Have You Played… Monopoly?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

There are many versions of Monopoly, and as far as I’m aware they’re all awful. But what if I’m wrong?

Whether you’re building hotels in London, New York or a city you live in or visited on holiday, you roll dice, hope for the pips that’ll land you in just the right spot, and then either draw a card, do nothing at all, or pay money into the bank or to another player. As a commentary on the way random chance can send people tumbling through the cracks of capitalism, it’s not bad, an artgame perhaps, but as a competitive boardgame, it’s awful.

“Oh, but do you know the proper rules. Nobody plays by the proper rules?”

This is the cry of the people who know about the auctions. Rather than buying whatever property you land on, they’ll tell you, you open it up to an auction, meaning people who need that property to complete a set have a chance to pitch in and ty to snatch it away from you. Of course, if anyone else has more money they can outbid the person in need of the property, and if not, that person will win the auction. Money makes money and money comes to you mostly by chance.

It really is a very clever artgame that is very boring to play.

You might be moving around a board illustrated with locations from the Star Wars universe. It makes no difference. This is art and it will punish you.

75 Comments

  1. Snowskeeper says:

    Monopoly is great; it’s a perfect way to get a friend you don’t like to stop talking to you forever.

    • skeletortoise says:

      I feel like the ‘Monopoly is relationship straining misery’ cliche has been repeated so long it’s kind of just running on autopilot. At this point, everyone knows exactly what they’re getting with Monopoly and I don’t think anyone is actually that bothered by it. Sure, the person who happens to win it super easily and all the time is annoying and it’s not great to see your inevitable defeat coming after the first 20 minutes of the game, but hey, it’s Monopoly, what do you expect? If a friendship can’t withstand a game of Monopoly then I don’t think it really had wheels to begin with.

      But if you do want to burn some bridges, possibly three or four at a time, go all in and play RISK.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        I have never seen, heard or been a part of a game of Monopoly that didn’t end with everyone feeling frustrated.

      • dontnormally says:

        There are versions of Risk that aren’t absolute trash games

      • itsbenderingtime says:

        Sorry! is the best friendship-ruiner, though. Although I prefer to call it by it’s real name, “Ha ha, **** You!”

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        Phasma Felis says:

        Try Diplomacy.

        It’s not that it’s a bad game, quite the opposite; it’s a game about tricking people into trusting you and then stabbing them in the back at the worst possible moment, and it accomplishes that very very well.

        • Haldurson says:

          I totally agree that Diplomacy has quite an elegant design, and “in theory”, COULD be a very clever game. I completely understand why it COULD be a fun game with the right group.

          Unfortunately, my experiences with it have been almost entirely negative, and a couple of those experiences have been incredibly negative. I swore the game off several times. The first time I thought ‘well, the game has interesting mechanics. Maybe it will be fun next time’. Then ‘ok, person A was just taking the game much too seriously’. Then ‘Why the f… did I let person A drag me into this AGAIN!!!.’ I never understood why people would have big fights over things that happened in the game, and then next time, would always be the ones to push to play it again. They would get so angry in one game, and yet feel the need to drag the rest of us into that same torturous experience the next time. I just couldn’t take it. Why do people keep doing things (like playing Diplomacy) that seem to make them miserable? Maybe they aren’t actually miserable, they love being angry and love making everyone else miserable?

          And yes, it was that bad.

    • kincajou says:

      Oh boy, monopoly has nothing on diplomacy in the ruin friendship department! And diplomacy is lots of fun to play too!!

      • Haldurson says:

        True. Monopoly only ruins friendships if your friend is kind of an a-hole anyway. Real friends don’t let friends play Monopoly. But Diplomacy has (reportedly) caused a couple of Divorces.

