Thursday, April 1, 2010

Most ignored game rule of all time?

Maybe it's just my experience, but nearly nobody I've ever played Monopoly with has used the property auction rule, stated as follows:
Whenever you land on an unowned property you may buy that property from the Bank at its printed price. You receive the Title Deed card showing ownership. Place the title deed card face up in front of you. If you do not wish to buy the property, the Bank sells it at through an auction to the highest bidder. The high bidder pays the Bank the amount of the bid in cash and receives the Title Deed card for that property.
Any player, including the one who declined the option to buy it at the printed price, may bid. Bidding may start at any price.
I think I've gotten people to play that way maybe once. The thing is, it makes the game much better, because
  • It gets the properties sold earlier, especially the more expensive ones 
  • Some of the properties are more expensive than they're worth at regular price. I'm looking at you, Pacific Avenue.
  • It balances the game better. It's pretty common that a player may spend a bunch of turns early in the game landing on Chance, Community Chest, Jail, etc., without getting to buy properties. If this happens to you, then you're sitting on a pile of cash, and you're pretty much screwed, because other players will get all the monopolies, and you've got nothing to trade.
  • It adds some true skill to the game - you're actually calculating the value of the property to you, and also the value of other people not having it, and engaging in a fun bid war.
So, why do people not use it? I think it's probably because people mostly play this game with kids, and kids don't understand the strategy or the process of bidding very well. They're having enough trouble dealing with the dice and the money and the cards; properly assessing the auction value of a property would be too hard (although maybe not for a 10-12 year old).

It's still weird, though. This is arguably America's favorite boardgame, and most of us play it wrong. The game would be much more appealing to adults (although the outcome would still probably be mostly determined by luck) if this skill-based aspect were included. Ironically, leaving it out to make the game playable by kids ensures that adults won't want to play it later, because to them, it's just for kids, while if they added the auction back in, it would seem like a much better, more sophisticated game. I've enjoyed playing Monopoly with a group of adults, and it would have been even better if we played with the auction rule.

And don't get me started on the frequent (and wrong!) $500 in the middle for free parking. What a travesty.

1 comment:

  1. I have always played with the auction rule. The most ignored rule after that (maybe before that) is that Free Parking gives you nothing! The game is better without someone getting $2,000 all of a sudden. Good post--Monopoly (according to the rules) is still a fun game!