Monopoly Rules- the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


As I said in my recent blog post In Defense of Monopoly, one of the major advantages to the game Monopoly is its malleability. There are a number of “house rules” that are used as if they are a part of the game, while other rules are ignored completely. Sometimes it seems like everywhere you look, a different set of rules is being used when playing this classic game. A lot of the rules that are added (or scrapped) add to the fun of the game, but there are also rules that can directly result in the game being drawn-out and less enjoyable overall. After having some experience playing numerous different types of Monopoly boards and implementing all sorts of different rules, I have come up with some observations on the best way to ensure your Monopoly game is played with rules that will enhance the game rather than drag it down. I’ve split the types of rules up into three sections: official rules, house rules, and new rule suggestions.

Official Rules

1) Auctioning Property- The official rules in the Monopoly rulebook state that, “Whenever you land on an unowned property you may buy that property from the Bank at its printed price… If you do not wish to buy the property, the Bank sells it at auction to the highest bidder. The high bidder pays the Bank the amount of the bid in cash and receives the Title Deed card for that property. Any player, including the one who declined the option to buy it at the printed price, may bid. Bidding may start at any time.”  I can’t tell you how often this rule gets overlooked or ignored when I’m playing with friends, but truth be told this is an extremely important rule to utilize if you want your game to start off fast. Auctions aren’t necessary to play the game, but they do drive it forward at a faster pace and they also require a significant amount of strategy. Auctions are a good way to keep the game fair too- someone could have few properties but a large amount of money, and the ability to auction will help them get back in the game. Ultimately the start of a game of Monopoly without auctioning is fairly dull and can allow a player to pull ahead early, so the ability to auction helps balance the scales and keep things moving.

2) Mortgages- Mortgaging a property can seem like a pain, but it is a good way to ensure that you are not eliminated from a game. One of the paramount strategies of Monopoly is to keep your monopolies intact to increase your odds of a big payout. But if you land on someone’s property and have to pay up, it’s difficult to keep your houses/hotels on the board in order to do some real damage. The ability to mortgage should be used when possible, but should also not be taken lightly. I’ve seen people disregard the 10% interest rule when mortgaging; ultimately that seems like a good way to keep players who got hit hard in the game, but it also gives people an opportunity to mortgage cards early for short term gains without penalties when they want to un-mortgage the property. This is one of those rules you should keep intact.

3) Buying and selling houses/hotels- As I’ve said before, building on monopolies is a big part of success in a game. However, there should also be a cost if you try to expand too quickly and it backfires. The official rules state that if you have to sell back a house or hotel, you only get half of the money you originally paid for it. This rule is extremely important to ensure that players do not spend all of their money on hotels at once- a gradual pace for hotel building is a good way to keep things more evenly matched. Selling houses and hotels should be considered a last resort, and being able to get your full money back diminishes the risks of investing in your monopolies.

House Rules

1) Free Parking Money- This is the most wildly-contested rule out there; is there supposed to be money in free parking? If so, how much? Do you add money from income taxes to the free parking “pot”? Ultimately this iFree Parkings not an official rule to Monopoly, but it’s an extremely popular one and is used in a variety of different ways. I personally believe that this is a good rule because it has the ability to provide alittle extra respite to players down on their luck. The ideal scenario in my opinion is to add $500 to the free parking pot at the beginning of the game, and then once somebody
lands on it, you refill it by that same amount. No income tax or Chance/Community chest money should go into the pot, so that it acts solely as some additional funds rather than a complete game changer.

2) Landing on Go- This rule revolves around the idea of “Passing” go and collecting $200. This is what the board and the rules say, but what happens if you land on Go? Officially, nothing would happen, because your piece has to pass the space before you receive the money. However, there is a house rule some people use to provide an extra reward for landing on Go. In this scenario, you actually receive $400 if you land on go as opposed to pass it. I have no issue with this rule, but I do recommend setting it up with a slight addendum; when you land on Go you receive $200, then get the extra $200 on the next turn after you’ve passed the space. That way a player isn’t automatically flush with $400 cash in one turn, but still gets the extra award for landing on Go.

3) Trading properties- Trading properties is an essential part of Monopoly. The ability to trade for monopolies is an important way to ensure that you can advance the game, but it is not officially stated in the original rules that trades are allowed. While trading is necessary to create a more fun game, it also has the ability to cause skewed games from lopsided trades. Because of this, I have a slight alteration on the standard trading process that I recommend. Rather than trading at any point in the game, a player can only propose trades on their turn. Trades are completed before any dice are rolled, and if the trade created a Monopoly that player can’t add houses or hotels to the new monopoly until his/her next turn. Finally, if there are more than 4 players playing the game and at least 3 people consider the trade to be unfair, they can reject it (this is not something I’ve ever practiced myself, but I think it would be more likely to ensure a single player doesn’t run away with the game).

New Rule Suggestions

1) Jail- I can’t even describe how infuriating it is to watch someone get carted off to jail (metaphorically of course) right before landing in my monopoly area, and then have myself land on their property and lose everything while they sit pretty for 3 turns. Because of this, I recommend a rule variant that isn’t used by many but should be a positive change to the game. If a player is put into jail, they are then officially unable to collect payment from a player landing on their properties, and also cannot buy hoMonopoly Jailuses or hotels until they are released. The player can buy out of jail at any time in the 3 turn stint, but ultimately if the player stays in jail no players landing on his/her properties will have to pay the fees associated. This will cause players to want to leave jail earlier, which will speed up the game and make sure that each player has greater chances of landing on an opponent’s space.