        BTW, any overly long game, even a decent one, can cause extreme anger. A former friend threatened my life at one point because I wanted to quit a game of Advanced Civilization that had been going on for (imho) FAR too long. I’m talking about the old Avalon Hill board game, not the Sid Meier’s Civ game: link to boardgamegeek.com. BGG claims that the game should take up to 8 hours, but our game had gone on for more than twice that (no joke) mostly due to one extremely slow and indecisive and far-too-easily confused player. And Advanced Civilization used to be my favorite board game, but incidents like that ruined it for me.

        • kincajou says:

          So true! Long games are really exhausting, Diplomacy is fantastic fun but i only ever take it out a couple of times a year (at most) as neither me nor my friends can cope with the time it takes… I honestly only ever finished 2 games of diplomacy, the rest just stopped because we lacked time.

          Nowadays when i play diplomacy the first rule i ever put down is that if at any point someone decides they’re not having fun (which everyone agrees is not the same as being angry at one another :P) then we stop the game and either call it a day/evening/night or move onto another game.

          I think with the years my approach to gaming has changed and so has the way i enjoy diplomacy. In a similr vein i have been soo tempted many times to get Twilight imperium but the amount of rules and the daunting task of putting aside a whole weekend for a game are big red flags i cannot quite look past (shame really…i have heard so many good things about the game, but it’s just… too much)!

          • Haldurson says:

            My tolerance for long games has lessened as I’ve gotten older, as well as my ability to find opponents for them. In my youth, I did play a bit of Diplomacy — it wasn’t ever one of my favorite games, but I did have a few friends who loved it. I mostly would be eliminated early enough that I wouldn’t have to stay for the whole game.

            I did try one of the Twilight Imperium games years ago at a convention. It seemed interesting, except that the guy who owned the game was really poor about explaining how to play. He had no problem inviting a newbie into his monster game, but then took a ‘sink or swim’ attitude with explaining how to play (ie. he didn’t explain much at all). So I was thoroughly overwhelmed, and ended up quitting. I couldn’t tell you which version of it that was. But it was a long time ago, so it undoubtedly was not the current version.

      • corinoco says:

        Diplomacy doesn’t just burn bridges; it carefully places C4 shaped-charges at all the weak points, and just to be safe puts a 500Mt fusion-boosted nuclear demolition charge under the whole lot, to ensure that no-one ever knew there was a bridge or indeed river there in the first place.

        There are some people I haven’t talked to since 1985 after a notorious ‘Diplomacy Day’ during high school. There was also a fight on the front lawn I seem to recall.

        • kincajou says:

          What a brilliant comment!

          Yeah,i have risked breaking some good friendships with the game but thankfully i’ve only ever been crazy enough to play it till the end once (and even then it was because at the start of the game i allied with another player that we’d split the world in half… spent the game “fighting” each other, one would take a territory from the other and the next turn lose another territory… so that was mainly a game brought to the end as a personal challenge, took about three days).

          It’s a great game in small doses and with the agreement that if people get too angry/upset/brain dead or are not having fun anymore it is ok to just call it quits. In that cases i find it’s a fun experience, otherwise it’s a live version of the gradual descent into madness and horror of heart of darkness/apocalypse now!

    • carewolf says:

      It is fine, it is all down to chance. Try Junta for some real backstabbing and outright lies and breaks of promises (core part of the game).

  2. Kollega says:

    The fact that this article is written by one “Adam Smith” genuinely lends it some arty overtones too, in my honest opinion.

    • DEspresso says:

      I feel the Invisible Hand stroking my neck *purr*

      • corinoco says:

        It’s just slowly tightening it’s fingers; there’s still valuable blood inside you.

  3. Gothnak says:

    The best thing about monopoly is that i played it as a kid and was introduced to board games. Then i found other games… Ah, Games Workshop Games!

    • Dogahn says:

      I cannot share your enthusiasm for games workshop games. Wonderfully detailed, just feel like hours long exercises in futility to me. YMMV

  4. Jorum says:

    The guy who made monopoly specifically designed it to show how shitty and unfair capitalism can be.

