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Monopoly (game)

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Monopoly is a board game which involves using play money to trade real estate. It is named after the economic concept of monopoly, the domination of a market by a single seller. The game was originally designed to illustrate the shortcomings of laissez-faire capitalism.

Table of contents
1 Monopoly
2 Monopoly

History

Monopoly was first marketed on a broad scale by Parker Brothers in the 1930s. It became popular in the United States during the Great Depression.

Although Monopoly is frequently thought to have been invented by Charles Darrow[?], its origins actually go back to 1904, when Lizie J. Magie patented a game called "The Landlord's Game". This original game was played in various forms over the years and as it evolved it later became known in some circles as "Monopoly." One version of the game, commonly played in the Philadelphia area, had Atlantic City street names; this game was taught to Charles Darrow, who then illegally sold the game to Parker Brothers. Later controversy about the origins of the game emerged when Parker Brothers attempted to suppress the publication of a game called Anti-Monopoly, designed by Ralph Ansbach. Their trademark suit against Ansbach went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1983, where the court found in favor of Ansbach because Darrow did not actually invent the game.

Monopoly has been produced for international markets, with the place names being localised for cities including London, England and Paris, France, and for countries including the Netherlands and Germany, among others.

In recent years, the owners of the game have created dozens of versions in which the names of the properties and other elements of the game are replaced by others with some theme. There are versions about national parks, Star Trek, Disney, various particular cities (such as Las Vegas), states, NASCAR, and many others.

Board & Equipment

Each player is represented by a small pewter token which moves around the edge of the board according to die roll. The ten playing pieces currently used in the classic edition are as follows: a top hat, an iron, a Scottie (Scottish terrier) dog, a battleship, a car, a wheelbarrow, a thimble, a cannon, a horse and rider, and an old boot.

The board consists of 40 squares, containing 28 properties, 3 "Chance" squares, 3 "Community Chest" squares, a "Luxury Tax" square, an "Income Tax" square, "GO", "Jail", "Free Parking", and "Go to Jail". In the US version the properties are named after locations in Atlantic City, NJ,).

Standard (American Edition) Monopoly game board layout
GO ⇒ Mediteranean Avenue Community Chest Baltic Avenue Income Tax Reading Railroad Oriental Avenue Chance Vermont Avenue Connecticut Avenue Jail
              
Boardwalk   

Monopoly

   St. Charles Place
Luxury Tax Electric Company
Park Place       States Avenue
Chance    Virginia Avenue
Short Line Railroad Pennsylvania Railroad
Pennsylvania Avenue       St. James Place
Community Chest Community Chest
North Carolina Avenue       Tennessee Avenue
Pacific Avenue       New York Avenue
Go To Jail    Water Works       B&O Railroad       Chance    Free Parking
Marvin Gardens Ventnor Avenue Atlantic Avenue Illinois Avenue Indiana Avenue Kentucky Avenue

The other versions of the game have different property names, and the prices may be denominated in another currecy, but the game mechanics are identical. Below is the standard British board.

Standard (British Edition) Monopoly game board layout
GO ⇒ Old Kent Road (60) Community Chest White Chapel[?] Road (60) Income Tax (Pay 200) Kings Cross station (200) The Angel Islington (100) Chance Euston Road (100) Pentonville Road (120) Jail
              
Mayfair (400)   

Monopoly

   Pall Mall (140)
Super Tax (Pay 100) Electric Company (150)
Park Lane (350)       Whitehall (140)
Chance    Northumberland Avenue (160)
Liverpool Street station (200) Marylebone Station (200)
Bond Street (320)       Bow Street (180)
Community Chest Community Chest
Oxford Street (300)       Marlborough Street (180)
Regent Street (300)       Vine Street (200)
Go To Jail    Water Works (150)       Fenchurch Street Station (200)       Chance    Free Parking
Piccadilly (280) Conventry[?] Street (260) Leicester Square (260) Trafalgar Square (240) Fleet Street (220) Strand (220)

Also included in the standard edition are:

  • A pair of dice.
  • A deed for each property. A deed is given to a player to signifiy ownership, and specifies purchase price, mortgage value, the cost of building houses and hotels on that property, and the various rents depending on how developed the property is. Properties include:
    • 22 streets, divided into 8 color groups. A player must own all of a colour group in order to build houses or hotels.
    • 4 railways. Players collect higher rent if they own more than one railway. Hotels and houses cannot be built on railways.
    • 2 utilities. Players collect higher rent if they own both utilities. Hotels and houses cannot be built on utilities.
  • A supply of paper money. The supply of money is theoretically unlimited; if the bank runs out of money the players must make shift with other markers.
  • Thirty-two plastic houses and twelve plastic hotels. Unlike money, houses and hotels have a finite supply. If no more are available, no player may build them.
  • A deck of "Chance" cards and a deck of "Community Chest" cards. Players draw these cards when they land on the corresponding squares of the track, and follow the instructions printed on them.

