Past Meets Present as Two Locally Themed -Opoly Style Games Surface

Games Editor Puts Them Up for Comparison
By Victoria Ford | Jul 03, 2019
Photo by: Victoria Ford Hand drawn game cards from the 1980 board game Wheeler-Dealer.

OK, by now word has gotten out about Long Beach Island-Opoly, the new board game available exclusively at the Manahawkin Walmart. It’s a tourist-y gimmick, but it’s cute, it has an LBI theme happening, and it’s based on a template the manufacturer, Late for the Sky, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, uses for all different towns.

(Editor’s note: Turns out the idea is not new, and shortly after we embarked on this story, we got a fun history lesson.)

Upon moving into their old Cape Cod in Surf City, Kristin Power and Christian Kaszas discovered in a drawer the board game “Wheeler-Dealer: the Game of Long Beach Island,” from 1980. The games were sold as a fundraiser for the local Soroptomist Club. The Los Angeles Times printed an article about it in February 1986, “Civic Groups Raise Funds With Games: ‘Monopoly’ Spinoffs Collect Cold Cash.”

The differences between new and old are many, the main one being Wheeler-Dealer was supported by local businesses advertising around the board and then sold as a fundraiser for a local charitable organization. A card inside the game box announces: “If your group would like to sponsor a game edition for another city, contact Michael Glenn Productions. Ask us about our other novel money-makers, too!”

Susan Hay, owner of The Haymarket in Ship Bottom, was a Soroptomist in the ’80s and still has her game. The Haymarket is one of the properties on the old game board.

“I just found my original game,” Hay said. “Think it has much more personality. Amazing how many businesses are still in business, but many more gone. Brings back memories!”

Current LBI Soroptomist Co-President Kathy Picarello said she had heard about the game when she read about it while sorting through some water-stained files from Superstorm Sandy this past spring. She’s looking forward to sharing it with the membership at the September meeting.

The irony of the new Long Beach Island-Opoly, marketed as a celebration of the local economy, is Late for the Sky has an exclusive agreement with Walmart that prevents The Haymarket, the Island’s premier independently owned toy and hobby shop, from selling it.

LFtS also makes Wildwood-Opoly and lots of others. Visit lateforthesky.com and watch an awesome 1:47-minute how-it’s-made video.

“We research several cities and communities around New Jersey to make a very localized game about a specific area,” according to Bill Schulte, one of the owners of Late for the Sky. “We always make sure the locals love their town before we take on a project. We make the content as authentic as possible. To reach as many people as we can, we launch the sales exclusively at the local Walmart store. Naturally, Walmart likes to connect to their local customers, and everyone appreciates the fact that the games are made in the USA. Several other New Jersey cities are on the drawing board for development and manufacturing.”

Games retail for $19.98 and sell quickly, but the company wants to assure buyers supplies are watched closely, “so if they are sold out today, you can be certain more are already on the way.”

In the creative sense, some dubious decisions were made – Island Beach State Park is one of the properties; Tuckerton Seaport is on there, too.

Also, why is Surf City Hotel the least expensive property?

It doesn’t all make seamless sense, but the game definitely has appeal, with all the history-related organizations grouped together; recreation giants Ron Jon, Fantasy Island Amusement Park and Thundering Surf Water Park; one might even aspire to purchase all of LBI, Barnegat Lighthouse or the Atlantic Ocean.

(“You can’t buy an ocean,” my son criticized when we played a test round.)

Land on a “Big Fun” card or a “Contingency” card and see what happens. But don’t let the names fool you – there’s no real difference between them. Big Fun cards can mean you get $100 for winning the Miss Long Beach Island contest, or that it’s Monday morning, move back; and Contingency cards can reward you for recycling, or cost you a turn for eating too many pancakes at Uncle Will’s.

The game pieces are a soft pretzel, a smiling mouth, a shoe, a hand, a heart and a bulldog.

The age rating of 8 and older makes it a great option for quality time with family. By comparison, with Wheeler-Dealer, a master’s degree in economics might be helpful to understand the rules of play. It comes with a handy Commodity Futures Exchange chart and a profit calculator.

From the directions, yellowed with time: “When compared with other, generally similar board games, it is often said that WD takes a little more time to learn, but that once learned, it is a lot more fun to play.

“To help you learn the game more quickly, we’ve developed four levels of play.”

Four levels!

The game was produced by Michael Glenn Productions as a local business investment board game.

The LA Times writer Rosalva Hernandez covered it: “Park Place is out. Reading Railroad is passé. The prime pickings on this Monopoly-style board game are Fox Video on Sequoia Avenue and Locktronic Security on Tracy Avenue.

“The object of ‘Wheeler-Dealer: The Game of Simi Valley,’ and similar games in Agoura and Conejo Valley, is still to accumulate money. But not the play stuff, and not for the players. Several civic groups and organizations west of the San Fernando Valley are selling games personalized for their towns to raise money for the groups’ projects.”

Wheeler-Dealer was based on The Millionaire Game, by Henco, which was based on Monopoly, invented by Charles Darrow of Germantown, Pa., in 1933, while he was out of work during the Depression. (Darrow later sold it to Parker Brothers.) Following suit, Michael Glenn Kuzma, president of Michael Glenn Productions, said he, too, had come up with the idea while unemployed.

Because of copyright laws, the companies that made the custom games were prohibited from using the name Monopoly and were not allowed to reproduce any of the markings of the original game, such as the color combination and the particular order and value of the properties on the board.

Hernandez wrote: “Unlike Monopoly, in which players pick cards when they land on Community Chest or Chance, in (Wheeler-Dealer) game players select a card with each toss of the dice. If a player picks up the Taxi Service card, he or she is entitled to $800 from the bank and allowed to move to any space on the board. Or, if a player who owns all the property in one color picks up a Trustbuster card, he or she must sell one of the properties to the highest bidder and the bank gets the money.”

Wheeler-Dealer also has players “Win a Libel Suit!” (collect $10,000) and get “bamboozled.” The game pieces for WD are just those little plastic cone-shaped jobbies.

Of course, the goal in all the above-referenced games is the same: Richest guy wins.

“We sell it as a keepsake item,” Henco’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing Gene Hebert was quoted saying in the LA Times article. “It’s a one-of-a-kind game.”

— Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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