Game Theory: Monopoly

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Recently I attended a Gaming group with a friend of mine where the two of us sat for a rousing and surprisingly tense game of Monopoly. It was a unique experience, both because of the venue and for the fact that I had not played this staple of gaming Americana since I started playing Dungeons & Dragons a few years ago.

We encountered the Classic board game in a lounge-bar on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on a chilly Saturday afternoon as part of a group that catered to diverse New Yorker’s looking for networking activities. It was my first time attending this particular club and we arrived looking for casual games, although I had brought a box of Munchkin on the off-chance that a few ‘hard-core’ Gamer’s may be in attendance.

The game started off harmless enough with our competitors, myself and my companion rusty as to the nuances of the rules, simple though they may seem. Who hasn’t played Monopoly with House Rules like Free Parking or First Round Exemption, but with an eye trained towards the Rules-As-Written Mentality that comes with Table-top and Role-playing games, I quickly became the Rules-Lawyer of the Game, a persona I generally am not particularly apt to adopt.

Needless to say the game got competitive and heated fairly quickly after I began pointing out rule specifics and proceeded to flex my trading and haggling skills (many a Diplomacy Check was made on my part) as the presence of any meta or RAW-gamer can do to a table. But when questions about Mortgaging properties, with and without houses, or the order of Escaping Jail became a chance for a refresher I couldn’t help but recognize the absolute thrill I was getting at trying to figure out how to play the game to optimal effect. Buy cheap, trade wisely and stay in jail when you’re on a roll; straight-forward enough strategy, but for the first time I saw some strategies that before my Gamer eyes had developed, wouldn’t have occurred to me.

Sure it may seem cheap enough to buy Baltic and Mediterranean, along with Connecticut and the rest of the lite blues, or Boardwalk, but the payout of Railroads quickly seemed obvious as a ramping tactic to getting funds, both in terms of chances of my competitors landing on the squares (four possible landing points) and the payout comparative to the investment. Alternatively Monopoly’s rule towards trading properties, in my opinion the funnest mechanic to the game, is a simpler and more straightforward concept anyone who has played Settlers of Catan can recognize and could be easily claimed as the mercantile gaming grandaddy of trading. As simple as Monopoly may seem, like any good video game where the first few levels teaches a player the basic components of the platform, Monopoly is a gateway to the world of Table-tops and I think any Gamer worth their salt has a special spot in their heart for the Classic.

But you don’t have to be a hardcore Gamer to appreciate the simplicity and engaging aspects of Monopoly to love its gameplay. It has drawn in over a billion players, most of whom have probably never seen a dice other than a six-sided one, since its inception during the Great Depression and is as American as Apple Pie and Renaissance Fairs. And whether you’re a casual player or as much of a meta-gamer as myself and others out there, people who have lent a degree of probability to the game, at its core the game touches on all the aspects that make one classic. Resource management, power acquisition, diplomacy, leveling and randomization all contribute to the legend that is Monopoly and despite the recent replacement of the iconic Ironing Board for the people’s internet choice award, a Cat token, the seemingly endless variants and enthusiasm for the game means that the grandfather of all Table-top games will be with us for as long as people what to game.

So when you get a chance, and have a few friends, online or in real-life, and you’ve got an hour (or three) to spare, grab a Classic, and

Game Forth!


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