When I was 12 years old or so, a Monopoly craze swept my neighborhood, and us kids played it every chance we got.
We soon learned that, with four or five people playing, it wasn’t always possible to acquire a Monopoly. Then, unless a big trade came through, a game could take all day without anybody winning. So we devised ways to jazz up the game–but without breaking the written rules.
First we adopted the “Free Parking Bonanza,” a well-known folk rule. Fines and taxes levied by Chance or Community Chest (“Pay School Tax of $150”–aagh!) were paid to the middle of the board, where they piled up until some lucky player landed on “Free Parking” and won all the money in the pile. This could sometimes stave off bankruptcy, or even lead to a losing player’s comeback.
But we didn’t stop there. Our most radical innovation was the “Free Ride.” As in, “If you trade me or sell me New York Avenue, to complete my monopoly, I’ll throw in a free ride for you, the first two times you land on it.” Not strictly forbidden by the rules, this often blew a game wide open. On a rainy day in summer vacation, our innovations sometimes let us play two or three games instead of just one.
Don’t sell Monopoly short: it can help teach a child how to handle money and other resources, like time. You don’t always have much choice as to where to build, but you nearly always can choose when to build. Timing your investments just right is frequently the key to victory. Timing them unwisely leads to disaster. And then there’s the choice between slowly developing a monopoly that costs a lot, but will pay a big return if someone lands on it, or quickly developing a lot of cheap properties in hopes of building up an early lead. Hint: the purple and light blue properties at the bottom of the board, plus all four railroads–I’ll take it any time. And don’t be too quick to sell a Free Ride to a player who’s already in the lead!
There’s a lot of thinking involved in Monopoly. May its popularity never fade away.