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25 August 2010

How to Make Monopoly Fun

It’s the most played board game in the world, according to Hasbro.

Just how did Monopoly get to be such a classic?

Played by the standard rules, it’s a terrible game; a shallow, tedious, confrontational waste of far too much time. But somehow it’s the most played board game in the world, according to Hasbro.

So chances are your family games closet has one (or more) of the various editions of this classic. Most likely, it’s pushed to the back, where it’s been hanging out ever since that unfortunate incident between Aunt Grace and Grandpa over the hotel on Park Place. They’re still not speaking. But the less said about that, the better. If you’ve got the hankering to pull it out again, here’s a few ideas for how to get the monotony out of your Monopoly.

Set a time limit
If you do nothing else, do this: decide when your game’s going to stop, and stick to it. You can set a hard time limit (although you might have to deal with players deliberately running down the clock) or set a ceiling on the number of turns the game will run. Once you hit the end, call the game, total up assets, and declare the victor.

Free Parking
What happens when you land on “Free Parking?” According to the rulebook, absolutely nothing. Many players introduce a rule whereby if you land on the “Free Parking” square you collect a fixed sum of cash, the accumulated Chance and Community Chest winnings of the other players, or some other windfall. Don’t do this. Putting more cash in circulation is exactly what you don’t want to do in Monopoly, especially when it’s dished out according to the whim of the dice. You’ll just end up prolonging the game, and making the game even more luck-based than it already is.

Closed-bid auctions
Some players find Monopoly’s auction process tiresome, time-consuming, or intimidating. If that’s the case with you, just switch to a closed-bid system. Have every player write down their top bid on a piece of paper and hand them to the banker -- the top bidder wins, and pays the amount the second highest bidder wrote down.

Raise the prices
Often, Monopoly players find there’s just too much money flying around. If you’re playing with a big bankroll, there’s even less strategy to the game; purchasing decisions become trivial, and considering they’re the only decisions you’ll be making for most of the game, that’s a big loss. Try increasing the face prices of all properties by 50 or even 100%, and keep all other monetary values (including mortgage prices) where they are. If your cash doesn’t go as far, you’ll have to think much harder about where to spend it.

Auction off the first turn
In Monopoly, the player who goes first knows he or she isn’t going to wind up paying rent. Conversely, the player who goes last is likely to find many of the starting row properties already owned -- and is likely to wind up with a bill to pay. Here’s a way to level the playing field: have all the players bid for the first-place opportunity with some of their starting cash.

Ditch useless utilities
No smart Monopoly player buys the utilities. Make them worthwhile by turning them into a fifth and sixth railroad. Keep the cost the same as the other railroads, and increase the rent values proportionally for players holding five or six.

Many Monopoly games adopt this rule as the game wears on, as adding a human dimension to the game deepens its strategy enormously. Under this rule, all deals between players are fair game. Want to lend money and charge interest? Go ahead. Trade properties for a Get Out Of Jail Free card? Sure. Give another player free rent on all your properties, or arrange a profit-sharing deal? Go nuts. Just be prepared for an engrossing session of skulduggery and backstabbing.

Make your own cards
Ever thought your Monopoly game would be livened up by a housewrecking elephant? What about a property boom that doubles prices for the next round? Make your own sets of Chance or Community Chest cards, and you can make your wildest dreams come true. As long as they involve Monopoly boards, that is.

by Mike Smith

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