Everyone loves Monopoly, right?
Well, maybe not so much. While most households have at least one version of the ubiquitous board game, we’ll be the first to admit that Monopoly isn’t very fun (at least, not if you’re losing).
According to the instruction booklet, an average Monopoly game takes from one to four hours, but we can remember some games dragging on for days. That’s partly due to the inevitable arguments about the rules.
monopoly is the worst; the game never ends, no one knows the (actual) rules, no pathway to victory without cheating & scandal … pic.twitter.com/oanJvcPUbc
— Kishau Smith Rogers (@kishau) February 6, 2017
We decided to look a little more closely at the history of Monopoly, and along the way, we discovered that we’ve been playing the game incorrectly—and chances are, you have, too. Before we get into the rules, it’s helpful to understand that…
The man who invented Monopoly did not invent Monopoly.
Here’s the company line (and we mean that literally; Hasbro, which now owns the rights to the game, prints this story on the first page of the rulebook): Monopoly was born when Charles Darrow presented the game, fully formed, to Parker Brothers executives in 1934.
In fact, by that point, Monopoly had been entertaining players for three decades. The truth is that a left-wing feminist named Lizzie Magie invented the game in 1903 under the title The Landlord’s Game. Her deliberate goal was to highlight the evils of capitalism.
Yes, you read that right: Monopoly isn’t a celebration of American entrepreneurialism. In fact, it’s purposely designed to be incredibly unfair and frustrating—much like capitalism itself, according to Magie.
“It’s a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences,” Magie remarked.
“It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life,'” she continued, “as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seems to have, i.e., the accumulation of wealth.”
Magie’s clear implication is that the capitalist insistence on wealth being the only measure of value is unacceptable.
At the same time, she sure did make the struggle for financial dominance look fun. People are still playing Monopoly more than 100 years later.
If you want any more proof that Magie invented Monopoly as a clever bit of left-wing propaganda, consider the original text of what has become the “Go” space.
“Labor upon Mother Earth produces wages,” she wrote on her original board. That line is direct from the thinking of Henry George, the 19th-century anti-monopolist who favored taxing land-owners for the value of their holdings. Workers, who actually create value, should simply be able to collect their $200 and be on their way around the board.
Anyway, it’s not surprising that a game with such a secret history has led to a profusion of house rules and niche tweaks so widespread that very few people play the game with orthodox strictness these days. Here are the “rules” that you won’t find in the official Monopoly rule book.
1. If you’re lucky enough to land right on the “Go” space, you can collect $400.
That money is supposed to represent the wages you earn by the sweat of your brow, remember? Why would landing right on the space pay double?
The truth is that it doesn’t. That’s just a house rule someone made up a long time ago, and it stuck. In the stark, capitalistic world of Monopoly, there’s no such thing as free money.
While you’re grappling with that, we’ve got bad news about the win conditions…
2. The Monopoly Mercy Rule
Monopoly can sometimes take all night to play. Not everyone has time for that. Somewhere back in the mists of time, a mysterious innovator made up the Mercy Rule, which holds that a player who first reaches a predetermined personal wealth wins automatically.
Go ahead and play that way if you want—it makes the game go faster, and you’ll probably get into fewer arguments with your in-laws.
It’s not part of the official rulebook, however, nor should it be; The Landlord’s Game was designed with a boring endgame, and Monopoly essentially keeps this “feature” intact.
3. Chance cards are optional.
Some players insist that you choose whether you want to collect a card when you land on the “Chance” square. In the official rules, you have to take that card. Hey, that’s why it’s called “Chance.”
4. “Free Parking” pays pretty well.
Lots of Monopoly stalwarts pay taxes and fines into a collective pot in the center of the board. Whoever lands on “Free Parking” collects the whole payout.
We love playing with this rule, but if you’re playing by the book, you don’t get anything from landing on “Free Parking.” All those taxes and fines should go right back where they came from: the bank. Capitalism strikes again.
