Sunday, March 19, 2006

What if you had the option to own jail? Jail is the most landed on space on the board. Jail should be an ownable "property" - everytime someone pays to get out of jail, the owner of Jail collects the $50. It would be a property like any other except that you would not be able to mortgage it and it would be for sale for a price of $175. You could only purchase it while just visiting. If the owner of Jail gets sent to jail, he does not have to pay to get out. He always gets out free! If he gets doubles, he has to move out like everyone else, though. And he still has to get out on his third turn. Perhaps a rule could be made that the owner of jail can stay in one turn longer. Should the owner of Jail be able to charge a fee for visiting Jail? If so, how much? Probably not.

Ever since I overcame my detestment of the complexity of the rules of Monopoly at the tender age of 6 I have been most affectionate of Monopoly. I was first introduced to the game when my grandmother got me the 50th Anniversary Edition for Christmas in 1986 I believe. I hated the game at first and complained how I didn't understand. But once I did, I was in love. All growing up I would always nag family members and friends to play with me and even resorted to playing by myself when none would humor me, making up my own rules to make it more fun solo.

Well, I don't nag people to play anymore the way I used to but I recently rediscovered my love for the game after not playing for perhaps over a year (gasp!) which inspired me to research monopoly strategies and see if there were other people who are interested in changing things around in Monopoly to improve it. There are plenty of pages on statistics and strategies for playing Monopoly but few really interested in trying to make the game more balanced or change the rules to enable those winning the chance to truly dominate before their opponents have all been bankrupted (for example). So I decided to have my own blog to discuss this all time favorite game.

I have always tried to come up with better rent scenarios for the properties. My latest idea is to have the weakest monopolies where the Oranges and Reds are since they get landed on the most and the stronger Monopolies on either side of GO which get landed on less. But this sort of alteration has always proved a bit too daunting a task for me. Monopoly really is very well balanced and it's very hard to improve upon it. But there are things that nag me. The Oranges being significantly better than the same priced purples for example. But there is still something that feels like it could be better. Maybe it's that there is too much luck? I was reading someone's blog on strategies for playing and he made a comment about how there was too much luck involved. And another blogger, a boardgame aficianado, said Monopoly was only an averagely good board game and that there are many superior ones, because Monopoly has too much of an element of luck. And of course everyone knows it is a game largely about luck. What fun is it when someone dominates the railroads early on or luckily snags all three colors of a group before half the properties have been purchased? Is there a way to reduce the amount of luck in Monopoly? Afterall, it's this element of luck that makes it exciting and fun. But what if we could just reduce it a little? Or somehow enable more control over the inbalance of property acquisitioning in the beginning of the game?

Well, as I was writing a reply to the first mentioned Blogger I postulated that maybe by altering the dice you could somehow reduce the amount of luck. Well, I came up with a whole new set of rules to add to the game with this goal in mind. I'm not sure that I've reduced the amount of luck in the game, but I may have increased the amount of strategy needed and thus reducing the overall outcome of the game to come down to luck and more to cunning. Here is the response I made to the first blogger, slightly clarified here from my reply to him. Go here to read his blog:

This is fun:

I wish there was someway to alter Monopoly to have less luck. I guess one way would be to remove the six and the one on the dice and replace them with three and four. This would keep the variance in rolls down making it easier to predict what people will roll and therefore where they are liable to land in their next turn. In this scenario, the lowest number you could roll is 4 and the highest is 10 with six, seven and eight being twice as likely as before (and they were already the most likely of numbers to roll). Now when someone is on B&O Railroad you'll feel like your $1200 investment into the Greens for six houses on the unimproved group for a measly average return of $410 per property when someone lands will be less ridiculous of an investment than it normally would be.

And not to complicate things more, but maybe a fun way to add perhaps a little more strategy and less luck to the game would be to allow players (with the new dice scheme I just laid out) the option of actually being able to change one of the numbers on the dice after rolling the dice on your turn. This number would be chosen before the game commences by each player to be the number they get to alter for the entire game. You choose any number between 2 and 5 as your number you change on any one die after you roll the dice on your turn. You would not be allowed to change this number once the game is underway. It is your number you get to change for the entire game.