Rules

From two to ten people may play Monopoly, but the game dynamics are ideal with six players. With more than six players, it is too likely that an individual will not have the opportunity to purchase significant property, and be bankrupted without ever having been in contention. With four or fewer players, there are not as many possible combinations of property ownership, and the importance of astute trading and negotiation is diminished.

Each player begins the game with $1500 in cash and his token on the Go square. All property deeds, houses, and hotels are held by the bank until purchased by the players.

Players take turns in order, as determined by chance prior to the game. A player's turn consists of rolling two dice and advancing on the board the corresponding number of squares clockwise around the track. Depending where he lands, he takes the following additional actions:

  • If the player lands on an unowned property, he may buy it for the price listed on the deed. If he declines to buy it, the property is immediately put up for auction. All players are eligible to participate in the auction, including the player who declined to buy it, and the bidding may start at any price.
  • If the player lands on his own property, or on property which is owned by another player but currently mortgaged, he does nothing.
  • If the player lands on an unmortgaged property owned by another player, he pays rent to that person, as specified on the property's deed.
  • If the player lands on Chance, he receives a Chance card that has instructions on it which must be followed. Most of these involve moving, e.g. "Take a ride on the Reading", which means the player must advance his token to the Reading Railroad square, paying the owner the applicable rent, and collecting $200 if he passes Go. An oft-quoted Chance card is the one that reads, "Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200".
  • If the player lands on Community Chest he receives a card as with Chance, except that most Community Chest cards involve money, and are usually favorable to the drawing player, e.g., "Bank error in your favor. Collect $200".
  • If the player lands on Luxury Tax/Super Tax, he must pay the Bank $75.
  • If the player lands on Income Tax he must pay the Bank $200 or 10% of his assets. The player must decide which to pay before totalling his assests. (The 10% option is not available on the British board.)
  • If the player lands on or passes Go he receives $200 from the bank, unless he is going to Jail. (Some house rules award a player more for landing exactly on Go.)
  • If the player lands on Jail he is "Just Visiting" and does nothing. No penalty applies. However, if a player is directed to go to Jail by a card, or from having landed on the Go To Jail square, or by virtue of having rolled doubles three times consecutively, he lands in the Jail proper. A player in the Jail proper can get out by paying a $50 fine, using a "get out of jail free" card, or by rolling doubles. If a player refuses to pay the fine and fails to roll doubles, he loses his turn. If a player in Jail refuses to pay the fine three consecutive turns, and each turn fails to roll doubles, the $50 fine is assessed anyway, and he moves the number of pips on his last unsuccessful roll.
  • If the player lands the Go to Jail square, he must move his token to Jail.
  • If the player lands on Free Parking nothing happens. (Some house rules specify that taxes and fines are paid into the middle of the board rather than to the bank, and that a player landing on Free Parking collects whatever money is in the middle of the board.)

A player who rolls doubles takes another turn after completing the first one. If he rolls doubles again, he takes a third turn after completing the second. If, on the third turn, he rolls doubles again, he does not take that turn, but instead goes directly to Jail.

Properties are arranged in "colour groups" of two or three properties. Once a player owns all properties of a group, she may purchase either one to four houses or one hotel (which is equivalent to five houses) for those properties, which raise the rents that must be paid when other players land on the property. The properties in a color group must be developed evenly, i.e. each house that is built must go on the property in the group with the fewest number of houses on it so far. If the number of houses built on the color group is not evenly divisible, then one or two properties may have one extra house. For example, houses in a group may be distributed (2,3,2) or (0,1,1) or (4,4,3) but not (1,2,3) or (0,4,4).

