Back to index of games pages by Donald Sauter.

Monopoly -

Some thoughts on the classic game

What we have here is:

The links are all in this page, so just start reading.

Monopoly Is Good For You

Haven't played in years but I remember having a lot of fun with Monopoly. A lot of people groan at the thought of it - mostly because it takes forever; or maybe because it's just a dumb game.

My defense is that, ok, maybe it's not much as far as pushing little pieces around a board goes, but it provides a great framework for human interaction with all the wacky wheeling and dealing. ("Come on, I'll give you $4000 for Marvin Gardens - and I'll even pay you to land on it!") Give it a try with a bunch of fun people and send me a scathing e-mail if I have misled you.

A few "House Rules" for Monopoly

I remember, though, that I needed 3 house rules implemented in order for me to play.

House Rule 1 is the elimination of the stupid boxtop rule where if Alberto lands on Billy Bob's property and Charlie the creep slams the dice down before Billy Bob notices or says anything, Billy Bob is out of luck and Alberto gets off scot free. This is probably the single greatest cause of bawling children in the history of the universe. C'mon, people, games are supposed to be fun. Not to mention that the boxtop rule doesn't relate to life. Who gets out of a rent payment like that?

[It's been pointed out to me a couple of times that the rule states, "The owner may not collect his rent if he fails to ask for it before the second player following throws the dice." No one played like that when I was a kid, but I have now confirmed it was in the 1950s-era Monopoly rules. Oddly, the 1961 rule-sheet from a British Monopoly game clearly states, "If the owner fails to ask for his rent before the next throw of the dice, no rent may be collected." In any case, the extra complexity of the official American rule brings only a slight improvement. If a landlord's mind is occupied for one quick roll of the dice, it very well may be for two. And it still isn't realistic. I stand by House Rule 1: you stay at somebody's place; you pay rent.]

The second house rule I require is that debts must be paid off instantly. In other words, if Alberto owes Billy Bob money - by landing on his property, say - Alberto must pay Billy Bob before making any other transactions. In other words, Alberto CANNOT strike a deal with any other player to try to get the money together. If you're worried about that hotel looming on the horizon, you had better get the money together before rolling the dice.

A weird aspect of Monopoly is how difficult it can be for the first player who forges ahead to actually win. A natural tendency is for players to gang up on the player who jumps out into the lead. Some will gladly sacrifice themselves just to see someone else - anyone - win. The game's wide-open wheeling-dealing serves to eliminate most of the control a player has over his own destiny. House Rule 2 gives at least a tiny smidgin of hope to a player who is doing well. No doubt there are professional Monopoliers out there who have learned to take all of these finer points into account to win tournaments - not jumping too far ahead too soon; keeping on the good side of your opponents until the very end; etc. - but I don't think the masses need or want to bother themselves with such subtleties.

Like I say, it's been some years now, but I think House Rule 3 was "a player may only initiate a deal on his turn and before rolling the dice." If that wasn't it, at least it's a sensible one. Besides reining in the pestiferous player who continually bothers everybody with his crackpot deals, it simply adds a touch of much-needed structure to the game.

Great Monopoly Games!

Here are 2 of my most memorable Monopoly games. One was a 2-person game with my friend Karen. After all the property was bought, we each had just one block. She had Mediterranean and Baltic; I had the light blues (Connecticut, etc.) on the first side of the board.

That should assure me of an eventual victory, right? Absolutely nothing would go right. I kept mortgaging property to buy houses and hotels which were never landed on. On the other hand, I continually landed on Karen's hotels - lowly as they were - plus every other unlucky spot on the board. Every house I bought kept going back to the bank for half price.

This string of misfortunes continued until, after landing on one of her properties, I was down to exactly $1. At the same time all of my property was mortgaged! But wait - it gets worse!

I was coming around to Go again and in a good (?) position to land on her hotels - not to mention Boardwalk, Income Tax and a Railroad - on my next roll. I fully expected that to be the last roll of the game. I was praying to land on Luxury Tax so that I could at least lose to the Bank and steal from Karen the satisfaction of twisting the final dagger herself.

