Saturday, January 21, 2012

Monopoly Revised

The Boardgame Monopoly has been around awhile, almost a century, and is quite well known, if not widely played anymore. I believe at the heart of its decline in popularity is the fact that it is an anti-social game. Not many people want to take the time to set up the board when they may be eliminated before play concludes. With judgement reserved on the joy of playing Monopoly, I suspect few would disagree that it is not fun to watch. However, there is something to its popularity, so much so that the McDonald's restaurant franchise has licensed the use of the Monopoly imagery for their occasional promotions, which makes it worthy of revision. Something to do with the social nature of the trading of properties, the presence of random threats such as landing on a highly developed property or going to jail, and the idea of improvement with a relatively short time before a return on the investment.

We want everyone to stay in the game, so there is no elimination mechanism. There isn't individual currency piles, but a central bank from which every one is indebted. There is a debt limit which is equal for all players initially, then it increases as properties and improvements are acquired. There is no board, properties are randomly revealed when a player wishes to go to auction. When an auction is triggered the flow of play is interrupted until the property purchased or all players decline to bid. Bidding starts at half the properties unimproved value, bids can be raised by a minimum of one monetary unit and a maximum of fifty and goes around the players to the right (i.e. the opposite of turns). When a player expends funds cash goes from the bank to the player, signifying debt. Player income is represented by cash going back to the bank. Debt greater than current debt capacity sends the player to jail. Being in jail doesn't stop income nor random effects, but does prevent participating in auctions and improving investments. Random effects, think of the Community Chest and Chance cards, are checked for on each turn and happen on a sum of 9 or greater of two six-sided dice. Most of these will be additional costs, such as property tax, zoning infraction fine, building maintenance, et cetera, of course the iconic Get Out of Jail Free, and Go To Jail. Also, effects that modify other parts of the game, such as changing the cost of making improvements or changing the requirements to make improvements would be relevant and much needed spice to the rather dry fines that constitute most random cards in the traditional game. Checking for income happens automatically at the beginning of a turn by a six-sided die roll for each property. Each property will have a rating, modified by improvements, which is a number between 0 and 6 which shows what has to be gotten on a die roll, or lower, to garner income. A rating of 0 will not garner any, a rating of 6 will always garner. Additionally, there will be a corresponding income value which is also modified by improvements and is the amount the player's debt is reduced.

The game ends when the bank is void of all cash. Points are based on positive relationship with the value of assets and an inverse relationship with the amount of debt. Being in jail at the end penalizes points.

© Michael Mosher 2012

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