437044 is a quasi-random number.

Monopoly, Spawn of Satan

April 29, 2002 review

Happy families with young kids can oft be found around the table, enjoying one of the fine, fun games available at your local department store. But I always found it interesting that Monopoly is a popular staple of this setting, despite the fact that everyone hates playing it.

Let me start this article by pointing out two facts:

  1. I realize there’s a difference between games played for fun and games played for challenge. Just in case you start wondering.
  2. I hate dice.

The flaws of Monopoly expose themselves gradually during play, but they begin immediately. As soon as play begins, the first element of hate occurs:

flaw one: the car.
I always got to be the car because I was the kid and because I had a, um, peculiar temper. But I eventually realized that my desire to control the car wasn’t mine alone: it was universal. Everyone wants to be the car. Because, what else is there? A thimble? And if players are equally stubborn, then tensions are destined to rise before the game even starts.

Similarly, there’s the matter of who will be banker. This job will almost naturally go to whomever has the best math skills and, more importantly, whomever can be trusted most.

Money’s given out, cards shuffled, tokens placed on Go. And then…

flaw two: the dice.
Dice are evil devices, conjured to spread hate and depression throughout the land. I know no good use for dice, and far, far too many games depend on the roll of the dice to add an element of “fun” to the play. I won’t go into too much detail on dice, since I’m sure I’ll have an article specifically on them. But as far as Monopoly goes, dice seem to be necessary because the game itself is ridiculously boring.

I’m a little biased, as my family instated “safe” rules. Most important was the rule that made a color block off-limits once any one of that color was bought. And thus we have an example of:

flaw three: house rules.
No one plays Monopoly the same way. Which is fine for families and such, but when you – for whatever masochistic reason – decide to play with friends, be prepared to battle over what rules you will play by. This happens all the time. Recently, I had this problem playing friggin’ War! (Also known to some as “I Declare War”.) These kinds of things could be avoided more often if people would read the damn rules! I don’t think the rules to Monopoly have been read since March 1958.

So, what happens? People land on random spaces, buy or pay rent, randomly get thrown in jail, win random beauty contests, and, depending on house rules, randomly gain the Holy Grail of money piles, universally known as “the pot”.

There is no strategy. Players have no control over their destinies. The game builds up during the first two or three trips around the block, goes into a balance-of-power lull until someone owns Boardwalk, and settles into the slow, agonizing defeat of the less fortunate players who hand their money over to the player who owns every plastic hotel in the box, including a few pennies as placeholders. That player leaves the game with the warm, fuzzy glow of capitalistic success. The others have learned to hate the winner, plotting opportunities to spit in his or her drink.

The greatest flaw with Monopoly is that it doesn’t offer players any control over the game, except one: buy or don’t buy? And quite simply, if you don’t buy, you get screwed, so there really is no question.

Inevitably, despite any honest attempts at having fun via watching your friends drain their money by paying repair costs, it just leads to frustration, despair, and the chance that the precious car will be sent flying across the room.

If you own Monopoly, you have only one hope for peace: exorcism.