The brainchild of 38-year-old Commercial Engineer Boris Vargas, Evopolio was released in Bolivia back in 2013 to wide acclaim. While the game may seem simple, it’s production wasn’t an easy process. Vargas, who fell in love with Monopoly as an eight-year-old child, employed a team of 40 people to work on the game over a five year period. The title, an amalgamation of president Evo Morales’ first name with Monopoly, was chosen due its popularity in focus groups.
According to Vargas, the game is intended to “…bring families together through a game with social and self reflective themes.” It also shows the true reality of the Bolivia which can be challenging at times, a fact that is painfully evident after a few laps around the board.
So how exactly does Evopolio differ from the traditional version? Firstly, players move backwards around the board, most likely in reference to the backwards clock in La Paz’ House of Congress. Also, rather than purchasing property in well-known inner city neighborhoods, players buy up national parks to develop with little regard for the environment. Furthermore, basic houses are replaced by mureds and medias aguas, those depressing half finished bare-brick constructions you see dotted around the impoverished outskirts of Bolivian cities.
But it’s the new chance and community chest cards that really make the game shine. Now known as yatiri (Bolivian witch doctors capable of reading the future), their consequences are mostly negative, which is intended to reflect the reality of living in Bolivia. Road blocks (real stones included) prevent players from moving around the board, unhygienic street food leaves players in hospital with dysentery and minibus syndicates go on strike to shut down the entire board on a whim. The following are a few more hilarious examples.
Due to a lack of water in La Paz and Cochabamba (a 2016 drought saw severe water shortages in these cities) everyone has to bath in a large bucket. You caught a cold and have to pay 30 BOB to the bank to cover medical expenses.
Due to the embezzlement of the Indigenous Fund (a huge corruption scandal of 2015), everyone must pay 250 BOB to the bank to replace the stolen money.
Players who own a company must pay the Christmas bonus (a controversial populist policy where companies must pay their staff two salaries in December) of 100 BOB to players who don’t own a company.
The most exciting yatiri card, however, is the infamous drug trafficker and contraband smuggler. Just like in real life, these lucrative professions are able to make a player very rich very quickly, despite having to pay bribes along the way. But when the criminal’s luck runs out, and it always does, the player is sent to jail and all their assets are confiscated, essentially putting them out of the game. Seems a little harsh, right? Vargas explains, “this is the perfect time to tell your kids that it’s like this in real life. Getting involved in these worlds means losing everything.”
Evopolio is hysterical fun for anyone with even a passing interest in Bolivia. It can be picked up in any board games retailer for around 80 BOB (US$11).