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 The time has come to speak of a game that is revered and reviled the world over.  A game with so many permutations and variations that it is difficult to tell the real rules from the fake one.  A game that has become so ingrained in the public consciousness that it will inevitably be compared to any game you pull out.  Yes, that's right.  It's time to talk about...Monopoly.


(BGG image by user )

Ah, Monopoly.  Originally published in Parker Brothers in 1935 (and now produced by Hasbro), the game was designed by Charles Darrow.  It was actually based on an earlier game, The Landlord's Game from 1904, designed by Elizabeth J. Magie.  As of this posting, Monopoly sits at #5096 on the BGG ratings, with only about 20 games ranked lower.  That may be surprising to a lot of people who think the game is the gold standard of board games.  Monopoly may be the most popular game in the world, but among gamers, it is considered to be incredibly mediocre.  As you get more into hobby games, you'll find much deeper strategy and gameplay than Monopoly has to offer.  There are many reasons that people dislike the game, but here are three specific reasons that people hate Monopoly:

  1. Too dependent on luck.  Monopoly is a roll-and-move game, a mechanic that is frowned upon among most gamers.  What that means is that you roll the dice, then you move.  There is no way to base a strategy on that.  You are at the whim of the dice.  No skill is involved.
  2. Player elimination.  You'll notice from all the games I've talked about on the blog so far, not one of them has a feature that causes someone to be ejected from the game before it's over.  Monopoly, on the other hand, won't declare a winner until all but one person has gone bankrupt.  The game is so long that this leaves some people with nothing to do while the others are finishing the game.  It's very annoying to a lot of people.
  3. House rules.  Hardly anyone plays Monopoly by the real rules.  Most people will insist on playing the Free Parking rule, which awards players money simply for landing on the Free Parking space.  Guess what - Free Parking really just means that nothing happens when you land there.  You get to park for free.  By giving players money, you actually end up extending the game.  People who are behind benefit by being able to get out of some debt, but the game just gets longer.  Another thing people don't do is play with auctions.  When you decide not to buy a space, the bank is supposed to put it up for auction.  Anyone can bid on it to try to acquire the property, including the person who initially passed on it.  However, people usually just leave the property for someone else to land on.  This also makes the game longer.
Monopoly does have its proponents.  While most people agree that the game is not good, there are those that say that it's not as bad as people tend to think that it is, particularly if played by the correct rules.  Here are three reasons that Monopoly is not as bad as people seem to think it is:

  1. Trading.  As a way to combat the luck element, players are allowed to trade with each other.  This is actually a pretty sophisticated mechanic, and allows people to play with some semblance of strategy.  In fact, this very mechanic is used by a lot of European games for the same reason - to combat luck.  Take a look at the trading in Settlers of Catan to see what I mean.
  2. Components.  I'm not talking about the paper money here...paper money is evil, and should be banned from all games.  Use poker chips instead.  No, I'm really talking about the board, the property cards, and the player pieces.  The board is the most imitated design in gaming, and for good reason.  It's well laid out, it's clear, and it's very memorable.  The property cards are solid, and tell you everything you need to know.  And the player pieces...talk about a great alternative to each player is a different color.  The pieces are random, but distinctive.  Even in the themed versions, the pieces are well thought out.
  3. Pop culture.  There's no other game in the world that has had as much of an influence on pop culture.  How many times do you say "Do not pass go"?  Can you visualize exactly where Boardwalk is?  When you're playing a different game and roll doubles, do you automatically want to go again?  These are just a few of Monopoly's influences in life.
I'm not advocating getting a copy of Monopoly.  Odds are, you already have one, and if you don't, you can probably borrow one from any of a million people that you are acquainted with.  But, I did want to offer a few suggestions to make a more enjoyable experience when you play.  These are house rules, sort of, since two of them come from various themed editions of the game.  And, once again, there are three of them:

  1. The Eye of Sauron.  In the Lord of the Rings version of Monopoly,one of the dice has an eye instead of a one.  When the eye is rolled, the One Ring gets advanced one space, starting from Go.  Whenever the One Ring lands on an unowned space, the player who rolled gets that property for free (the power of the Rind).  Once the Ring makes it all the way around the board, the game ends immediately.  The player with the most money wins.  If you want to play this with your regular old Monopoly, draw an eye on one of the dice and use a ring (or anything).
  2. Free Parking.  The Tropic Tycoon version of Monopoly features a rule where you do get a bonus for landing on Free Parking.  You get to advance to the next unowned property.  You don't get it automatically, as with the Eye of Sauron, but you do get to purchase it if you want.  If not, have an auction.
  3. Three Dice.  This may or may not be an official variant, but it's one I'm going to propose.  Get a third die to roll.  On your move, choose which two to use.  This will add strategy, since people are less likely to land on other people's properties randomly.  If you choose doubles, you roll again, but if you get two of a kind at all on your second roll, you go to jail.  If you roll three of a kind at anytime, advance to Go and end your turn.
I'm also in favor of ending the game when the first person gets eliminated, rather than waiting until there's only one left.  Just see who's in first once one person is out, and they win.

That's Monopoly, and I'm not talking about it again.  I also do not intend to spend time talking about Risk, Scrabble, Trouble, Yahtzee, Battleship, Uno, etc.  If you don't know these games, I'm sure someone will teach you.

European games are next.  Happy gaming!
-Jesse 

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This blog is all about board and card games. Look around and find out about some games you may not have heard of. For a complete table of contents, click on the supplements tag and look for Supplement #4.

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