2) Starting Game, Property Buying Delay- This is a rule I’ve played with my friends in the past to varying success. The concept is that you have to pass all the way around the board once before you are allowed to buy any properties. The rule is supposed to promote fairness since generally speaking the player who goes first in traditional Monopoly has a higher chance of winning properties. However, if a player lands in jail or rolls poorly during the first few turns, he/she becomes crippled by the rule and it makes it that much harder to get back into it. Ultimately there are pros and cons to this rule, so there’s no harm in trying it yourself but I would not recommend it as a must-rule to improve the game.

Ultimately these rules are about creating the best experience you can when playing Monopoly. This means that if you don’t like one of the rules, you shouldn’t use it, and instead use whatever rules you find to be the most fun. There are also rule variants out there for intentionally shortened games, so if time is the major concern there are options for fixing that. If you have any other cool ideas (I know that Past Go’s writer Geoffrey Greer was looking into a variant that could break apart an opponent’s monopolies mid-game) then send me a comment about it!

In Defense of Monopoly

Monopoly Boards

I can’t tell you how many people I know that have a burning hatred towards Monopoly. It honestly surprises me that whenever someone sees my Monopoly board collection for the first time, they almost always talk about what an annoying/long/tiresome game it is. Sure, the average game of Monopoly can definitely take longer than other board games, but it’s no longer than Risk, Axis and Allies, or even Munchkin. And yet of all of the games that are on the market today, Monopoly is one of the most successful and long-lasting but also one of the most criticized. Any time I browse the Internet I randomly see memes or pictures like this sprinkled around:

monopoly ruining friendships

Personally, I’ve been a fan of the game Monopoly ever since I was young. I played it with friends through high school and still play it with my roommates every once in a while when we’re all in the mood. I have 12 different Monopoly boards and have fond memories of playing all of them at different times in my life. So in honor of one of the most iconic games created in the 20th century, I’m going to explain why I believe that Monopoly is actually a great game to play and should always be a staple of your board game nights. Here are my top 5 reasons why Monopoly should be celebrated in the board game industry:

1) Easy to learn, but hard to master

One thing that can always be frustrating about board games is the time it takes to pick up on how to play. A game that is easy to learn quickly is one that will grab your attention faster and will be more likely to keep you playing, provided it stays interesting over time. When you look at Monopoly at first it may seem more complicated, but the concept is straightforward enough to pick up fairly quickly and not be far behind people who have played the game before. On the flipside of that, the game is actually surprisingly tough to master in certain ways. Sure, everyone can play the game without much strategy involved, but when you get into a group of competitors you start analyzing every move you make, every trade you attempt, every time you buy a hotel, to the point where you have to be very knowledgeable about the game itself to be an expert at it. The game allows for novices to play and have fun, but can also bring a significant amount of challenge to it when the setting is right.

2) Quick changes to the “Leader Board”

Sometimes when you play a board game, a single person will start off strong and you just won’t be able to keep up. That’s not the case when you play Monopoly- in fact, lead changes are fairly frequent once you get into the later stages of the game. Generally speaking there is a point of Monopoly where everyone has one or two monopolies and is working to build houses/hotels on them. One bad move or bad roll during this time can completely change the dynamic of the game. Someone with houses littered across the board will suddenly have to sell them all back, and maybe even mortgage or trade properties to stay afloat. Fortune can change in the blink of an eye, and while it’s true that if a player gets very unlucky and has to mortgage most of their properties he/she will most likely be stuck in that hole, the truth is that there is a lot more variety in the game standings than people give it credit for.

3) Ability to make custom rules

If you were to take out any board game you’ve played before right now, odds are high that you would know a majority of the rules of said game and you would stick to them no matter what. That’s not the case with Monopoly. Monopoly is a game with more “house-rules” than I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because of how long its in production, but it seems like every time I play with different people I have to be prepared for a different set of rules. Rules like free parking, mortgaging, auctioning spaces, landing on Go, and many more are all up for debate, and so before the game is started you may have to suddenly adjust to the new rules that your friends/family have put in place.

4) Teaches kids basic business lessons

I remember playing Monopoly Junior when I was a kid, and spending a lot of time counting up my money and making sure I had enough to buy a hotel or a new property. Learning the value of trading,monopoly money understanding basic math and business, and figuring out when and when not to invest are just a few of the business skills you learn from playing Monopoly. Obviously in no way does Monopoly dir
ectly translate to the business world (if it did I would be rich by now) but you can’t discount its uses in teaching youth the value of fake pink colored money.

5) Different types of boards/games

When a game has been around for over 100 years, odds are high that gaming publishers will take advantage of its popularity by creating different versions of the game. While some people find this unnecessary, I find it one of the best parts about older games. You can find a Monopoly board with pretty much any theme you can think of: Doctor Who, Legend of Zelda, Family Guy, Disney Villains, even Elvis-Opoly is a thing. For these types of games the rules don’t vary much, but the properties, cards, and pieces are all based around the theme. The aesthetics are the important part, which makes having multiple boards unnecessary but ultimately a lot of fun. In addition to the Hasbro Monopoly alternative, there are some non-affiliated third party companies that created Monopoly-esque games with similar themes but slightly different rules and procedures. Games like Wine-opoly, Princess Bride-opoly, and even Create-your-own-Opoly fit into this mold.

So the next time someone invites you to play a game with them, I hope you consider the classic business game as a potential option. Monopoly has stuck around for a reason, and that’s because it’s a fun game that people enjoy playing no matter how many jokes are made at its expense. The next few articles I’ll be writing this week are all going to be Monopoly-based, so I hope you enjoyed this one and will enjoy the others too!

Monopoly Week