    While I’m here another overlooked killer rule is – the number of houses is limited to how many are in the box. And you are not obliged to upgrade houses to hotel.
    So if you winning, simply buy houses whenever you can and never change for hotels. Then you have a literal monopoly on the houses and no-one else can build anything at all.

    • ThePuzzler says:

      That’s a good strategy in general – three or four houses are better value than hotels and can be sold off in an emergency. Though I think if you control enough sets to literally monopolise all the houses you’ve already pretty much won.

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      tigerfort says:

      The “guy” in question was a Quaker woman called Lizzie Magie. But yes, the whole point of the game was to show that capitalism stinks – it’s literally designed to not be fun to play. (Unless you’re winning and take pleasure in other people not having fun, in which case you’re basically what’s wrong with the world.)

      • Fleko81 says:

        Having read about Lizzie a while ago i dug out this article again… before refreshing the comments and seeing someone had got there first! Still makes an interesting read I think.
        link to smithsonianmag.com

      • April March says:

        The one thing I remember about Lizzie Magie is that she put down her occupation as “game designer” in a census from, what, 1920 or thereabouts.

      • carewolf says:

        I played it once as adult against other adults, and it was fun, but it all came down to the way auctions and deals were made. We could all predict the winner and would then make better deals with to unify against him. Didn’t help of course, but it made for a more interesting game. Was with the Danish rules though, not sure all that deal-making is allowed in the original.

  5. Wang Tang says:

    There actually is a version of Monopoly that we sometimes used to play, and it really is fun: Monopoly Junior. It’s nothing like the atrocious standard version.

    • dagnamit says:

      The original Pokemon Monopoly ruleset is pretty solid too. something like, rolling double ones and you get to “challenge” an owner for the property/pokemon. double sixes and you get to take one outright. Stuff like that. Made the endgame much more tolerable, if a little RNG heavy.

      • April March says:

        Conversely, Pokémon: The Board Game is about as brutal, long-winded and RNG-heavy as Monopoly, but much more fun to play. There ain’t nothing like screwing someone over by playing a Time Machine right when they’d win the game.

        • April March says:

          Oh, look, I found a video about it in my history! And I wrote its name wrong!

  6. Jorum says:

    As someone who runs a boardgame club monopoly is the bane of my life. Because anytime if comes up people are “oh, like monopoly and cluedo” and I have to die a little or sound like a terrible hipster twat by saying “no, actually. because monopoly and cluedo are rubbish games. we play things you’ve probably not heard about”

    • Shinard says:

      Hey, Cluedo’s fun. Monopoly, OK, yeah, maybe not so much, but I’ve got enough fond memories of playing it with family that I can’t look at it too critically.

    • WyldFyr says:

      I go through the same thing when I tell people about the board game convention I like to go to every year.

  7. st33dd says:

    I visited my accountant sister over Christmas and she put Monopoly on her XBox. I played it with her whole family – her sitting there and operating the gamepad for everyone.

    It was the most friction-free means of playing Monopoly I have ever tried. Literally none of the busy work was there to slow the game down.

    It was the most fucking miserable game I’ve played in a decade. We didn’t finish the game. When we started playing I noticed that they already had another uncompleted game sitting in memory.

    Art implies some sort of fascination, surprise, or discovery. However I simply validated everything I’d already surmised.

    • ZippyLemon says:

      I couldn’t relax for the entire time it took me to read your comment. I kept expecting to hear about how your accountant sister quit her job and now makes $6000/day playing Monopoly.

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      johannsebastianbach says:

      You have to play it in Tabletop Simulator, where you control and move every single object (dice, cards, houses etc.) in a 3D space with reaaaally awkward controls – it’s the most fun you’ll ever have with boardgames, even more than irl. True story.

