Board Games

Monopoly, The Landlord’s Game

Two of my favorite pastimes are reading history and playing board games.  Let me share a little history of the world’s most popular board game:  Monopoly.  You probably had heard it became popular during the depression of the early 1930’s.  Why?  25% of people were out of work, with no money and time on their hands.  Monopoly offered a venue where each player could hold money in his hands, own property, which many people did not, build houses and hotels, which takes money to do, and win the game by becoming rich.  The object was not to have the most money but to have it all; to bankrupt not some but all of the other players.  For those who had nothing during the depression but family, it was a good escape, good entertainment.  But this was not the original intent of the game. 

In 1904, Elizabeth Magie invented a game called The Landlord’s Game.  She created it with the express purpose of showing the evils of capitalism and how it was going to destroy America.  At that time a few individuals: Rockefeller, Carnegie, railroad barons, and financiers had acquired unbelievable wealth compared with the average worker.  Unchecked capitalism was great for them, the few, but changing the character of the nation, possibly destroying the American idea of opportunity for the majority of others.  Monopolies in America were swallowing up the little man, putting him out of business, out of the game.  People responded politically with progressive movements asking the government for help.  Their voice was heard starting in the early 20th century resulting in anti-trust legislation and the present income tax that the United States has, starting in 1913.   It began as a way of taxing the rich to prevent them from having too much influence on politicians and therefore government: to prevent a plutocracy(government by the rich).

The Landlord’s Game changed over the thirty years since its creation.  It was not easy to play and had little artwork.  It evolved until a man named Charles Darrow in the early 1930’s added much of the present artwork as well as changed the name to Monopoly which he patented.  The rest is history.  Ironically, the game had evolved to embrace capitalism, winner takes all, the exact opposite of why it had originally been invented. Let’s look at some other history. 

During the 1950’s the middle class of America owned about 40% of the nation’s wealth.  The top 1% owned less than 10%.  Compare that to today where the top 1% own over 40% of our nation’s wealth.  The bottom 80% of Americans own less than 10%. What does that mean exactly, the country’s wealth?

The value of my house, car, and assets minus credit card debt, loans, etc. is my net worth.  Each family unit or individual’s value collectively add up to make the nation’s wealth.  The net worth of a few has risen dramatically while the net value for many others is going down.

Over the last 30 years the average worker is putting in longer hours, producing more, but not really making that much more.  The profit is going into the hands of the few.  What can we do?  Should we tax the rich more?

I think it is going to be hard to tax the elite rich more as they will find a way to shelter their money and avoid taxes.  I would probably do the same if I was a billionaire. 

Here are my naïve thoughts, but at least I am thinking about it because a change is going to be needed, hopefully sooner than later.  First, lower corporate taxes from the present 35% to 20%.  Canada just lowered theirs to 15%.  Try to encourage companies to reinvest in America, and invest in their workers:  raise the minimum wage.  It is currently about $7.50, but it should be about $10.00.  More money earned is money that can be spent to help drive the economy.  Next, raise the Medicare tax on everyone.  The vast majority of Americans will need Medicare, and the annual 1.45% of our income for payroll tax is not going to be sufficient to cover future costs of the program.  Everyone is in this together and all should contribute more, say 3.5%. 

The Lord willing, I will retire with my own home and a decent retirement.  Can I say the same for my kids?  I have my concerns.  Many Americans are going to work their whole life losing hope of actually owning their own home or having a necessary retirement.  They are forced to rent, and are one bad mishap away from bankruptcy.  Their numbers continue to grow.  I play Monopoly for fun, but I don’t like the idea that the America I love is playing the game for real.  This is not the America I grew up in during the 1950’s. 

Monopoly Quickly?

I was listening to a National Public Radio (NPR) interview one evening as I drove home that talked about the board game Monopoly.  The professor being interviewed teaches at Notre Dame and was discussing how quickly Monopoly could theoretically be played.  This piqued my interest for several reasons.

First, I like board games and I have played my share of Monopoly, although it is not my favorite.  It is often too time consuming; a complaint voiced by many.  This leads me to my second point of interest.  The discussion centered on the idea that Monopoly could be played from start to finish very quickly, even if played by the rules.  When I heard Monopoly and quickly in the same context it sounded like an oxymoron.  I wanted to hear more.

