Episcopopoly is the best game you’ve never played. This unlicensed spin off of Hasbro’s Monopoly puts a religious twist on the board game, which places the player in charge of the stewardship of an Episcopalian church.
Although the game borrows Monopoly’s property collection, motif and its board layout, there are several significant changes which not only add an Episcopalian atmosphere to the game, but improve it significantly. The player moves around the board with game pieces which include a bishop’s hat, a chalice and a Bible. Any properties, which are Episcopalian churches from across the country, can be bought when landed on by a player. Any player who lands on a property which he does not own has to fork over an amount of the game’s currency, church offerings. If a cathedral is erected on a property, more offerings are required. The game is won when a player builds a cathedral with the highest possible steeple.
The goal of building a large church can lead to tedious game play, but the game is more fun if you abandon the constricting rule book and choose instead to bankrupt other players and attempt to acquire all of the churches on the board. This is best done by the collection of the game’s four seminaries, which replace the original Monopoly’s railroads. With each additional seminary that a player owns, the amount of offerings he is owed by other players increases tenfold.
The most compelling aspect of this Episcopalian experience is the element of chance introduced by the two card decks: “Time, Talent & Treasure,” and “Operating Budget.” The first deck derives its name from the three types of contributions required to support a church: the donation of service, the donation of skill, and the donation of money. When you draw a card, you are typically rewarded for your efforts with offerings or advancement on the board. “Operating Budget,” however, emphasizes the economic realities of church stewardship. It typically imposes a fine on players who draw from its deck.
Unfortunately, this cult classic has remained relatively obscure. It was produced by Late for the Sky Production Company, a maker of custom Monopoly-style games. Buying Episcopopoly new from a primary retailer seems impossible, but it is available on Amazon for $60. That said, your best bet at finding this game is at your local Episcopalian recreational center.
My first experience with Episcopopoly was during the 2017 St. Paul’s Cross-Country Camp of Champions, when the cross-country team descended on the Solomon Episcopal Center for a week of running. In their free time, the team had the options of basketball, a swimming pool and video games — but it wasn’t (Call of Duty) Black Ops, but a board game that captured the team’s attention. A group of us played the vigorous game, delighting in Episcopopoly’s understated humor and endearing oddity. It’s a game of intensity. In a few turns, the tables can completely turn, and one player can be brought to his knees as another rises to power. It’s one of those rare games that builds bitter rivalries while simultaneously strengthening friendships. We found ourselves rushing through the day’s activities to make time for Episcopopoly. Hours were spent scheming and making alliances as we laughed together every time an unfortunate player landed on “Operating Budget,” shared in revelry when one of us expanded his missionary empire, and experienced excitement with every game-changing drawing of “Time, Talent & Treasure.”
Rating: 9/10 – Episcopopoly is an exciting, charming and humorous game, but could benefit from a few rule changes.