Marco Arment just linked to this great article about how everyone plays Monopoly wrong. If you read the actual rules, it’s a completely different game than the one you likely grew up with — one that moves much, much quicker.
Five things I never knew about Monopoly’s official rules:
1. If a player decides not to buy a property, it immediately goes up for auction by the bank and is sold to the highest bidder. This blew my mind.
2. Houses must be built, and sold, evenly across a color-group. For example, you can’t build three houses on Park Place without having two houses on Boardwalk first.
3. It’s the property owner’s responsibility to ask for rent. If you forget to ask for rent before the end of the next player’s turn, you’re out of luck.
4. Rent is doubled on properties without houses in a monopoly.
5. Income tax is calculated from your total net worth, including all properties and buildings, not just your cash. And you have to decide whether to pay 10% or $200 before you add it up.
While these official rules gradually disappeared from common play, other unofficial “house rules” came to take their place. We always put funds collected from Chance/Community Chest cards into a “kitty” that was given to whoever landed on Free Parking. Many others gave $400 when landed on “Go,” or didn’t allow rent to be collected while in jail.
Many of us learned Monopoly like we learned the rules of dodgeball or rock-scissors-paper — spread by word-of-mouth from family and friends.
It’s interesting to see a commercial game see the same sort of cultural variation as other children’s folk games.
But maybe that’s appropriate for a game that was itself derived from another board game. Contrary to popular belief, Charles Darrow didn’t invent Monopoly in 1933 from scratch. It was heavily based on The Landlord’s Game, an innovative board game patented in 1904 by Lizzie Magie, to be a “practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences.”
The Landlord’s Game and its variations like “Auction Monopoly” and “The Fascinating Game of Finance” spread by word of mouth throughout the early-20th century with evolving rules and hand-drawn boards, popular among the Quakers and used as a teaching aid for university students.
In 1933, Charles Darrow played a homemade version of The Landlord’s Game printed on oil cloth, saw the market potential, and tried to patent the new “Monopoly” as his own. After finding great success selling handmade versions, he sold the rights to Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers bought Magie’s patent for $500 to have an undisputed claim to the board game, but was threatened by other popular competitors and homemade variations. Through a process of litigation, acquisition, and quiet settlements during the late-1930s, Parker Brothers wiped all the other derivative versions of The Landlord’s Game off the map.
By the 1970s, Parker Brothers’ revisionist history was canon — the official Monopoly rules and a 1974 book on the history of the game stated that the game was created solely by Charles Darrow.
So, when someone says you’re playing Monopoly wrong, tell them you’re playing your own version… just like Darrow did.
Because everything is a remix.