Supple Think: Monopoly


by BrentoBox

Posted on Sunday, November 1, 2009

If you were born in America, chances are you have played a game of Monopoly, and for a good reason. Monopoly is probably one of the most fun games to start out of any board game you can play. Every player starts out with 1,500 dollars, which is quite a lot in the city/country/world/universe of Monopoly. The board is open, every property is unowned, and you have the chance to literally own a part of the game board itself (A feature not present in almost any other board game). That reason alone may be why Monopoly is so iconic, and one of the most successful board games of all time. But despite that fact, it suffers from a glaring and fairly well known design flaw; Monopoly has no end game.

Or to be more specific, Monopoly has a terrible end game. As you reach the end of Monopoly, the game shifts from a dynamic playstyle of spending money, owning properties and building houses, to a static game of rolling dice and simply gaining or losing money. While this is could be an interesting end to the game, the shear fact of how long this process takes ensures that very few players ever choose to see a Monopoly game through. By the end of the game, the board has been set. Properties have been bought and developed. Money is no longer as much of a resource as there is nothing left to buy. Instead, it becomes more similar to Hit Points, serving only to keep alive you in the game until you are bankrupted. All that is left is watch the odds play out. It can take hours.

And that is really where the problem lies. Once all options for the game have been exhausted, the game should be finished. Monopoly lacks a simple and decisive way to determine a winner, and instead deteriorates into a game of attrition. No competive player will ever give up a property that will allow his opponent to gain a monopoly or put themself at a disadvantage. So the board and odds stay set, and you are forced to bleed your friends or competitors dry. Much like real life finances. But damn it, this is a game, and it should be enjoyable to people who aren't sadists, masochists or that have severe autism and enjoy focusing intensly on boring things.

Great games tend to give players options and remain dynamic throughout the entire course of play. Games such as Chess and Go can be decided very early on with little chance for a comeback, but players are is still responsible for maintaining their leads and countering their opponents moves. In games like Street Fighter, each player has the same amount of options, and there is constant potential for comebacks throughout the entire match; regardless of the amount of life or rounds lost. In both of these instances, players are able to earn leads over their opponents without the gameplay becoming limited or stagnant.

So what is the fix to Monopoly? Although there are a lot of options, changing to much of the game or making to complicated is pointless, so a less instrusive way is probably best. One possibility is to add a system similar to blinds in Poker, where stakes are continually raised to bring the game to a close. It would maintain Monopoly's current rule set and allow for the game to end quickly. Games could finish fast without interfering with the classic rule set, and messing with what is arguably a very successful formula.

A second option, which is a lot more interesting, would call for an ammendment or addition to the current rules, and would be the equivalent of creating an alternate version of the game. That is a topic a little to big to explore in this post, but it would definitely be a fun idea.

For people who are committed to playing Monopoly, the current rules are probably something they wouldn't change. Players who play a game competitively often understand a game on a different level and enjoy it for all its flaws. But for the rest of the world, a small change could do a lot to make Monopoly a game that doesn't take the entire night to finish.
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