Cardboard Children – Hotel Tycoon

My Game of the Year? No. No. Next week. No, I am NOT just trying to annoy you all at this point. No. Honestly. But yeah, next week. Next week. *Wink*

This week… a new version of an old FAMILY game. Yeah, we’re moving away from the hardcore hobby stuff this week to try out something that is designed for normal, functioning members of society. Read on.


Remember when I showed you this video a few weeks back?

Well, I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of the game, to see if I too would be able to gather my family in a green screen studio to make exaggerated facial expressions while rolling dice.

FULL DISCLOSURE GAMES JOURNALIST INTEGRITY MOMENT – Yes, I was sent a free review copy of this game. I want to make it clear that getting free stuff never sways my judgement. Whenever the postman brings a free game, I make sure to spend a day in quiet meditation, bare-chested in my back garden, coming to terms with the repercussions of what has just happened.

Hotel Tycoon is a new edition of the old MB game Hotels/Hotel. Do you remember that one? That old edition totally looked like every game looked in the late 70s/early 80s. All blue and gold and kinda boring looking, but kinda exciting looking too. That old edition looked quite GLAMOROUS.

Wowee! Look at it! Well, the new version is exactly the same game under the hood. Do board games have hoods? Whatever it’s wearing, it’s the same underneath. But the new look is colourful and fun and quite video gamey. Take a look at the NEW box cover!

First things first – for a game that is aimed at families, for parents to play with their kids, the new edition has a far better look. There are the big standard skyscrapers. Great. There are the little jungle hut things. Cute. There are these weird Arctic themed hotels that look like ice cubes or something. I’m not sure what the deal is with those ones, but my daughter went crazy for them.

Here’s how the game works, in case you’ve never played it. You roll and move around the board. When you land on a space that lets you buy property, you can buy some land. Later, when you land on “build” spaces, you can attempt to build hotels on your land. When you build a hotel, you need to roll a planning permission die. This die can approve your build, block it, allow you to build for free, or double the cost of your build. It’s a really swingy, unpredictable thing, but the type of thing that I think works really well in a family game. I’ve played games of Hotel where the fuckers will just never let me build, like I’m some sort of notorious financial fraud or something. And I’ve played other games where they let me build for free all the time, like I’m some sort of notorious financial fraud and it’s a Tory council.

The whole point of the game is to buy land, build hotels, and then place plenty of entrances into your hotel. Entrances cost money, and can be placed anywhere on the board adjacent to one of your hotels. If an opponent lands on an entrance space, they are staying at your hotel. They have to roll a die to see how many nights they stay for. Will it be a one night “testifying at a murder trial” kind of stay? Or a week long “my partner flung me out of the house” scenario? The opponent then either pays you a little or a lot of money, and the first person to crush everybody else wins.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are a lot of things in this game that depend on a die roll. Where you land. Whether you can build or not. How long you stay at a hotel. I’m going to tell you that this LUCK LUCK LUCK approach does not MATTER. It’s a family game, and family games should be played for the experience of devastating or wonderful things happening on the flip of a coin. I like Hotel Tycoon a lot. Let me tell you why.

First of all – my daughter absolutely loves the game. The first time she played she utterly hammered her poor parents. I could barely get a hotel built, and when I finally did, I had to pay double the price – it destroyed me. It was hilarious. LET ME BUILD! LET ME BUILD! I DON’T WANT TO BUILD ANYMORE! Not long after, while on the brink of bankruptcy, I decided I would stay six nights in a four star hotel. I dunno. Nervous breakdown or something. My daughter, the hotel owner, took the money from me with great pleasure. She stood, right in front of me, arm outstretched, flapping her hand open and shut. If she wasn’t my own daughter I would probably have flipped the fucking board in the air and roared a hundred profanities in her face. But my own daughter she was, and so I was delighted that she was relishing the agony of her fellow man. Yeah, she loves it. And even after she played a game that left her in tears (and I mean FACE DOWN ON THE COUCH SOBBING AT THE LOSS OF ALL HER PRECIOUS HOTELS) she still loves it. That’s what family games are all about.

Sure, there is a lot of luck. But the game is more about knowing when to PUSH and when to play safe. If there’s a chance (and there is always a chance) that you might roll that “double cost” result, do you really want to risk going broke? Should you really expand your hotel, with money running so low? A lot of simple little decisions – easy ones for kids to make. And those same decisions are ones that parents are more likely to take big chances with. It balances the game out, so that kids and mum and dad are all on equal footing.

I dunno. I like this game a lot. It plays fast, and makes you shout a lot, and it looks beautiful. One point worth making – the hotels themselves aren’t easy for kids to construct alone. They are a bit fiddly (and I found a couple infuriating), but once they’re built, they’re built. And they are sturdy enough, if handled with a bit of care.

Let’s look at the video again.

Yeah, it’s like that.


  1. Sourman says:

    I remember playing this at a friend’s house when I was younger. Man, it was a blast. Glad to see they are bringing it back.

    • hurrakan says:

      Same here :) I always wanted to play it when I went round. It’s the first board game I remember playing.

    • AshRolls says:

      Some bizarre rush of 80’s memories just came smashing into my brain thanks to this article. I remember how much I loved this game, I had completely forgotten about it! And now I’m going to have to buy it for my family.

  2. Lacero says:

    This doesn’t sound very different to Monopoly, or “Monopoly – Worst Game Ever Made, Destroyer of Christmases, Fountain of Greed, The Tear Drinker” as it’s known.

    Actually it sounds just like monopoly. Thanks, but no.

    • Emeraude says:

      Monopoly is small time.

      Diplomacy is where it’s at if you want to destroy relationships, and extinguish all the good in people around you.

