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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.

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About the Author

Robert Florence