Maybe the game so many love to hate is really not so bad

I recall enjoying Monopoly as a child, but I haven’t wanted to actually play it in forever.  The “high summer” of my discontent (in junior high), was my suspicion that the game was all about blind luck.

But if it is — why have Ken Koury and other “Monopoly champions” won cash prizes at tournaments so much more frequently than can be explained by random chance?

When I used to play Monopoly, it dragged like a flatbed with two wheels missing, rarely completed in a single afternoon.  The sessions were inevitably “postponed”,  earnestly suspended in mid-game stasis on some little-used shelf or table (until the cat disheveled all hope of continuity, unaware that this particular act of mischief was welcomed by us primates).

I played this game with a wide variety of people; parents, friends, friends of friends, parents of friends, etc. But now I see that the people who played by the rules as written were vanishingly small.  

Here are the biggest discrepancies between the “real” Monopoly, and the Monopoly I used to play:

FREE PARKING. Officially at least, this is NOT a thing. Landing there does NOT result in a cash windfall. Since the game doesn’t start to end until players start going bankrupt, these random awards always slow down that process. Is it all that surprising that adopting the house rule of getting extra cash on Free Parking inevitably extends the game? Like, a lot?

AUCTIONS. How many Monopoly playthroughs have just ignored the process of auctioning properties that aren’t immediately snapped up (for full price, mind you) by whoever lands on them first? The auction process is in the game’s rules for an obvious reason: it makes the game less dependent on luck.

Auctions provide players who want a given property (say, Pennsylvania Avenue, listed at $320) a better shot at getting their hands on it even if they don’t actually land there. Even the player who lands on it first might prefer putting it up for auction, hoping to get the property for less than its displayed price. . . or to manipulate a rival into paying more for it than they should.

HOUSES AND HOTELS MUST BE BUILT (AND TORN DOWN!) EVENLY. This rule opens a wider range of strategic options, yet most players ignore it. Note that while the Bank can never “go broke” — and may call upon unlimited reserves of virtual cash — this does not hold true for buildings! Once all the houses included with the game set are standing on the game’s properties, they’re all no more left to build (or at least, not until some of them are sold back to the Bank). So if you have 4 houses on each property of a three-property colored set, that’s 12 houses your opponents can’t use! You can use this to retard their progress (while safeguarding your own).

PLAY EVEN WHEN IT’S NOT YOUR TURN. As written, the rules state that you can buy and sell buildings, mortgage your properties, collect rents, or trade properties. And not only on your turn, either — you can also do all these things in between any two turns. The results of this are clear: a lot less waiting around!

CONSIDER MONOPOLY JUNIOR, which was released by Hasbro Gaming in 2013. It has four kid-friendly tokens: a ship, a car, a dog and a cat.  There’s not much skill in it, but it’s also simpler and faster. There’s just one deck instead of two; and no auctions, you just buy what you land on . . . which speeds the game a lot. The cash denominations (and purchase prices) are much smaller; everyone starts with $20 — making for quicker calculations.


What the Monopoly properties in Atlantic City actually look like:

Why is Monopoly so hated online?

Why you should never play Monopoly again:

(This online conversation is actually far less one-sided than you might guess from the title.)

Before Monopoly, there was The Landlord’s Game, invented by outspoken feminist Lizzie Magie who wanted to teach the evils of the concentration of wealth

(This page also deals with the legal battle faced by California professor Ralph Anspach to publish and sell his game, Anti-Monopoly.)

Fastest Monopoly Game Ever — 21 seconds!

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