The true benefit of the “Free Parking” space is that you won’t have to fork over your hard-earned money to some evil land baron if you end up there.
5. You turn in your properties to the bank when you go bankrupt.
Capitalism is much more cutthroat than that. According to Monopoly’s actual rules, the player who collected your last dollar gets to take all of your properties.
Sure, that effectively ends the game—nobody’s going to usurp the guy who just doubled his land holdings—but, once again, that’s by design. That’s how the rich get richer, and Monopoly is a purposely unfair game.
6. When you choose not to buy a property you’ve landed on, it’s simply time for the next player’s turn.
Nope. All property must sell.
If you don’t want to buy the piece of land you’re standing on, the deed goes up for an immediate live auction.
This is actually a pretty contentious rule, as it changes the entire game. Plus, the “live auctions” get brutal, so if you’re playing a game of Monopoly with the family, you might want to let this one slide (unless you really, really want to be a jerk).
7. Players can’t collect rent on properties while they’re in jail.
This rule makes a prison sentence even worse. Fortunately, it’s a fake rule. You can still collect rent while you’re in jail. Presumably, you’ve got people for that. We’d recommend doing a Bernie Madoff impression during your stint in the slammer.
Your accountant, for example, may stay busy counting your money while you serve a little easy time for tax evasion. It’ll be like that scene from Goodfellas in there.
8. When three different players land on three related properties, each of them gets a cool $500 from the bank.
This rule doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s the kind of thing your big brother makes up to ensure victory.
In fact, if three players land on three related properties, everyone says “neat” and moves on. There’s nothing in the official rulebook detailing this particular occurrence.
9. A roll of snake eyes also pays $500.
Here’s another total big-brother rule. At some point in the 1950s or whenever, some big brother rolled a pair of ones and seized the moment.
“Hey, that means I get $500,” we imagine him saying. Nope. Check the rules backward and forward. You won’t find any mention of the snake-eyes payout.
10. You can take loans from the bank or from other players to buy properties that you can’t afford.
There’s no official rule about loans in the game of Monopoly. If you land on an unclaimed Boardwalk and don’t have the scratch, you just trigger an auction.
Them’s the breaks. You can mortgage your property, which is almost like a loan, but instead of interest, you lose the ability to make the money you need to un-mortgage your source of income. We did mention that this game is meant to be critical of capitalism, right?
11. You have to make it all the way around the board once before you can start buying properties.
That’s not in the rules. Go ahead and splurge right from the beginning. In fact, that’s one of the smartest ways to play; if you buy absolutely every property, you’ll be set up to slowly destroy your opponents, according to Imgur user elpher.
12. Landing on “Go” gives you the power of teleportation.
The kids up the street from us when we were growing up used to favor this silly rule tweak. If you land on “Go,” they insisted, you have a choice: You can either take your $200, or you can choose to teleport to any property on the board.
That sounds like a great way to see Boardwalk and Park Place snapped up pretty early in the game. It’s also not an official rule, but don’t try telling that to the kids up the street. They will not be convinced.
13. You don’t have to own all the properties in a single category before you start building on them.
You totally do have to own all the same-colored properties before you can start building houses. The game is called Monopoly, after all. If you don’t own all the related properties, you don’t have a monopoly.
You have functioning competition and a level(ish) playing field, which is sort of totally against the spirit of laissez-faire capitalism, no matter what those Ayn Rand types would have you believe.
14. The game starts with a frantic cash grab.
This is one of the stranger house rules we encountered: The players don’t start with the same amount of money. Instead, you take half of the money in the game (which presumably represents the entire wealth of the whole world) and pile it on a table.
Everyone counts to three, then everyone grabs for the cash. Inevitably, kids end up getting elbowed and some of those colorful bills get torn in half. The biggest kid ends up with the most wealth—which, come to think of it, is a decent representation of capitalism.
While that it might be slightly more realistic than the official rule (which is that everyone starts with $1,500), it’s also a lot more violent. Our parents never liked this one, and neither does the official rulebook.