which should help eliminate at least one method of cheating.
Will the new voice banking features help speed up the game, which, as most of us know, can drag on for hours until someone goes bankrupt? It depends on how capable the voice recognition is, and how often players will have to repeat themselves with the exact phrasing required. It should, however, reduce the time that players spend counting cash and calculating how much they owe on rent, and all but eliminate the number of times someone accuses the banker of being a crook. As for rage-filled table flips, those are, thankfully, still a part of the game.