Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Top 5 Least Favorite Monopoly House Rules

The classic board game Monopoly gets slammed in a lot of circles. Non-gamers hate it because it takes forever. Serious gamers hate all the ways it's broken. Eh. Few games are truly perfect, and more people know Monopoly than some foreign game involving wheat trading (or whatever the serious gamer will suggest to you as a Monopoly substitute). However, people who say they "know Monopoly" probably don't know the actual way to play it.

Guess what? Free Parking is worth $0.0. Landing on Go is worth nothing special. Shock and awe! Almost every time I have people over to play Monopoly, they wonder why one thing or another doesn't play out the way it does at home with grandma and Aunt Bea. The truth is, I play with house rules too. I play a lot on Pogo.com (excellent site), and their standard game has some variants that I took to the table at home. Now we play with a turn limit. In the majority of Monopoly games, it becomes evident who's going to win at a certain point. The rest is just waiting for the last drop of blood to come out of your opponent, and the turn limit eases that pain.

What this list covers are my
least favorite changes to the game. If you do a quick Google search, it will become obvious that I can't cover every house rule ever conceived. But this is a list of my least favorite, dubbed so because they're pretty common, and pretty bad.

5. No paying a fee when transferring mortgaged properties - When a player with mortgaged properties goes into bankruptcy owing you money, and you take everything he or she owns (another rule people don't always enforce), the rules say you have to pay. The new owner pays 10% interest on each mortgage, and can choose to lift the mortgage on a given property by paying the rest back. If they don't wish to unmortgage it upon transfer, that player must pay the 10% again when they actually turn it over. The only reason this makes my list is all the bitching it creates when I try to enforce it. Nobody's heard of the rule. So I pull out the instructions, and inevitably they say "well that's unfair, we shouldn't have to pay that!" Odds are, that player has three monopolies, scads of houses and a few thousand to burn. Dumping $114 on mortgage fees is nary a dent in their armor, but they'll still fight to the death on paying it. I guess I can sympathize, though, as I feel that way paying 40 cents for cheese on my hamburger.

4. No auctions - Believe it or not, some people are totally unaware there's an auction component to Monopoly. Notwithstanding these same people also turn tail at spending $120 for a property, but I digress. Some players just calmly fold their arms after turning down a purchase, and the game goes on. A big reason Monopoly is so hated is because of house rules like this one that extend the game length further than the original rules would have. By making turns in which no property transaction occurs more likely, the game goes on long, as people attempt to land on the spaces they "really" want. But time wasting agony has only just begun, especially if you enact...

3. The Free Parking jackpot - Probably THE most common house rule. Opinions vary, but the most generally used Free Parking jackpot starts at $500, and grows each time a tax or fine is paid to the bank. When someone lands on Free Parking, they grab the stack of cash in the center of the board, and laugh their way rich. I do like the notion of making Free Parking worth something. Our house rules make it worth a mere fifty or one hundred dollars. But to make it such an enormous sum gives a soon-to-be eliminated player a glut of cash to go lose somewhere. Or worse yet, the jackpot gives an already rich leader a chance to make his houses into hotels. As a game show fan, I'm aware of the great suspense in having a huge comeback available. But Monopoly doesn't need it, because it will likely add a "bonus" hour to your evening.

2. No buying property until you go around the board once - This rule comes up on lists everywhere, but I've never used it, nor have I seen anyone try to use it. What's the point? The function, they say, is for game equity. The first player to roll has first dibs on property. So the idea in waiting for a trip around the board is to give everybody a better shot. But in the end, it's really one long "roll to see who goes first" exercise, because somebody has to get there first. All that at the expense of keeping your guests interested.

1. Each player starts from a different corner of the board - Another bizarre attempt at making the beginning more "fair" is this gem. You somehow determine which corner of the board each player gets to launch from before the first roll. Great, so in a quest to be more fair, Player B takes off from Free Parking and breaks up the red properties before I even belly up to the table. Rolling to see who goes first, along with the fate of the dice, perform this function in a nice, tidy, and above all QUICK way. This is far from a solution, as it handicaps more than it helps, and makes everybody start off UNequally.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you saw this or not, but Cracked just posted a Monopoly-related article:

JasonA1 said...

Love Cracked, thanks for pointing that out. Notice the first comment is a guy who says Monopoly used to take forever without auctions, and he never knew it was part of the game until recently.