If memory serves, I probably received my first copy close to 40 years ago as a Christmas gift, playing on the living room floor with my parents, then later on the front porch with my classroom friends. There was just something about marching my metal boot around the board, gobbling up properties and railroads, then gleefully collecting rent from my fellow players.
Though many people believe the game is too random and much of your success is left to luck, I firmly contend there is a strategy to playing Monopoly and it’s something that’s paid off for me over the years. Sorry, but I’m not sharing it.
Monopoly has been around for more than 80 years. It’s licensed in 103 countries, printed in 37 languages, and has dozens and dozens of licensed editions — everything from sports teams to specific cities, television shows and movies, video games and comic books.
If you’re a fan of pop culture, chances are there’s a version of Monopoly out there to satisfy you.
Which is why a recent trip to Walmart turned out to be a little more interesting than usual. On an endcap in the toy department I noticed a board game called Kingsport-opoly — A Fun Game Celebrating the Model City.
Yup. It’s a Kingsport-themed Monopoly game where all of the properties are Kingsport-based. Instead of Board Walk and Park Place, you’ve got City Hall and Downtown Kingsport. You’ve also got Bays Mountain Park, Netherland Inn, the Kingsport Carousel, Sleepy Owl Brewery, the Mustard Seed Cafe and Borden Park.
Instead of the two utilities, you have Fun Fest and the Kingsport Wine & Brew Festival. And in place of the highly desired railroad properties, Kingsport-opoly has our notable roads, such as Industry Drive and Main Street.
Though the rules are the same as any other Monopoly game, there is one big difference with this version. It’s not an official Monopoly game made by Hasbro. It looks like Monopoly and plays like Monopoly, but there are some glaring differences.
The “jail” has been replaced with a “traffic jam.” “Free parking” is now “I Love Kingsport,” and the Chance and Community Chest cards are called “Contingency” and “Big Fun.” Basically, it’s a Monopoly clone.
Kingsport-opoly is made by a Cincinnati company called Late for the Sky (named after a Jackson Brown album) and hit Walmart shelves exclusively back in February. The cost is about $20.
I reached out to the company for some more information, and Bill Schulte, the vice-president of Late for the Sky, graciously took time to talk about his family’s company, how the game came about and what other Tennessee towns could soon be getting their own versions.
TELL ME ABOUT THE COMPANY
Schulte: “We are truly just a board game manufacturer. We don’t print anything else for anyone. We just make these games. We started 35 years ago making them for college teams, like UT or West Virginia or Notre Dame. What happened was, we had a market and it just spread to other cities.”
HOW DID KINGSPORT-OPOLY COME ABOUT?
Schulte: “This premise of doing small towns, or any towns, across Tennessee started with our Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis games. Those were the first and launched because of the strength of the Walmarts in those markets. Then word spread among manager to manager. They told each other, ‘You should check this out, and if you have an opportunity to put this in your store for your market, it’s something your customers are going to really like.’ ”
SO WALMART MANAGERS GET THE WORD OUT?
Schulte: “Walmart wants to connect with the community, and they are the exclusive distributor for this. So you can’t find it in any other store. Walmart managers are the word of mouth. They communicate pretty well together when they have a good idea, and the company just breeds that within their management. People talk about it, put it on Facebook and read about it in the newspaper, which drives people into the store. It’s good business for pretty much everybody.”
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE NAMES OF THE PROPERTIES?
Schulte: “We like to get opinions from people in the market that are familiar with the area. We try to make (the game) as local as we can. We get input from those stores and from the Internet, organizational websites, chambers of commerce, and then we talked to a lot of people in the store. Generally speaking, people in the store live there, so they know what should and shouldn’t be part of the game.”
HOW QUICKLY CAN YOU MAKE A GAME?
Schulte: “Our turnaround is usually six to eight weeks. It can be faster if we’re not busy. It’s designed here and everything is made and shipped from Cincinnati. The only part that comes from overseas is the dice. We’re local manufacturing and we’re servicing local markets.”
WHAT ABOUT FUTURE VERSIONS?
Schulte: “Johnson City and Bristol are out. We’ve got Clarksville, Murfreesboro, Boone and Cookeville, and we do a Smoky Mountain game in Sevierville. We’re pretty close to nationwide. We’ve got a lot of games and Tennessee is one of our strongest markets, along with Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Virginia and the Carolinas. They’re all good. Local and personal is certainly the thing that has the greatest amount of appeal to the market.”