I like board games, and Monopoly is forever one of my favorites. Unfortunately I never get to play Monopoly because I am the only mortal creature who enjoys it. Every other person in the world, without exception, hates Monopoly. What’s more, you all hate it for absolutely stupid reasons.
If you hate Monopoly (and you do, as I’ve already noted), I want you to consider this post with an absolutely open mind. If you don’t hate Monopoly, I want to shake your hand. And then maybe play Monopoly.
What I want you to do is go get your Monopoly set. I know you own a Monopoly set because everyone owns one, even though everyone hates it. Specifically what I want you to do is get the rules out of your Monopoly set. You’ve never read these rules, because nobody has ever read them, because everyone is taught how to play by people who already knew how, who in turn had never read the rules themselves because they were taught by etc. If the Monopoly set you own but never use (because you hate Monopoly) is buried so far in the back of your closet that you can’t be arsed to dig it out, here’s a link to the official rules you can reference.
Now for the part that blows your mind: you hate Monopoly because you’ve never played it properly. Because nobody ever plays it properly. Before we begin I want you to consider the number one complaint people have about Monopoly: it takes too long. This is going to be important as I start completely blowing your mind.
Basically what we’re going to do is get rid of all the house rules you’ve been playing with for years and years. The first house rule that has got to go is Free Parking. Free Parking is a blank space where nothing happens. There is no jackpot that builds up in the middle of the board. It is not the lottery. What is the point of giving a lucky player some large amount of money for absolutely no reason? Well, it gives a losing player the chance to make a comeback. Nothing quite like being at the bottom of the food chain, down to $5s and $1s, all your properties mortgaged, then falling into an easy $500 thanks to Free Parking, right? Wrong! Because the whole point of Monopoly is to bankrupt people, and knock them out of the game. The easier it is to make a comeback, the longer the game’s going to be — and we all remember the number one complaint of Monopoly, right?
Another rule you might be using that isn’t a real rule is the ability to travel on railroads. Railroads are just normal spaces; you can’t use one to travel to another. Using the railroads to avoid landing on developed property sounds like a good bit of strategy, and it is, which is exactly why it’s got to go. Players landing on developed property is exactly how they get knocked out of the game, and if it’s harder to get knocked out the game is going to go on longer. And we all remember the number one complaint, don’t we?
Did you know that if a player lands on a property, but doesn’t buy it, the bank is supposed to auction it off immediately? It’s true! Except virtually no one plays like this because… actually I don’t know why no one plays like this. Anyway, when you remove the auctions from the game it takes a lot longer for anyone to get a monopoly. Without monopolies you can’t develop properties, and without developed properties you can’t knock anyone out of the game. If nobody gets knocked out, the game drags on, and what was that number one complaint again?
Similarly, you might think you’re not allowed to buy properties on your first pass around the board. This is a myth. I don’t even know what purpose at all this house rule serves. If nobody can buy property on their first cycle, nothing interesting can happen! It takes a player, on average, about five turns to get around the board. In a standard four-player games, this amounts to twenty turns you have to play before the game even really gets started! Extra turns means a longer game, and the most common complaint is…
While we’re on the subject of things people don’t do that they should, let’s talk trades. Too often players will turn down a trade, even one that benefits them, because it would give the player they’re trading with something they want. Well, yeah! That’s kind of the idea! Playing it safe and never making trades out of fear of giving another player something useful means nobody can ever develop anything. If all the properties are gone and there’s no wheeling and dealing, the game is just going to go on and on as everyone circles the board endlessly paying each other $16 rents. Refer now to the number one complaint.
Now, wheeling and dealing is an important aspect of the game, but some things should never be wheeled or dealed. Loans, for example, are explicitly verboten. What’s the big deal if someone slips you a little cash on the sly to help pay your rent? Well, for one thing, there’s no way to pay back the loan and no rules in place to facilitate it anyway. The other player could call in your loan and you could tell him where to stuff it without reprecussions. They’re not really loans in that sense; they’re gifts, and when a rich player can play a poor player’s rent for them that just enables the poor player to stay in the game when they shouldn’t be able to, which in turn makes the game longer, and we’re back to the number one complaint.
It’s equally stupid to make trades for immunity. Think, people! Who is going to be making out on immunity deals? Why, only the rich players who are owed rent by people who can’t pay, that’s who! This is bad from two angles: first, you’re keeping people in the game who shouldn’t be there (complaint numero uno), and second, you’re just making it harder and harder for those people to ever make a comeback! It doesn’t matter if such a player actually does manage to bounce back and develop some properties if Mr. Richpants can land on those properties all he likes for free! At this point you are quite literally saying, “Okay Mr. Richpants, you win the game, but can we keep playing anyway?”
I think by now you’re starting to notice a trend.
The reason everyone hates Monopoly is because it takes too long to play, and the reason it takes so long to play is most people insist on playing nicely. It’s mean to knock someone out of the game and now they can’t play anymore, right? So let’s fudge the rules a bit and let them stay in. Of course, in a game where players have to be knocked out to lose this just means the game becomes endless. Most games of Monopoly end with everyone getting bored and just deciding the richest player at that point in time wins. Lame!
So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to give Monopoly another try — but this time play by the rules it was designed with. Every letter. Nix Free Parking, buy everything up on the first cycle, and auction off what doesn’t get bought. Trade early and often! Be bold with your trades! Take risks! That’s the whole point!
If there is one inherent flaw in Monopoly, it’s that once someone loses they don’t get to play anymore. I guess that’s a valid concern, but my view is that it’s better for three players to be knocked out of a fun game than for four players to play a really boring game forever. Find something for the losers to do. Let them circle the table and work as advisers to the remaining players. Keep a Yahtzee set off to the side. Let the first loser pick out a movie to put in that everyone can finish watching once the game’s over. Make them do the dishes.
I really like Monopoly, and it’s frustrating that I’m the only human being alive who does. So hopefully you’ll give it a second chance and, maybe, you can learn to like it too. Then you can pass the revelation onto others, and they will do likewise, until eventually everyone loves Monopoly and I get to play it again.
I call the thimble.