One is a little trivial; the other has hotels on Mayfair

W hy would anyone want to play a board-game on a computer? I was sceptical, but having tried out two new CD-Roms, I am half convinced.

Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly are produced by Hasbro, the American toy giant and cost pounds 39.99. One works better than the other, but both share pluses and a minus over the board versions. The pluses are the multimedia - film clips, funny noises, music - the minus is that much of the social element of a game is removed. If you are playing with friends or relatives, you have to sit staring at a screen, rather than facing each other across the detritus of the Christmas dinner.

Trivial Pursuit tries to be a faithful reproduction of the board-game, but attempts at full automation are defeated by its nature. With the board version, you are asked a question and the questioner then decides if your answer is right. In the CD-Rom version, you still need a human to decide if you have the correct reply - computers cannot interpret vague answers.

You "roll" the dice by clicking on it on screen, land on a square and are shown a film clip, followed by a question. You answer, and another player clicks the button to display the answer and decide if you are right. They then click "right" or "wrong" and the game continues. Apart from the clips, it is difficult to see much benefit over the board version.

Monopoly, however, is based on a series of simple choices. The basic question is "Do I buy or not?", which transfers perfectly to the computerised game. So, too, do the bells and whistles of the game - auctioning, making deals, the lot. The game also forces you to play according to the strict rules which, I suspect, most of us have ignored on those long afternoons.

This CD-Rom's real marvel, though, is its witty design. If you have the battleship, you watch it wallowing along the board, doing a nifty roll as it turns a corner, and blowing a triumphant blast on the whistle whenever you make money. The CD also offers you the choice of computerised opponents (who can even play against each other), or you can plug into the Internet and play people round the world. Given the ennui that real Monopoly often brings, this version may well be an improvement.

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