I have actually played Monopoly in what I considered a very quick manner and I was curious just how fast it has been played.  My mind darted back in time almost 30 years ago when my wife and I had another couple over for the evening.  After dinner the two women seemed to be engaged in conversation so I brought up a challenge to my male friend.  I wanted to play a fast game of Monopoly: strict observance of the rules.  Everyone laughed, as I knew they would, but I explained to my friend that I knew the exact rent of each property on the board and would play cut throat.  In other words if I get a monopoly and he didn’t, I would not make a trade.  I would build and  eventually wear him down.  Doesn’t sound like much fun does it?  To my pleasant surprise he also knew the rents and accepted my challenge.

The wives bowed out as us two men squared off.  We agreed to honor each other’s rent which would allow us to pick up the dice and roll while the other payed his rent.  In other words, if I landed on Illinois Ave. and he owned it, I would pay the $20 rent automatically (assuming he did not own all three red properties)  while he rolled and moved his token.  By the time I was placing the rent money next to him he would have already rolled, moved his token, and would either be reaching to pay me, pay the bank, or draw a card.  We moved fast.

During the first game I landed and purchased Park Place and then I soon thereafter drew a card that allowed me to advance to Boardwalk which I promptly bought.  Neither of us had another monopoly so I quickly built and waited for his eventual demise.  I think he landed on Park Place and then rolled snake eyes which landed him on Boardwalk: game over.  The game took about 30 minutes start to finish.  He won the next. In less than two hours we had played four games, each winning two.  Not the way the average person plays but an interesting experience for us.

You can see why I was curious about how fast the professor could play.  On the NPR interview he said Monopoly could be played in less than 30 seconds.  I didn’t believe him.  He proved me wrong.

The professor while being interviewed started on the clock by throwing and retrieving the dice (I assumed he rolled some doubles) while moving his token.  It only takes about 5 seconds to roll three times.  His voice conveyed urgency as he was rolling the dice, moving the tokens, yelling out the acquisitions of properties as well as any payments to the bank.  I think he was done in 24 seconds.  His game took less than half a minute: by the rules.  He and his son had previously researched what exact rolls of the dice would have to occur in order for a game to last such a short time.  I happened to fast for me to remember what theoretical rolls of the dice were yelled out.

When I got home I took a moment to investigate.  I didn’t care to break his record, just curious if it could actually be done in a minute or two.  Remember, the following is all theoretical but this is what my own research revealed:

The rules require players start with $1500 (two $500, two $100, two $50, six $20, five $10, five $5, five $1

The fastest possible game would be between two players. Let’s start.

Player one:  rolls double 5 (just visiting jail)

rolls double 6 (Chance: Building and Loan Matures. Collect $150)

rolls 5,6 (Community Chest: Bank Error in your Favor. Collect $200)

Player two:  rolls double 2,lands 0n income tax, pays $150

rolls double 5,1 (just visiting jail)

Player one: rolls Double 2, lands and purchases Park Place for $350

rolls double 1, lands and buys Boardwalk for $400.  It is still his turn.

Buys 3 houses for Boardwalk, 2 for Park Place: cost $1000

rolls 3,1  (Baltic Ave)

Player two:  rolls double 6, (Chance: Advance to Boardwalk)

Rent: $1400.  Can’t pay. Player only has $1350. Game over.

This would only take a matter of minutes even if you were not in a hurry.  My son and did it in 43 seconds.   I’m sure there are a number of variations that could achieve the same results.  If you play fast like I did with my friend it could probably be done it in less than a minute.  You would also have a greater chance of winning the lottery than a game with these dice combinations happening: so who cares?

I do.  It was fun to get the Monopoly game out and search out the possibilities to determine if this was true or not.  I like board games, including Monopoly.  I also enjoyed showing it to my older son who enjoys board games, just like the professor and his son.  I especially like searching for the truth in any given matter.  Truth is one of life’s hidden treasures.

The board game Treasure Trove has lots of hidden treasure and hidden truths.  I encourage you to check it out on the following website:

I haven’t yet researched the fastest possible time Treasure Trove can be played, but it is a much quicker, usually 30 to 40 minutes.