  8. Zenicetus says:

    Haven’t played it since I was a kid. I only played it with my sister, and I was older than her by a three year gap. I was therefore required to play “fair” and not make her cry. Not that I especially wanted to, but it made a miserable game even less fun to play. Haven’t touched it since.

  9. Stargazer86 says:

    I’ve never found it the super horrible friendship breaking game most people seem to say it is. It’s just kind of bland and boring. Roll the dice, buy a thing if you can, and then repeat until someone loses. It fits into that category of board games that kids tend to play twice and then move on. Shoots and Ladders, Trouble, Sorry!, Candy Land, The Game of Life, ect. You know. The “classics”. The ones that tend to give board gaming a bad name.

    Be glad we now live in a world where board games can actually be fun and engaging. Except you, Settlers of Catan. I’ll never understand how you are touted as the best game ever when you’re still so boring.

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      phuzz says:

      “repeat until someone loses”
      That doesn’t sound too bad, we had to play until only one person was left, and that takes bloody forever.
      I’d just lose as quickly as possible then go read a book or (if I was allowed) play on the computer.

    • WyldFyr says:

      Excellent trolling good sir, you got me!
      Settlers of Catan is, IMO, the game that ended the dark ages under the tyranny of Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley, guiding us lost and wandering gamers out of the wasteland and into the new age, this board-gaming Renaissance that we now live in.

      But I think you have a point.. compared to whats available, I don’t consider plain old Settlers all that captivating. I don’t even like to play it unless i’m playing Cities and Knights. But it still beats the heck out of games like Monopoly. Whenever i’m introducing it (Cities and Knights) to someone who has never played anything beyond the “classics”, I tell them that it’s “kinda like Monopoly, but better, and way more fun!”

      Speaking of the classics, did you know that Hasbro got with the times and created a reworked version of Trivial Pursuit that is actually fun and engaging? These are good times to be a gamer.

    • Jackablade says:

      I think Settlers of Catan is kind of the Monopoly of designer boardgames – Everyone plays it because it’s the game that everyone plays.

  10. chrisol says:

    OK, it’s possible people are being a little harsh here… it does have some interesting rules and strategies for playing (and helped develop a sense of maths and unbridled capitalism in my 6 year old).

    The main problems I would suggest are:

    (i) it rewards the person who’s winning (how like real life!) and unlike (for example) games like Ticket to Ride or pool (that snooker-like game where it gets harder the fewer balls you have left to knock into the holes)

    (ii) it finishes at different times for each player (a problem given how looooooooooong games can be), unlike (for example) Ticket to Ride and pool.

    • ThePuzzler says:

      (iii) There are very few interesting decisions to make – early on you want to buy pretty much anything you land on, and later on there is nothing to buy at all except for more little houses so it’s mostly just rolling dice and waiting to see who loses.
      (iv) (Unpredictably) long games. I know you already mentioned that, but not as a problem in itself. A game that might go on past midnight is a bad idea, whether or not there’s player elimination.

      Monopoly is one of those games I can enjoy despite it being ‘bad’. I like trying to negotiate with people in an attempt to build up sets through side deals or to weasel my way out of bankruptcy. And unlike most games I don’t feel bad about eliminating other players since most of them are probably desperate to escape.

      • chrisol says:

        Yes – definitely the most interesting part is the negotiation between players, rather than the actual dice-rolling and buying things directly from the board. (Now thinking fondly of some great Diplomacy games from the past…)

      • Banyan says:

        (5) Unlike nearly every decent game of the past decade, there is no reason to pay attention to other players, except for demanding or handing out money after a roll. Everyone is largely playing PvE. What an awful game.

  11. Baf says:

    That’s not quite how the auction rules work. No one can just snatch a property away from you if you’re willing to pay the asking price for it when you land on it. It’s only if you choose not to buy it outright that it goes up for auction. But yeah, the effect you describe is still the same.

