The original Nanaimo-Opoly, manufactured by Calgaryopoly Games, Inc., in partnership with the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce. (RON DALE art/submitted photo)

COLUMN: Harbour City all fun and games in Nanaimo-Opoly

New version doesn’t have a lot of similarities to chamber of commerce’s original version

In Nanaimo-Opoly, it’s easy to build a new downtown hotel.

This summer saw the release of a Harbour City version of Monopoly, one of the best-selling-board games of all time. Victoria’s Outset Media Games created Nanaimo-Opoly in partnership with Walmart Canada and sent the News Bulletin a couple of copies for a giveaway that proved popular with readers.

When the game was released, we in the newsroom scanned the board with interest, curious to see which properties were the most expensive and least expensive (Downtown Nanaimo and the Dinghy Dock Pub, respectively) and which streets and businesses made the cut and which didn’t. Four streets are on the board: Bowen Road, Commercial Street, Front Street, and in something of a surprise, Comox Road. And only five businesses: the Dinghy Dock, the Oxy Pub, Lighthouse Bistro, White Sails Brewing, and, as a bit of an outlier, Regard Coffee Roasters.

RELATED: Nanaimo-Opoly will let board game players deal Harbour City properties

Readers didn’t really debate the board layout; rather, there were a few comments disparaging our fair city.

“I’m wondering if you can put up tents on other people’s property,” posted one reader.

But it was something else that a few readers pointed out that caught my attention: this is by no means the first-ever edition of Nanaimo-Opoly. Residents recalled that back in the late ’90s, the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the creation of a Nanaimo-Opoly game as a fundraiser.

Former chamber executive director Joan Hiemstra sent me photos of her copy of that game, and it’s a hoot. The chamber sold spaces on the board, and so every square is business that participated in that initiative. I was glad to see the Nanaimo News Bulletin featured, right in between Archie Johnstone Plumbing and Heating Ltd. and Tom Harris Cellular.

The most expensive ‘property’ in the original Nanaimo-Opoly is Tiah Workman Notary Public, and the least expensive is Nicol Street U-Brew. And you don’t just pass go, collect $200 – you “Go to Fitzwilliam Gate, for fashion, food, unique gifts and more.”

The only two ‘properties’ that can be found on both versions of the game are Woodgrove Centre and Malaspina University-College/Vancouver Island University.

Both versions have localized ‘chance’ and ‘community chest’ equivalents.

“You ate too many oysters at Lighthouse Bistro. Lose one turn,” reads one of the cards in the new game, while the old game laments, “While having lunch with Mayor Gary Korpan, you spill some coffee on him. Pay $20 dry cleaning bill.”

Sadly, neither edition offers Nanaimo-specific tokens such as a Bastion, Nanaimo bar or bathtub, nor any of the reader-suggested tokens, some of them drug paraphernalia, which I won’t detail here. In any case, casting playing pieces would have made producing the game cost-prohibitive, Outset told me.

As the years have gone by, Monopoly has managed to retain its status as a classic game, and is still nearly as much fun as you remember. Nanaimo-Opoly takes Monopoly’s best attributes and adds a little bit of local flair.

There probably aren’t too many board games that can be localized, due to pesky trademark laws, so it’s doubtful we’ll get to sit down anytime soon for a Game of Life: Nanaimo edition, or Settlers of Nanan.

No, Nanaimo isn’t all fun and games. But isn’t it kind of nice to know that on family board game night, it can be?

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