For example: Everyone chooses the number which they want to be able to alter. Here's where it gets complicated. Because three and four have twice the chance of being rolled, if you choose these numbers as your number you get to alter, then you are limited to only being able to alter it 3 or 4. If you choose 3, you are only allowed to alter it up one to make it a 4. You would not be able to alter it down. The transverse of this would be true if you picked 4. You would only be able to alter it to a 3. So 3s and 4s would only be able to be those two numbers. HOWEVER, if you were to choose 5 or 2 you'd get to alter them up or down giving you more power when those numbers appear in a roll. So if you picked 2 to be your number used for the entire game, it could be changed to a 1 or a 3 on your turn. Or if you picked 5 it could be a 4 or a 6. Of course, you wouldn't have to alter it. Only if you saw it in your best interest to do so. So let's say you are just visiting jail (a common place to be as there are many ways to be sent to jail and you always have to move from jail eventually) and there are three opponent houses on each Orange property. Your chosen number to change for the entire game is 4 and you roll the dice and a 4 and a 5 show up for a total of 9. In regular monopoly this would put you on New York Ave for a rent of $600. But with my silly contraption you can keep the 4 as is or you can make it a 3 for a roll total of 8. Neither option is gonna get you out of trouble, but at least you'll have the option of choosing Tennessee over New York for a rent due of $550, a savings of $50. With these dice rules, the community and chance cards would be cycled through quicker in the latter stages of the game as people would prolly be choosing to land on them more to avoid high rents, meaning people would have to start paying attention to when the "Assessed for street repairs" or "Advance to Boardwalk" or any other number of places or "Pay Hospital $150" etc would be nearing the top of the pile giving savvy people the option of weighing whether it's better to pay $360 for street repairs over $250 rent for Indiana Avenue. If I pay only $250 I lose less money but the gap between me and my opponent will be $500 after my paying him versus the $360 after I pay the bank the penalty. These rules, as silly and complicated as they seem, could perhaps make the game a little more interesting.

Now if there is concern that "the choose the die rule" would give players too much control over where they landed you could add a stipulation saying that you can only use the die change once per cycle around the board. Of course it would be too confusing to keep track of this. There's a simple solution, though. You could make little cards or tabs, color coded for each person. There would be two or three of each color, but only one would be dealt to each player at the beginning of the game. People then would place their card in the middle of the board when they used their die change. And when they land or pass go they'd be able to collect it again with their passing Go money. So they'd have two things to look forward to getting when passing Go and one more thing to gripe about when being sent to jail (missing being able to collect their tab if they had already used it before being sent to jail) -- and, as an added little bonus, since many people like the $400 when landing on Go rule - instead of getting extra cash you could offer the optional "house rule" of getting an extra die change card that round. Maybe Free Parking could also be implemented to offer some sort of bonus like this as well. Maybe Free Parking would win you any tabs that might be in the middle of the board when you land there although that would prolly be too much power to give someone for landing there. You could just have two tabs be given.

Now you could either have it be that you only have one die change card in the game (except for maybe the option of winning the other one by landing on Go or Free Parking) and if you didn't use it going around the board then you wasted the opportunity. OR you could have it so that every time you pass go you get one die change card with your passing go money - another part of your salary - and so here is where another opportunity for strategy comes into play. You can hoard all your change die cards for later in the game when you want to have more opportunities for dodging peoples' rents OR you could use them up in the beginning of the game in the hopes of grabbing up more choice properties. The difficulty would be in striking a good balance. Landing on Go or Free Parking would win you an extra one. And since you'd be able to collect them, you could have the option of being able to change both numbers if you got doubles of your number. If you roll non-doubles and you change the number so that the two die now mirror each other - than it counts as doubles. If you roll doubles and you change one or two of the numbers and it's no longer doubles after changing than it's not doubles anymore. One last thing. The option of buying dice changing cards. You could sell them to other players or you could buy them from the bank. Maybe add a Community Chest and a Chance card that awarded one. Of course these rules would prolly be altered and improved upon with playtesting, I am just laying out some ideas for a more interesting, fun destiny controlling monopoly game experience!

Gee willikers, maybe I'll make my own monopoly game based on my crazy dice rules! :-D

Edit: I was thinking a good price for the dice changing cards would be $200. Maybe instead of being awarded them each time passing go you could have the option of receiving one for passing go instead of $200. Perhaps only collectible at the time of passing go, rather than being purchasable for $200 at any time.