Notifications such as ‘Go to Poipet on a visa run,’ and ‘You inherit a cow! Sell for $100’ are two of the instructions you might receive in Property, the Siem Reap version of well-loved board-game Monopoly created by enterprising British expat Daniel Venn.
Venn, who also manages Lemongrass Spa, has been an ardent fan of the game since a child and made a version of the game on a whim as a birthday present for his girlfriend.
“I used to play it when I was a kid all the time,” he said. “And in a sense it taught me all my foundations for how to run a business. It sounds really bizarre but it taught me how to save money, how to invest wisely and stuff like that. So I really liked it.”
Of late he had an urge to play Monopoly again, but couldn’t find the game on sale in the Kingdom.
“So I decided to make my own,” he said. “I also wanted my girlfriend and stepson to learn how to play it.”
It took Venn four days to make a full set including PVC board and cards, and the game proved a great success. It was tailored to Siem Reap, so the properties were all local businesses – the much sought-after Mayfair, for example, became Angkor Archeological Park, and Park Lane became Amansara.
The two sets of cards, Chance and Community Chest in the original game were reborn as Angkor Ring Pull and Somnang La’or (Khmer for ‘good luck’) with instructions that related to life in Siem Reap. ‘You sell your gold at Psaa Leu, collect $150!’ reads one card, while another says, ‘You are pick-pocketed by ladyboys! Give up $20.’
The train stations are now Angkor temples, ‘Free Parking’ has been replaced by ‘Free Tuk Tuk, and instead of the ‘Go To Jail’ square, players may be unlucky enough to land on the dreaded ‘Visa run to Poipet.’
“You can be stuck in Poipet for three turns,” smiles Venn. “Or you can pay $50 to get a VIP ‘get out of there’ coupon.
“Everything has stayed true to the original game so the prices of properties are all the same as the London game. So you’d pay the same price for Pub St as you would for Old Kent Road.”
For playing pieces, Venn sourced small metal figurines from the Old Market which include a man in a rowing boat, a Bayon statue and a Naga, while the ‘houses’ and ‘hotels’ are made from wood.
Venn decided to mention his creation on Facebook last month, and received an overwhelming response – more than 100 people liked his idea and many expressed an interest in ordering a game.
“I had a couple of people come round to the house and play who said it is amazing and that I should market it, but I never really wanted to,” he said. “Then I saw how many people wanted it. I had so much fun teaching my girlfriend how to play the game so I imagined how much fun other people could have playing it.”
Venn plans to sell Property, which he reckons will retail for $60, at Shinta Mani market, and in some of the local shops. Already several expats are queuing up for a set, including Christian de Boer, general manager of Shinta Mani Hotel, who ordered 75.
“I approached Shinta Mani to ask if I could sell some at the market and he said only if he could have the first 39 of them,” said Venn. “I thought he was joking. When I went to meet him he said he actually needed 75. I made him a special version for Shinta Mani, and his plan is to put one in every room for the guests. They’re also going to sell them on reception.”
De Boer said he was taken with the idea as Monopoly is such a strong childhood memory for most people. He added that the hotel guests love the Property game, and have been bringing it out of their rooms to play.
“It’s great because it’s so sociable, in this day and age where everyone’s on Facebook and Twitter all the time,” he said.
Property is set to be on sale within the next couple of months. Board-game fans, watch this space.