A hotel may be built on a color group only after all properties in the group have four houses. A player purchases a hotel by paying the price of an additional house, and returning the four houses on that property to the bank in exchange for a hotel. If there are not enough houses in the bank for a player to build four houses on each property before building a hotel, the player may not skip directly to buying a hotel by paying the full price at one go.

If more players decide to build houses at the same time than there are houses in the bank, the houses are auctioned off one at a time to the highest bidder. This rule favors the owners of expensive properties, for which the houses cost more in the first place, because the auction price of a house is not tied to the value of the property on which it will be placed.

Players may also freely make trades amongst themselves, involving cash and/or properties. This is often done to obtain all the properties in a particular color group. In tournament games it is against the rules to loan money or trade anything for future consideration, although both are common in home games. Restricting trade deals to current assets sidesteps the problem of enforcing the terms of a deal at a later date when players may squabble over what the terms were (or simply renege on their promises). Deals involving future consideration would in any case be difficult to enforce short of importing all of contract law into the rules, so it is simplest to ban such deals.

According to some house rules, trading doesn't happen until all properties are owned by someone. At this point, play stops and trading ensues until all players are satisfied, e.g. when everyone owns at least one color group. According to the official rules, however, trades are legal as soon as players have anything to trade, so there is no official trading period, and there is no obligation to trade long enough for anyone's satisfaction.

At any time a player may, to raise cash, return hotels and houses to the bank for half their purchase price. If there are sufficient houses in the bank, hotels may also be "broken down" into a number of houses for the corresponding percentage of their purchase price. For example, hotels in one color group may be replaced by two houses each, and for each hotel thus broken down, the player recieves half the cost of three houses. Also, properties with no houses or hotels may be mortgaged for the price listed on the deed. A property does not collect rent while mortgaged and may not be developed. To de-mortgage a property a player must pay "interest" of 10% in addition to the mortgage price.

A player continues playing until he owes the bank or another player more than the amount of cash he can raise and is thus "bankrupted". When a player is bankrupted by a debt to the bank, all of his property is returned to the bank. When a player is bankrupted by a debt to another player, all of the bankrupt player's property is given to his creditor. The winner is the last player left solvent.

Because of the transfer of assets when a player leaves the game, it is tempting for a player on the verge of insolvency to play kingmaker. For example, a player who owes a larger rent than he can pay to a player he detests might say, "You wouldn't trade with me earlier when I needed it, so before I go out, I'm selling everything I own to a different player for one dollar, and that's all you are getting out of me!" To prevent this sort of behavior, it is illegal for a player who has just incurred a debt to sell or trade anything unless he thereby raises enough cash to pay off the debt in full.

Alternatively, a player whose chances of winning have been destroyed by incurring a large debt may be tempted to leave ungracefully by handing everything over intact to his creditor without having been technically bankrupted. This also is forbidden by the rules. Before going bankrupt, a player must tear down all houses and all hotels, and then mortgage all his properties in an attempt to pay off the debt. Thus a player who comes into property by bankrupting someone else never receives anything other than mortgaged and undeveloped property.

The bankruptcy rules are an effort to enforce fair play, but in spite of them there are many ways within the rules by which a losing player can drastically affect the balance of power between the players left in the game.

Strategy

Monopoly involves a substantial portion of luck, with the roll of the dice determining whether a player gets to own key properties or lands on squares with high rents. Even the initial misfortune of going last is a significant disadvantage, because one is more likely to land on property which has already been purchased, and therefore be forced to pay rent instead of having an opportunity to buy unowned property.

There are however, many strategic decisions which allow skilled players to win more often than the unskilled. The fundamental strategic point is that securing monopolies (i.e. all the properties in a color group) is the way to amass wealth, but monopolies arise more through trade than through chance. In a standard six-player game there is a fair probability that none of the players will be able to purchase all of one color group without trading. If no monopolies emerge by chance, and the players do not trade, it is rare for anyone to be eliminated. The game could last indefinitely, with the $200 for passing Go keeping the poorer players from going bankrupt.

Since monopolies are the key to victory, and monopolies arise by the exchange of property from one player to another, a well-played game of Monopoly is from start to finish a game of trading, negotiation, and diplomacy. Players must be aware of the strategic value of the each property at any particular time, considering who needs it to complete a monopoly and which properties in that group are as yet unowned. As soon as two players between them own all the properties in two color groups, they are likely to make a some sort of bargain whereby each of them obtains a monopoly, because if they are the first to be able to build houses and hotels, they each have a much better chance of winning.

