You hate Monopoly for all the wrong reasons.

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.

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67 comments to You hate Monopoly for all the wrong reasons.

  • Chris

    Well written article, but still massively flawed. While you are correct that playing monopoly properly does improve it immensely it is still a damaged game. Also, when playing properly generally one person tends to come out head and shoulders above the rest, making continued playing almost pointless. Free parking is good in this regard because it allows continued gameplay to remain somewhat purposeful.

    You also ignore quite an important point, which is that the only thing more boring than playing monopoly is not playing whilst your friends do. What this means is that a quick game is not necessarily the goal, but one in which people reach bankruptcy in quick succession regardless of prior game length. I have found the only solution to this problem is to only ever play monopoly with two players. Two player monopoly is incidentally the only monopoly I’ve ever enjoyed.

    P.S. I think you’re somewhat mistaken in your original assumptions. My friends and I didn’t find out about the “once around the board” or “free parking” rules ’til we were around 15 (although I acknowledge their ubiquity) and this is the first I’ve ever heard of using train stations to jump around the board.

  • I have so much to say but little space to say it in. :)

    First to the author of the original post: AMEN SIR! I have taken pride over the years in converting my friends and family to Monopoly enthusiasts by teaching them the proper rules and some basic strategy. As with poker, part of what makes Monopoly great is the luck factor. Granted, it can be frustrating to lose several games in one session despite being the most knowledgeable player in the room, but that’s where understanding variance comes into play. Being the best doesn’t necessarily correspond to winning the most games in the short term.

    Next I will point my attention to those who have complained that there is little to no decision making and that there is too much idle time. Frankly, you are simply missing the nuances of the game if you truly feel this way. When I play a serious game of Monopoly, I am constantly scanning my property distribution, board positioning, and cash holdings to look for beneficial trading opportunities. I take into account certain player’s biases (ie. many people will pay through the nose for the dark blues or even dark greens), I do my best to diversify color groups in multi-way games (thereby forcing “all roads” to go through made during trading time), and I often make seemingly meaningless trades early on before the average player realizes the true value of his/her holdings (ie. buying Connecticut Ave from my sister in law for $200 after she rolls a 9 on her first move). For an $80 premium, I’m giving myself a stake-hold in one of the best property groups going.

    After all, being first to land a new color group is a significant advantage (see my blog for details: http://monopolynerd.wordpress.com)

  • Joey Gladstone

    Truth be told, we play with a few house rules, occasionally we have the free parking thing, but that’s about it. Never auctioned off territories, since it’s rare for anyone to pass up buying up land. I’m not sure about the railroads but that seems interesting.

    Yeah these are lifeline, but the thing is, they’re good to have, because everything else is played mega cut-throat Ayn Rand on crack style. Wheeling and dealing, buyouts, corporate mergers, hostile takeovers, sometimes even trading futures and buying stakes in people’s territories (as part of deals). There are no loans, there are however, the occasional cash infusions for stakes in given territories (like buying shares). The games end up being interesting, and actually rather quick.

    What makes Monopoly boring is when there are only two players left, each controlling half the board. This is usually mitigated when it comes down to the last three, each holding a third or so of the board, this is when corporate mergers tend to occur, two players pool their holdings to crush the remaining player. Most of my friends, and myself are huge fans of Risk, and bring the same strategies over to Monopoly.

    As I said the matches end up being rather quick, pushing an hour is considered long, but that being said, I still dislike Monopoly, Risk for the win.

  • I would have to agree with you that the official rules improve the Monopoly experience, but something is wrong when at the end of the game, the best thing that can happen on your turn is go to jail.

    I recently took a stab at designing the game I wish Monopoly was. If you are interested just search for Destinations on Kickstarter.

    Either way, it was a well written article and I’m glad to see more interest in board games.

    Cheers!

  • Anonymous

    Amen to the original post……also lets not forget about dealing out some properties if ya want an even quicker game

  • Anonymous

    It’s not mean to knock someone out of the game in Monopoly, keeping them in the cluster**** some call a game is mean.

  • Anonymous

    Another rule people made up is only being allowed to buy houses, unmortgage, trade at the beginning of your turn. That’s just stupid, it takes out a lot of potential offensive strategy. People need to be able to get that momentum they deserve to help them win the game. For example, if someone just landed on you and gave you a ton of cash, you should be able to load up even more houses to get the next guy around the corner. Really, having to wait for your turn is just giving a break to the people who wouldn’t benefit from being able to buy houses immediately, which makes the game last longer and is perfectly fair.

  • John

    i love to play monopoly with 2 or 3 players
    any higher then that and people begin to lose concentration
    i like the Top Hat

  • Daniel

    I think the problem here is most people who enjoy never tried much better games. Look up tickets to ride, settlers of catan and few other games before judging. Once you do, you realize how much monopoly is lacking.

  • Whata

    Omg everytime u had to do a donation it had to end up in the pot for free parking and now u tell me thats wrong?DX

  • MZA

    Seconding Daniel’s post. Most people play Monopoly ‘wrong’, but even when played competitively (or as far as one can, given that the “decision making” of every other board game is replaced by “rolling 2 dice and obeying the result”) and without house rules, it’s still among the worst games ever made. Go to Boardgamegeek, sort the games by rank, and on any given day Monopoly will be in the bottom twenty (of thousands). I’ve only EVER heard people defend Monopoly as “worth playing” if they have never played – or heard of – ANY of the games in the top 100. If you’d have asked me back in the day, when the only games I had played were Monopoly, Cluedo, Trivial Pursuit et al, I’d have given the same response. But then, I didn’t know what I was talking about. Interesting idea for an article, but the reasoning behind it is deeply flawed I’m afraid.

  • MZA

    Furthermore, one of the house rules you mentioned – using train stations as portals – is entirely new to me, but I’m unsure why you have included it as a bad idea. It actually adds an element (albeit a miniscule one) of tactical decision-making into a game which, as-is, has none whatsoever.