    I always tell people that they should play Settlers of Catan instead of Monopoly. It’s got everything that’s appealing about Monopoly — trading, owning and developing bits of the board, cutting your opponents off from the things they want — without going on for hours after one person starts dominating and the ending is inevitable.

    (Now someone tell us how Catan is terrible!)

    • ThePuzzler says:

      Someone already said that.

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        barashkukor says:

        If this is a “better games than Monopoly” thread now, try Lords of Vegas. Quintin of SH&SD, formerly of this parish recommends it! Also it’s terrific, I bought a copy, and then so did at least 4 of my friends. Which is a total waste, but not so bad because it just means I don’t have to take mine everywhere like a strange cardboard pet.

        It’s limited in time; every turn starts with being gifted development of a random tile, there’s a finite number of those. In fact there’s finite amounts of everything apart from money, and money isn’t how you win; having a great business and controlling Las Vegas is how you win (money’s just the tie-break). It’s got an absurd depth to its resources, but turns things like your friends trust into new resources and has fantastic contests for control. I’ve never played anything that routinely brings about closer finishes.

    • Archonsod says:

      Catan suffers from the same problem when it comes to unpredictably long games. Chinatown is probably a better place to go – does much the same thing so much better, finishes in around an hour.

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        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        I wouldn’t say Catan is unpredictably long. The games are 45 min at most. Plus once you get to know the game you can tell outright when a game is going to take a long time based on where the ore is.

        • Dogahn says:

          My issue is that stock catan most often devolved into me rolling resources so someone could finally win. That experience is about half of the game for me. Cities & Knights helps a bit, by having another resource stream. Then I at least feel like I can still play, even if I can’t win. To meet that 45min mark, we would have to have a mercy rule where if half if the players are done… declare a winner & move on.

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            basilisk says:

            There’s definitely an issue in vanilla Catan where in most 4-player games that I’ve played, there’s always one person who loses any chances of winning very early on and then just sits there to roll the dice every now and then while the other three (but often just two) race to victory.

            It’s usually whoever gets fewest resources in the first two or three rounds, which is always completely unpredictable. Even smart starting village placement doesn’t help you against bad rolls.

            But I disagree that the game can take too long; all games take more or less the same time in my experience. It’s radically different with expansions, though.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      If we are looking for good Monopoly alternatives, Powergrid is the best option I have played. It has almost all of the same mechanics only in a much better form.

  12. Xocrates says:

    I actually played it quite a lot as a kid/teen, of course, with all the house rules it’s hard to say if I ever actually played it or just a weird facsimile.

    For one, we rarely ever played a until someone “won”, for the most part we played it until we had to stop or simply had to go do something else. This worked well as kids, since you got the parents to tell you it was time for you/your friends to go home.

    For second, I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where someone was actually removed from the table, it was not unusual for a player to be entirely bankrolled by someone else, or simply acquire massive debts from the bank.

    None of these make the game “good”, but did make it a decently mindless timewaster where the fun was just in making some very questionable deals with your friends.

  13. ColonelFlanders says:

    Sigh. I miss you Rab.

  14. Dogahn says:

    I was expecting a different sort of monopoly entirely…
    link to en.m.wikipedia.org

    Anyone else get Monopoly Tycoon (2001)? I found it to be a fun twist on the tired monopoly theme. Basically just using the theme to provide names and colors on top of a solid multi-player property development game. Buy properties, construct businesses on those properties, manage inventory & prices… even has an operating day/night cycle. Much better than a masochistic board game, well suited for the benefits PC brings to board game types.

    • Aldehyde says:

      I was also expecting that game! I had a lot of fun with it as a kid.

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    DantronLesotho says:

    Did Fallout get its inspiration from Monopoly?

  16. Sin Vega says:

    The great irony of Monopoly is that the ‘classic’ archetypal trading game, the enormously profitable item, was a total rip off of someone else’s ideas and work.

