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March 27, 2007 8:47 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever gotten stuck in a never-ending game of Monopoly? Turns out the game wouldn't take so long if we didn't play with so many made-up rules. There are many different variations of house rules. Some people even make up their own extreme game. The official Monopoly rules are posted at Monopoly Collector, which also has game history and facts, as do the Monopoly pages at Hasbro. If you're into statistics, Durango Bill has an excellent article on Monopoly probabilities. Also related, old-style Monopoly card illustrations. And just for fun, check out "Monopoly Cards We'd Like To See" at Dribble Glass. Or, make your own Chance and Community Chest cards at Sign Generator.
posted by amyms (46 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
In searching for doubles, I found a previous Metafilter post about Monopoly house rules here, but the site linked to in the post seems to be broken.
posted by amyms at 8:48 PM on March 27, 2007

Monopoly is evil capitalist propaganda, which aims to indoctrinate children with the concept that you can be fabulously wealthy, and yet still subject to the same laws as everybody else.

In doing so, it actively serves to hide the principle that if you are super-rich, you are not only exempt from the laws, but you actually own the laws.

As such, I always insist on applying real-life principles to games: "2nd prize in a beauty contest? Fuck that! I sponsor the fucking contest! First prize for me!"

(meanwhile, the other contestants - ie the other players - are mysteriously found to have illegal beauty-contest-performance-enhancing drugs in their bags backstage, and jailed for three turns...)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:58 PM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Great, great post!
posted by Miko at 8:59 PM on March 27, 2007

Also, don't miss Anti-Monopoly. I was just reading about the Quaker woman who really invented the first Monopoly-style game....
posted by Miko at 9:01 PM on March 27, 2007

I'm not sure the GeoCities page I link to here prevents the unvarnished truth, but I suspect that you have it precisely backwards, UbuRoivas.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:05 PM on March 27, 2007

It's been a while since my days of liking Monopoly, but back when I was into it, I hated the "Free Parking" rule, which simply served to add a hell of a lot more luck to a game that already had too much.
posted by JHarris at 9:05 PM on March 27, 2007

I'd love to be a mouse in the corner at UbuRoivas' house during a Monopoly game... lol... I have many dysfunctional family memories (some fun, some traumatic) of arguing over extra Monopoly rules... It was especially exciting during major holidays when relatives from far away would visit, bringing with them their own unique house rules and eccentricities.
posted by amyms at 9:13 PM on March 27, 2007

Monopoly is evil capitalist propaganda, which aims to indoctrinate children with the concept that you can be fabulously wealthy, and yet still subject to the same laws as everybody else.

Actually, Monopoly has its roots in a game whose purpose was to demonstrate that the relationship between a landlord and a tenant is an adversarial one which enriches the landlord at the tenant's expense.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 9:50 PM on March 27, 2007

My mother refuses to allow monopoly into her home, because back when I was a youngling and we used to play it, on more than one occasion domestic child abuse almost broke out.

That sounds worse than it was...
posted by papakwanz at 9:51 PM on March 27, 2007

Kwantsar & CrunchyFrog: Yes, rent enriches landlords & impoverishes tenants. You hardly need a game to demonstrate that. What happens, though, is that the game does not go nearly far enough, because it totally fails to demonstrate the wealth-power nexus, whereby those with property actually influence, if not create, laws in their own favour. Instead, it treats the laws - the rules of the game - as immutable, which they are not, regardless of how they might appear.

Thus, it's not just a matter of little-steamship pays me $200 rent, but I make it structurally difficult, if not impossible, for little-steamship to ever become a landlord. And even if it did somehow acquire some wealth, my media empire will ensure that all that wealth flows directly back to me & my cronies, and thereby the steamship never does squat to arm itself with some nice little gun-turrets to overthrow the entire system.