    • Gothnak says:

      It is very similar to Monopoly, but if you get it free and play it with your daughter it’s suddenly ok for some reason…

      Monopoly and Hotels are bloody awful for anyone who usually goes for Rab’s recommendations, fingers crossed no one buys it after reading this.

      By all means do a review of a decent kids game like Gulo Gulo, but not something horrid like this.

      • Rab says:

        A: It is not really anything like Monopoly at all.

        B: Monopoly is a great game.

        C: I’ve always liked Hotels. In fact, I now have two editions of it. Kept the original for years.

        D: So be quiet and sit down.

        Also, I think you’ll find that most kids enjoy building big hotels and fucking over their parents more than they enjoy carefully lifting a wooden egg out of a bowl like you do in Gulo Gulo.

        This “Monopoly is shit” talk kills me. It just kills me. Such nonsense.

        • mavis says:

          Would you like to outline why you think Monopoly is a good game?

          • iucounu says:

            Most people don’t play the actual rules. The rules say that if you land on a property but decline to buy it – maybe because you can’t raise enough cash – the property goes to an open auction. This means the game goes much quicker – the property gets shared out sooner – and also that you can really screw people over. Land on Bond Street when you know an opponent can only raise £75, and you can get it for £76.

            It plays much better like that, although that still doesn’t make it a brilliant game in itself.

          • RLimbaugh says:

            Monopoly is a fine game. It teaches sales through trading, concepts like Return on Investment (ROI) and strategy by either knowing other people’s favorites and exploiting that or trying to achieve your own. To anyone that wants to dive deeper, that exists too. You can look at the statistics of which properties get landed on the most, which ones have the greatest return (stay away from the utilities), etc.

            I will concede though that Monopoly can get tedious. It can take a while for all of the properties to be bought and I’ve rarely enjoyed the trading experience. There are too many denominations (and overly specific pricing) in the currency that make winning and losing a rather long and needlessly math-intensive process.

        • Wendelius says:

          I love your game recommendations and this sound kinda fun. But Monopoly is not a very good game (IMO). It’s one kids love to play (I used to, my kids do) and which most adults I know barely tolerate because it’s something to play with the kids. But it’s a case where the fun of family time barely makes up for the game and its lack of pretty much anything interesting to do.

          I didn’t expect you to step to the defence of Monopoly. But it goes to show that tastes differ.

          That being said, thanks for the heads up on this one. Might be something different to try with the kids when they are in the mood for Monopoly.

        • MisterFurious says:

          Monopoly is an awful game. It’s 90% luck. The dice determine who buys what properties. The dice determine who earns money. The dice determine who wins the game and it takes about six hours for them to do so.

  3. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    I *always* preferred Hotel to Monopoly because, well, it was actually really fun. A game would only last so long, no dragging.

    Plus the hotels were awesome the way you could upgrade them and physically see them grow taller and more complex on the board.

    • Scurra says:

      Monopoly should last, what, 2 hours at most? Of course, if people play with house variants then it’s their own fault. Monopoly is a bit like Gin Rummy in that respect – everybody “knows” how to play it, but everybody has a slightly different variant meaning that playing with strangers is confusing and sometimes upsetting.
      Not that there aren’t problems with Monopoly, but they generally aren’t with the game itself.

  4. The Random One says:

    FULL COMPLETE DISCLAIMER: Meditating for a day bare-chested in his garden is Rob’s reaction to a lot of things, including being told by his wife to put a bloody shirt on and get inside before he catches the flu again.

  5. RLimbaugh says:

    I only played this game a couple times at a friend’s house when I was younger which is probably why I’m so intent on trying to find it again. EBay has some crazy prices for this game ($400+) and Amazon is $50 after you include shipping from the 3rd party they’re using.

    Does this game exist anywhere for a reasonable price?

  6. TheBuff1 says:

    Hey fellow Board Gamers!! I’m after some advice if possible!!

    This column has re-triggered my love of board games which I have tried to pass onto my usual group of friends. I’ve managed to introduce Dix-It, Survive Escape From Atlantis and also Carcassonne (which I regret as I find it pretty boring but they love it!) over the last year but want to take it up a level!

    So my question to you all is which of the following could I get away with (complexity of rules/time to teach/playing time etc):

    Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd Edition (my first choice as it sounds awesome!)
    Talisman 4th Edition (hard to find it seems)
    Cosmic Encounter
    Fortune and Glory (a tad pricey though!)

    Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated!!

    • Angel Dust says:

      Out of those options the clear winner is Cosmic Encounter. It’s easy to teach and quite simply one of the best games ever made. Descent 2.0 is good too but while it’s actually not that complex once you get it down, it’s quite fiddly at first and the rulebook isn’t the greatest. You also really need to play it in campaign mode to get the most out of it.

      The other 2, I’d give a miss. Fortune & Glory is pretty rubbish and Talisman has been bettered by Relic.

      Here are some other recs for good games that get up and running quickly, providing a great experience in a reasonable time frame:
      Forbidden Desert (co-op)
      Ghost Stories (co-op and also my #1 GAME OF ALL TIME)

      • TheBuff1 says:

        Thanks for taking the time to reply! Looks like Cosmic Encounter is the one to buy! I have been quite tempted by the recent Rampage game too as it looks like a game I could drag the wife into!!

        I did consider Relic but thought my friend group would take to the fantasy setting of Talisman better.

        And thanks for the other suggestions, I have heard about Ghost Stories before (interested in it as it can be played solo – always a good thing to fall back on if nobody but me likes it!), I will look into the others.

        God at this rate I’m going start spending more money on board games than computer games! Oh well I’ve got enough of those!