But, somehow, I managed to creep through that gauntlet. Just prolonging the agony, I figured. No doubt I would bite the dust within a few more turns.

Imperceptibly, the tide began to shift. I sank the Go money into a few houses. Karen landed on them, giving me a little more money. I avoided her hotels for a few more circuits of the board. Little by little by little, I got up hotels and all my property unmortgaged. The astounding realization struck us both at about the same time: I had an unshakeable grip on eventual victory. Karen conceded - to an opponent who at one point had a single dollar to his name!

Another good one was with my brother-in-law Tom and his young son Bryan. Tom and I have always had a good time competing with each other in games and sports. We were having a fine battle in this particular Monopoly game but he was getting the upper hand. Bryan had a lot of money but was property poor. I was going down the tubes and could see I was ready to take a mortal hit going around Free Parking facing Tom's line-up of hotels.

Before rolling the dice, I turned to Bryan and said, "Hey, I'll give you everything I have - money and property - for your Get Out Of Jail Free card." Bryan, being a bright lad, recognized this as a splendid deal. The transaction was completed; I threw the dice, landed on Tom's hotel and handed him the Get Out Of Jail Free card along with the advice, "Don't spend it all at once!"

Tom sat there shell-shocked. He was heard to mumble in a daze, "Can he do that???" Needless to say, he didn't stand a chance against Bryan's combined property and wealth.

Handy price guide for Monopoly houses and hotels

The following handy table shows the total price for any quantity of houses you are buying, or selling back to the bank. Take a look at the table to instantly determine what is the least number of houses you must sell back to get the money needed to pay off an obligation.

Print this table out and keep it with your game.

                   Prices for Monopoly Houses - any quantity

                Side 1          Side 2           Side 3           Side 4
Number of   $50 per house   $100 per house   $150 per house   $200 per house
 houses       Buy   Sell      Buy   Sell       Buy   Sell       Buy   Sell    
---------    ----   ----     ----   ----      ----   ----      ----   ----  
    1         $50    $25     $100    $50      $150    $75      $200   $100
    2        $100    $50     $200   $100      $300   $150      $400   $200
    3        $150    $75     $300   $150      $450   $225      $600   $300
    4        $200   $100     $400   $200      $600   $300      $800   $400
    5*       $250   $125     $500   $250      $750   $375     $1000   $500
    6        $300   $150     $600   $300      $900   $450     $1200   $600

    7        $350   $175     $700   $350     $1050   $525     $1400   $700
    8        $400   $200     $800   $400     $1200   $600     $1600   $800
    9        $450   $225     $900   $450     $1350   $675     $1800   $900

   10**      $500   $250    $1000   $500     $1500   $750     $2000  $1000
   11        $550   $275    $1100   $550     $1650   $825     $2200  $1100
   12        $600   $300    $1200   $600     $1800   $900     $2400  $1200

   13        $650   $325    $1300   $650     $1950   $975     $2600  $1300
   14        $700   $350    $1400   $700     $2100  $1050     $2800  $1400
   15***     $750   $375    $1500   $750     $2250  $1125     $3000  $1500

  * 1 hotel  =  5 houses    
 ** 2 hotels = 10 houses    
*** 3 hotels = 15 houses    

Note: you'll never buy or sell just one hotel. You can buy or sell a whole block's worth, which will always be 3 hotels except, of course, 2 hotels for the Mediterranian/Baltic and Park Place/Boardwalk blocks.

Remember, houses are only ever sold back to the bank; they never pass from one player to another in any transaction.


Contact Donald Sauter: send an email; view guestbook; sign guestbook.
Back to Donald Sauter's main page.
Rather shop than think? Please visit My Little Shop of Rare and Precious Commodities.
Back to the top of this page.

Parents, if you're considering tutoring or supplemental education for your child, you may be interested in my observations on Kumon.