This is why, amyms, it is preferable - and much more fun - to be a mouse in the corner of an Anarchopoly game at my place.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:58 PM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Anarchopoly links, UbuRoivas. Now.
posted by lekvar at 10:06 PM on March 27, 2007

It's just Monopoly without rules, since there are no rulers.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:12 PM on March 27, 2007

You should market it, UbuRoivas... But only in a non-capitalist, non-indoctrinating way. ;)
posted by amyms at 10:14 PM on March 27, 2007

My wife's family refused to play monopoly with us anymore after this one time we teamed up (pooled our resources mid-game) and wiped the floor with them...
posted by bruzie at 10:33 PM on March 27, 2007

the introductory rules for anarchopoly (open source, no TM) are as follows:

1. there are rules
2. rules may be broken
3. breaking rules may incur a penalty
4. penalties are themselves subject to rules
5. all rules are set and enforced at the discretion of the ruler
6. the ruler may delegate some of his powers, subject to certain rules
7. the aim of the game may be to either:
- a) subvert rules
- b) subvert the ruler
- c) become the ruler
- d) subvert the other players
- e) subvert the game itself
- (...) etc etc etc
- z3974B6) seek to revoke the temporary remission orders enabling the delegate to purchase another round of drinks for her fellow conspirators
- (etc)
8. all rules are subject to the rules applicable to other rules, as amended from time-to-time by the correct means.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:33 PM on March 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

(it's not totally dissimilar to calvinball)
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:35 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Calvin Ball rules
posted by amyms at 10:44 PM on March 27, 2007

  The other day I found myself playing Monopoly with Donald Knuth and John Conway. We got the board set up and the money distributed, then realized we were missing the dice.
  "The kids must've lost the dice," I apologized.
  "That's OK," said Dr. Conway, "Do you have any playing cards?"
  I went back to the game shelf and retrieved a rather ratty looking deck of cards.
  "Yeah, but it looks like about half are missing, including most of the lower-numbered cards."
  I figured he planned on pulling out two sets of ace through six, using them a substitutes for the missing dice.
  "But for what it's worth, here you go," I said, and handed him the depleted deck.
  Dr. Conway quickly flipped through the cards, removing a handful and setting them aside. "It looks like all the hearts are gone," he said, "and even the other suits are incomplete. But I believe we have all the cards we need."
  He handed me a set of nine cards, explaining "Instead of rolling dice, we'll simply remove a pair of cards from the nine at random. The roll will be the average of the two cards, where ace through ten assume their usual pip value, a jack is eleven, a queen twelve, and a king thirteen, as one might expect. With the cards I've chosen, the distribution will be the same as with a pair of ordinary dice."
  I was intrigued, and impressed, but thought I noticed a flaw in his system, as I handed the cards to Dr. Knuth.
  "What about doubles?" I asked. "For Monopoly, we'll need to know when someone has rolled doubles."
  "Not a problem," Knuth chimed in, after a brief look at the cards. "If the roll is even and the chosen cards are both diamonds, then doubles have been thrown, so to speak."
  "Fascinating," I thought. And we then proceeded to play a nice game of Monopoly, which I won easily.

What were the nine cards Dr. Conway pulled from the deck?
posted by iconjack at 10:50 PM on March 27, 2007 [7 favorites]

And, btw, if Calvin Ball were an Olympic event, my kids would have been gold medalists... Every time I have ever played any game with them (ANY game ~ even "Go Fish") they change the rules, elaborately, in mid-play.
posted by amyms at 10:52 PM on March 27, 2007

Cool puzzle iconjack. My memory of probabilities is so fuzzy it took me a while to realize there was actually a solution. Very fun.
Another "anti-monopoly" is Class Struggle by Avalon Hill. Difficult to find, but amusing to play. I like the rule where everyone decides which player has the most racial and socioeconomic class advantage, and they get to go first.
Monopoly is incredibly boring to me.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:40 PM on March 27, 2007

I think I figured it out except for the suit issue. Link to answer? I need to get some rest.
posted by Pacheco at 11:43 PM on March 27, 2007

Yes, please link to the answer, iconjack... My brain is about to explode, or implode... It's giving warning signs of something.
posted by amyms at 11:45 PM on March 27, 2007

I think the reason so many 'house' rules prolong the game is that many people don't enjoy the part where one player grinds the others gradually down, forcing them to sell up, mortgage, and basically spend a lot of time egregiously losing. (For other players, of course, this is the whole point of the game.) So to avoid the unpleasantness, people devise rules that give out more cash and stave off the crisis.

A better solution is perhaps the alternative Parker Bros. insisted on before accepting the game - playing to a time limit and then counting up your assets. My family has been playing this way recently and found it far less traumatic.
posted by Phanx at 11:46 PM on March 27, 2007

Awesome puzzle, iconjack, thanks.