    Not only was it deliberately intended to satirise capitalism, it became a victim of it, and in doing so became a great example of another terrible thing that capitalism does, ie. co-opting and profiting from works meant to undermine it.

    Laaaayeeerrs, man.

    It’s not as innately shit as cluedo, though.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Who wants to come to my party where we play Monopoly, drink super-market craft beer, listen to punk music, watch Fight Club and wear Che Guevara shirts?

      Fuck capitalism man.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        Erm… Are you saying you don’t think this was an example of capitalism, or at least one of the mindsets capitalism can inspire, being a little bit shit?

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          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          No I was listing anti-capitalist things that have become capitalized…

          My meaning has apparently been lost. Move along.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Fight Club wasn’t a critique of capitalism, it was a critique of people who exploit other people’s disaffection with capitalism. That’s why Tyler was the villain.

        I mean, I could have just said “oh, grow up”, but this was much more fun.

        • welverin says:

          Always go for the fun.

          p.s. I would argue that Tyler was the villain because he went to far, and that Fight Club is criticizing materialism as well (it really takes shots at bith extremes).

          • Sin Vega says:

            You’re not wrong, and it’s interesting that the ending isn’t the narrator going full Winston Smith and embracing capitalism, but apparently finding some middle ground with Tyler (and holding hands with Marla, which is a whole other layer, but anyway).

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          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          Not really sure what I said to warrant that but alright.

          • Sin Vega says:

            I think I wholly misinterpreted the tone of your comment, and so my reply doesn’t fit at all. I do apologise.

        • ColonelFlanders says:

          I always thought that Fight Club was an observation on the insidiousness of fascism, coupled with our desire to justify our own narcissism. but your angle Makes sense too. Especially with the current popularity of leaders like Trump, Theresa May, and arse holes like Nigel Farage. It’s like those fuck heads were reading Tyler Durden’s Mayhem 101

          • Sin Vega says:

            Totally. Another irony is how popular Fight Club and Tyler specifically are among certain demographics of mostly young men who apparently only understand the first half of the film. It’s a more relevant film than ever, even if stylistically it’s very turn of the millennium.

  17. icarussc says:

    You know what’s fun, though? Their spinoff card game Monopoly Deal. It’s quite enjoyable.

    • Cian says:

      I will join the list of people complaining that someone has beat them to it. The Deal cardgame fits perfectly into the Monopoly slot as a game you can pull out for family without having to do much explaining. And it’s not shit! Nor interminably long an dull. Incredible.

  18. Kristen.maxwell says:

    Monopoly:me :: The Eagles:The Dude

  19. Haldurson says:

    “Roll and Move” games tend to be bad for a lot of different reasons, but Monopoly is an extreme case because not only is it ‘roll and move’, but its far, far too long. There are ways to make it more interesting, by allowing more complex types of deals (limited partnerships, options, etc.) but not by enough. Also, it’s not just the ‘Auctions’ that most people forget about — it’s also the way you can use Housing shortages strategically.

    • Jackablade says:

      I wonder how difficult it’d be to house-rule a non-roll and move variant. Might almost wind up with an entirely new game once you’d finished tweaking the rules.

      • Haldurson says:

        Machi Koro is kind of like a non-roll and move Monopoly… sort of. You can probably combine some of the card drafting of Machi Koro with the building of houses and hotels in Monopoly to create a kind of hybrid. Just an idea…

  20. corinoco says:

    Monopoly is best played with the ‘Young Ones’ rule – the first player to say “Hey, don’t you wish this was real money” is hit over the head with the Bank.

    I also like playing the Bank, and just like in real capitalism I help myself to any money in it. If I get caught I immediately say I’m bankrupt, but award myself an even bigger payout from the ‘government’. Just like the real world!

    There is a rather good, but very obscure Australian boardgame a bit like Monopoly except with politics in it, called ‘Poleconomy’. Each player is a tycoon, and – you guessed it – can spend money to sway the result of elections and government policy in their favour.