Not only is it critical to trade shrewdly, it is important to be diplomatic. Knowing the exact strategic value of all the properties doesn't help much if the other players won't trade with you because you offended them early in the game. It helps to be a genial sort that others don't mind losing to, rather than someone people go out of their way to thwart. For example, because a losing player can to some extent choose to which surviving player to give his property, someone who has annoyed or offended his opponents may find a strong position come to naught when the game is "given" to another player.

Apart from property trading, the most important strategic decisions involve cash management. There is great pressure to build as much and as soon as possible in order to begin collecting large rents. On the other hand, a player who doesn't have the cash to pay a large rent may be forced to tear down houses, getting only half the invested cash back. It can be as dangerous to build as it is to refrain from building.

Furthermore, holding cash is important when unowned property is landed on and must be auctioned off, as well as important when there is a shortage of houses and the remaining houses are auctioned off. Being cash poor can lead to frustration when another player gets a good deal in an auction in which you can't compete. Also, holding cash allows one to cut favorable deals with a player who is cash poor. For example, a player who would be forced to undevelop his property to pay a large rent might decide to instead sell some other undeveloped property for cash, even though he would normally be reluctant to trade property for anything other than property. If only one player has significant cash reserves, that player has significant negotiating leverage.

Because of the importance of cash, many players treat any ungrouped property they own primarily as a cash source through which they can develop their monopolies. Holding unmortgaged and undeveloped property is rather similar to holding a cash reserve, because mortgaging is realatively inexpensive. To de-mortgage a mortgaged property costs only 10% more than the cash received for mortgaging, whereas to rebuild a house one has torn down costs 100% more than the cash received for tearing it down.

The location of properties is also important. Becuase of Chance cards and the Jail, different squares have different probabilities of being visited. The most visited square is Illinois, followed by St. Charles, Go, and Reading Railroad. There is also a great difference between the rent/cost of development ratio between different areas. The properties futher along on each side are always more lucrative because they earn more from the same development cost. Thus, for example, the Orange are far superior to the Purples. It has been calculated that the worst properties to own are the Dark Greens, and the best are the Orange.

Tactics

  • Early in the game when many properties are unowned, it is a disadvantage to be in Jail. One should pay the fine and get moving with an eye to landing on unowned property or at least passing Go. Later in the game when properties are highly developed, it is an advantage to be in Jail so as to avoid paying high rents. At that stage it is better to refuse to pay the fine and hope not to roll doubles.

  • When landing on the Income Tax square, one is not allowed to total one's assets before deciding whether to pay $200 or %10 of one's assets. However, there is a simple rule of thumb that works well in practice. Since one starts with $1500 and collects $200 for passing Go each time, it is generally better to pay 10% until one has passed Go for the third time. Barring exceptionally good or bad fortune, the third time past Go is when a player's assets exceed $2000, and once above $2000 a player is not likely to dip below until late in the game when he has paid some drastic rents and is on the verge of elimination.

  • The increased rent for houses takes a long time to pay off the initial investment if there are only one or two houses per property. Starting with the third house, rents rise dramatically, and pay off the investment correspondingly faster. If one owns all of two color groups it is much better to put three or four houses on each property in one group (leaving the other undeveloped) than it is to put two houses everywhere. Similarly, it is unwise to deeply mortgage oneself to develop a monopoly unless one can build to at least the third house.

  • If there is a shortage of houses, one should consider buying up the last houses rather than buying hotels, because each hotel one builds returns four houses to the bank for other players to use. When there are no houses in the bank, no one else can build houses. More importantly, no one can build hotels unless they already have four houses on each property of a color group. The owners of inexpensive monopolies should be particularly eager to use this tactic to prevent the owners of expensive monopolies from fully developing.

  • Occasionally when there is a housing shortage it can pay to tear down one's own houses on one color group in order to immediately build them on a different color group. However, if another player declares an interest in buying the houses you have torn down, you will have to outbid him for them, so this tactic pays off only when you are buying the torn down houses for expensive properties anyway, you are flush with cash, and the other likely bidders are cash poor.

External Link

The official Monopoly web site: http://www.monopoly.com

Papers

Monopoly as a Markov Process, by R. Ash and R. Bishop, Mathematics Magazine[?], vol. 45 (1972) p. 26-29.

See Also : Localized versions of the Monopoly game



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