(And a great post, too--I definitely want to try the "X-treme" rules...)
posted by equalpants at 12:32 AM on March 28, 2007

Solution to Iconjack's puzzle, rot13'd for convenience:

Npr bs Q, Guerr bs Q, Svir bs P naq F, Frira bs Q, Avar bs P naq F, Wnpx bs Q, Xvat bs Q

Fvapr gurer ner 36 jnlf gb ebyy gjb qvpr, naq 36 jnlf gb pubbfr 2 pneqf bhg bs 9, gur ahzore bs cnvef bs pneqf tvivat fbzr pregnva nirentr vf gur fnzr nf gur ahzore bs qvpr gung qb. Fcrpvsvpnyyl, gurer zhfg or n havdhr cnve tvivat 12.

Gurer ner bayl gjb jnlf gb trg 12: XW be DD. Shegure, fvapr jr xabj gung 12 vf nhgbzngvpnyyl n qbhoyr, jr pna'g unir DD, nf jr qba'g unir 2 D bs Q. Fb, jr xabj gung jr unir rknpgyl bar X, naq bar W. N fvzvyne nethzrag fubjf gung jr unir rknpgyl bar N naq bar 3.

Abj jr unir sbhe "bqq" pneqf - vs jr unq nal rira pneqf, gura gur nirentr bs gur gjb jbhyq abg or na vagrtre, juvpu vf onq. Gurersber jr whfg arrq gb qrgrezvar ubj znal svirf, friraf, naq avarf jr unir. Gb trg gur 2 11 ebyyf jr arrq, jr'yy unir gb unir 2 avarf. Fvzvyneyl, gb trg 2 3 ebyyf, jr arrq 2 svirf. Fvapr jr xabj jr unir 9 pneqf, gurer zhfg or rknpgyl 1 frira, fvapr gung'f gur bayl guvat yrsg. (Be lbh pna fubj guvf jbexf bhg, V fhccbfr)

Fb gung'f gur enaxf bs gur pneqf - abj jr arrq gb qrgrezvar fhvgf. Jr nyernql xabj gur N, 3, W, X zhfg or qvnzbaqf, orpnhfr 2/12 ner nhgbzngvpnyyl qbhoyrf. Gurfr sbhe pbire gur qbhoyr ebyyf sbe 2, 6, 8, naq 12. Vs bar bs gur 5'f vf n qvnzbaq, gura gur qvnzbaq 5 + qvnzbaq W tvirf nabgure qbhoyr 8, juvpu vf n ceboyrz. Fvzvyneyl, vs bar bs gur 9'f vf n qvnzbaq, gura jr trg na rkgen qbhoyr 6. Guhf, gur 7 vf n qvnzbaq, fvapr jr arrq nabgure qvnzbaq naq vgf gur bayl guvat yrsg.

Fvapr jr'er zvffvat urnegf, naq 5/9 pna'g or qvnzbaqf, gurl zhfg or pyhof/fcnqrf.
posted by TypographicalError at 1:43 AM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is an awesome post. Thanks, amyms.
posted by sveskemus at 2:43 AM on March 28, 2007

Extreme Monopoly? Gah. More of the same tedium-inducing random cash manipulation. The partial-rent-for-partial-ownership rule is interesting, but it makes a player's value-for-investment curve more gradient and less stairsteppy, and I'm pretty sure stairsteps, non-proportional responses, are what permit strategy and nonaccidental victory and other appealing things like that to be part of the game.

The only house rules I am interested in playing are those of Illuminopoly (version 2.2).
posted by eritain at 3:42 AM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow, that Extreme Monopoly ruleset looks like it would cause some awesomely incendiary moments with the family. But I'm in it for the Community Chest card adaptations:

Delete: "You inherit £100" and replace with: "You inherit £1000 but as a strange codicil, you are required to sing a song that the other players nominate."

I've always felt that the game was lacking the kind of performance-induced embarrassment that makes for a suitably surreal board game experience.
posted by Mayor West at 5:44 AM on March 28, 2007

Monopoly is a terrible game whether you play by the actual rules or not. It's a crime against Americans that for most of them, this is their sole boardgaming experience. The truth is, there is no reason to play Monopoly at all, given some of the fantastic games out there. Head over to BoardGameGeek to find some fun alternative games that offer you more than just buying stuff and then trying to stay in jail until everyone else goes bankrupt.

Some alternatives I suggest: Power Grid. Settlers of Catan. Vegas Showdown. Puerto Rico. El Grande. Those are just off the top of my head.
posted by Legomancer at 6:19 AM on March 28, 2007

many people don't enjoy the part where one player grinds the others gradually down, forcing them to sell up, mortgage, and basically spend a lot of time egregiously losing. (For other players, of course, this is the whole point of the game.) So to avoid the unpleasantness, people devise rules that give out more cash and stave off the crisis.

It strikes me that making up house rules, then, could be seen as kind of a counter-hegemonic folk process, sometimes aimed at adjusting individual power.

The more I think about 'house rules' the more interesting it gets in this way; whether it's darts, cards, Monopoly, or a drinking game, house rules basically use the finite variables of game theory to change game play for specific reasons: either to make the game more enjoyable, make it last longer, make it fairer (or even handicap certain individuals), make it more difficult. Herats is a card game that suffers (IMO) from a proliferation of house rules: passing, not passing, how, jack of diamonds or no, what you get for the Queen, can hearts lead or not. People really mess with the dynamics of that game all the time.

I love the idea of the People wresting control from the elite in Monopoly by introducing elements of chance and by community pooling of resources.

Of course, even this mimics capitalism in that it functions like a lottery windfall -- one person cleans up on Free Parking and maybe gets enough of a boost to run with the big dogs. This then provides evidence that there is class mobility, that anyone can climb the ladder through a combination of luck and hard work, and contributes to the illusion that there's a fair playing field. Lotteries have arisen in middle-class societies for hundreds of years for just this reason, but they benefit the very few at the expense of the many, of course.

It might be an interesting house rule to set up union dues on free parking - just as you collect $200 for passing Go, you could drop $20 every time you pass free parking. Then the union could have occasional meetings to advocate for adjusting game play midgame.

It could get interesting. You could probably structure an entire college economics class by changing the gameplay of Monopoly week by week and observing its effects.

What interests me most, though, is that house rules are truly a folk phenomenon. They exist and proliferate outside official culture, and are not supported by written official documents.

This site is an awesome blog that details ways to adjust game play.
posted by Miko at 6:31 AM on March 28, 2007 [4 favorites]

In my experience, the length of a game of Monopoly is not determined by whether you are playing by house rules or not. The length of the game is determined by the number of players. If you only have two people playing, it's likely that one player will get a monopoly early and begin to start draining money from the other player, and the game will be over in under two hours. When you have three or more players, it's much harder for any player to get a monopoly, and that's when the game drags out for hours and hours.
posted by donajo at 8:09 AM on March 28, 2007

Back in the heyday of my creative youth, I invited some friends over for my birthday. We threw a stack of games and miscellaneous household items on the pool table in the basement of my parents house, and after about a half an hour of brainstorming, from a monopoloy set, a deck of playing cards, some baloons, a roll of crepe paper, a Dr. Seuss book, the first incarnation of "Monopoly with Crap" was born.

The variations:

(1) We didn't mess around with the long drawn-out stage of building up and obtaining properties -- that would be a recipe for the usual combination of doldrum and personal investment in the game. Instead we shuffled them up and dealt them out, an even number to each player ("Communist monopoly!", a girlfriend later asserted).

(2) You were required to draw from the deck of playing cards if you threw a double, or landed on a "Community Chest" or "Chance" space.

(3) Once you drew a playing card, you were required to:
(a) run to the pool table. Find the ball corresponding to your playing card (J-11,Q-12,K-13,A-14,J-15) and play the table (taking turns with anyone else who might be at the table) until you sink that one.
(b) At this point, you could move on to the baloon volleyball court (another part of the basement, divided by a crepe-paper net). If no one else was there, you had to wait until someone arrived. If someone was waiting, you played until someone scored a point. The person scoring a point would be allowed to return to the monopoly board.

(4) If you went to jail, you had to sit and pedal on the exercise bike in the corner until the current song on the stereo finished.

(5) If you were gone from the board (at the pool table, playing baloon volleyball, or on the exercise bike) when someone landed on your property, they didn't have to pay you. And of course you missed your turn if it came up while you were gone.

(6) You didn't get money for passing Go.

(7) The game was over when the first person ran out of money. The loser was required to read the rest of us the Dr. Seuss book.

"Monopoly with Crap" went through several incarnations, depending on who it was played with and whose house we were at. We discovered optimal play was achieved by adding to the amount of time at (and number of) stations located away from the board -- and distance from the board. And decreasing the amount of ordered play. The more running to-and-fro, and the more confusion, the better.

Which goes to show that Calvinball had it right, of course -- though there is a drawback. The older and more ordered my life and the lives of my friends get, the less inclined anyone seems to be to play, though whether it's really just be that the novelty wore off and the real business of life became more interesting, or whether this is all a metaphor for something else, I can't say.
posted by weston at 8:26 AM on March 28, 2007 [4 favorites]

(Oh. Monopoly with Crap was generally finished in under 45 frantic minutes, regardless of the number of players. :)
posted by weston at 8:27 AM on March 28, 2007

Monopoly is evil capitalist propaganda, which aims to indoctrinate children with the concept that you can be fabulously wealthy, and yet still subject to the same laws as everybody else.

In doing so, it actively serves to hide the principle that if you are super-rich, you are not only exempt from the laws, but you actually own the laws.

posted by UbuRoivas at 11:58 PM on March 27 [1 favorite +]

Growing up, we had a house rule that you could steal money from the bank and keep it if you didn't get caught in the act. But if you did get caught, you had to pay4x the prop. value of the card back to the bank.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:39 AM on March 28, 2007

Fun post!

UbuRoivas, it looks like you'd like Nomic.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:55 AM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

My fiancee and I were playing Monopoly with our five year old nephew just last night (he pulled it off the shelf and wanted to play). Now that was interesting... we played the 'five year old attention span' version which was mostly about him counting his dice rolls and arranging his money into nice neat piles. He understood that the object of the game was to buy property (or as he called it, 'houses') but the idea of buying all the property of the same color (getting a Monopoly) didn't seem to sink in until near the end of the game-- which ended when he got squirmy.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:07 AM on March 28, 2007

Calvinballfilter: My brother and I invented "Boppers" which was part dress-up, part ball game. We played with neighbors, visitors, cousins, and even grown-ups. The idea was to pull together a fantastical costume and arm yourself with a bat-like object as outlandish as possible. So for example you might wear an oven mitt, a pillow strapped to your butt, a frisbee tied-on bonnet style with a shoelace, and mother's apron tied around your throat like a cape while wielding a pushbroom.

The opening negotiations entailed a lot of handicapping-- grown-ups made to run in swimming fins or big people forced to run backwards. Points were deducted if parts of your attire fell-off. Points were aquired with a "good showing" such as connecting solidly when aiming your swimming pool net "bat" with the stuffed animal "ball." There was, in short, a lot of giggling, a lot of heated discussion, and a lot of running around.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:45 AM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Interesting, looking at the old style cards. The newer ones with the Robert Borden/Wilfrid Laurier-era rich uncle are less nation-specific.
posted by philfromhavelock at 1:17 PM on March 28, 2007

Solution to Iconjack's puzzle, rot13'd for inconvenience:

There, fixed that for you.
posted by JHarris at 2:42 PM on March 28, 2007

From the 'probabilities' link:
"For reasons unknown and for which Yahoo refuses to disclose, this entire website has been blacklisted/banned by Yahoo’s search engine"

posted by Smedleyman at 2:49 PM on March 28, 2007

Thank God! I grew up hating Monopoly because it was a tedious, endless, skillless game. Then I read the rules instead of having the game explained to me. Now nobody wants to play with me. It is mystery.
posted by absalom at 2:51 PM on March 28, 2007

I'll give a hint for iconjack's puzzle. Make a chart of each number from two to twelve, the probability of rolling the number, and the probability of the roll being doubles. Start with the two and twelve results. Since they are doubles it makes it pretty easy to identify four of the cards. The rest should fall into place.

straight, why didn't you link the original mefi comment by skallas?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:33 PM on March 28, 2007

The link I posted was the only thing Google found for me. I'd forgotten that I'd seen it here first, and didn't notice the MeFi link at the site until after I'd posted my comment. Didn't think it was worth a correction since my link had a link back to the original.
posted by straight at 10:02 AM on March 29, 2007

Miko: I love what you wrote. I want to favorite it more than 100 times. i want to read that thesis.
posted by amethysts at 4:57 PM on March 29, 2007

OK, yeah, I take back what I said about Monopoly Extreme, insofar as I really, really like the 'strange codicil's.
posted by eritain at 5:55 PM on March 29, 2007

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