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Subject: Monopoly's scaling problem rss

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Chris Farrell
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This came up in another thread, and I wanted to bring it up here and see what folks thought:

We've been playing Monopoly a bit recently, and enjoying it. We've settled on the 4 player configuration, playing to the second bankruptcy, and then counting assets as a fun game that cuts out Monopoly's somewhat problematic endgame (it can take a while for the obvious winner to finally persevere). This configuration works well, and I honestly have enjoyed it more than many new eurogames.

But we've also discovered that Monopoly has a serious scaling problem with the number of players. This has two dimensions.

Firstly, regardless of how many people you play with, everyone starts with 1500 in cash. With 4 players, that's 6000 in the game. With 6 players, now you have 50% more cash in total (9000 amongst the players) chasing the same number of properties, same number of houses, hotels, etc. Also, more cash is coming into the game through passing Go, Community Chest, and Chance cards due to more die rolls. All that surplus cash now has to be drained into one player's bank account before anyone can win, but the rate at which people can extract cash from each other is about the same as always. All this means a significantly longer game (we found adding just one more player, going from 4 to 5, could add an hour to the game), it means fewer properties per player, it means higher probabilities of getting hosed because you can't acquire enough real estate to make a playable position, and more of a chance to play an obviously losing position for a longer time.

Secondly, players who move later in the order get bigger and bigger handicaps as you add more players. Earlier-moving players will buy up properties, leaving the players who lag behind fewer options to buy and more options to be forced to pay. Clearly, it seems that going last in a 6-player game is a significant handicap, statistically speaking (of course, any individual game may turn out differently, due to the fall of the dice).

So what to do about this? Other than not playing with more than 4 players?

It seems like Monopoly should take a page from 1830. Since there are a fixed number of assets to be bought, it seems like the amount of cash distributed to players at start should add up to a fixed amount. So with 6000 total distributed with 4 players, with 6, perhaps each player should start with only 1000. This would not only bring down the game length, but it would also less severely disadvantage later players, since the lower cash levels means more properties sold at auction rather than just by landing on them, because the choice to buy is not as automatic with tighter cash.

(I've seen it suggested that Monopoly would play better with a lower starting cash amount anyway, to put a little more pressure on the decision of whether or not to buy a property).

But it also seems like this lower distribution would still handicap somewhat the later players. While first-movers won't be able to buy up everything anymore, leaving later players with more options and likely to pick up a few properties at auction, is still obviously something of a disadvantage to go later.

Anyone have any guesses as to how much of a disadvantage that would be? Worth 25? 50? 100? Presumably not more than 100, I'd guess.
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Scott Lewis
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I think one variant I saw (maybe it was on a computer version I used to have) was that you could not purchase any properties until you've passed go at least once. While I didn't take the time then to determine if that would balance the "turn order" problem, I suspect it may to some degree. Obviously, whoever gets the best dice to get around the fastest will have an advantage, but at that point, the next person to pass may not be the "next player" - ie, turn order may not have a bearing on it.

Or, as an alternative to that, you could simply make the rule that nobody can buy properties until at least ONE person passes go. However, this may give a disadvantage to that one person, as it would leave some of the meatier end properties available to those who are lagging behind, while the person who passed go is probably only eligible for the purples and cyans that turn.
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Chris Farrell
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sigmazero13 wrote:
I think one variant I saw (maybe it was on a computer version I used to have) was that you could not purchase any properties until you've passed go at least once...

Sure, but doesn't this just randomize the turn order and not really change anything? Players who get good dice and get around the board quickly are arbitrarily rewarded. Why not just dice for turn order and call it a day?

I've heard a number of different fixes to the start-order problem, and none seem quite satisfactory. Doing once around the board before you can buy helps a little bit, since players effectively won't always start exactly on Go so you might get less clumping, but it seems a marginal help at best.

I've also heard an option where players each start in a different corner (Go, Just Visiting, Free Parking, Go to Jail), and this seems more promising. But it also seems to have unbalanced properties (you'd obviously much rather start at Just Visiting, while the player who starts at Go actually has the poorest prospects), as well as seeming to break the theme of the game somewhat.

The effect actually seem more pronounced with larger numbers of players. With 4 it doesn't seem that big a deal, and a minor compensation (like 50 bucks for player 4) might be enough, and honestly, I wouldn't even worry about it. But with progressively larger numbers of players the situation becomes very bad for later players.

But, I actually think the surplus of cash in the game with more players is the more serious problem. I think if you fixed that, the start-order problem might be brought into line somewhat as well, and then you could do with a lesser fix for the turn order.
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Steve Hope
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Why not bid for starting order, Chris? Bid for 1st, then 2nd, then 3rd and either pay the bid amounts to the bank or to the 4th player.

EDIT: And your point about the cash seems reasonable--why not set a number ($4800?) and divide the cash equally among the players?
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David Namaksy
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Chris

I always use these house rules when playing Monopoly which seems to help some of the problems you are talking about.

1) The total amount of money at the start of the game is always the same, 3000$ divided among the players. So in a two player game each player gets 1500$, 3 player 1000$, up to a 6 player at 500$ each.

2) In game with 4 or more people we use a end turn marker that is given to the last person to go. The person who has the marker gets to make two separate moves, then passes the marker one player counter clockwise. After passing the marker play continues clockwise around. Basically it allows the last person to catch up a bit. Not the ideal solution but does help a little. We also play that doubles do not allow for an extra roll.

 
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Chris Farrell
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stephenhope wrote:
Why not bid for starting order, Chris? Bid for 1st, then 2nd, then 3rd and either pay the bid amounts to the bank or to the 4th player.

It's tempting to bid, but I think the real value is just too opaque for everyone to sensibly bid on, and "incorrect" bids might screw things up right from the get-go (just like a screwed-up private company auction in 1870 can mess up the entire game). How much is it worth to go first vs. 6th? This is arguably not a subjective number, one could arrive statistically at something approaching a right answer to that question. It would be more satisfying to have a good guess as to what that is and just set the number and avoid the risk of games getting screwed up at the outset by a bad bid. And I think it's fair to say Monopoly is not a game I'm ever going to play enough for everyone to get a handle on fair bids.

Also needless to say, Monopoly is a game with some luck involved. So the answer doesn't need triple-digit precision.

Quote:
And your point about the cash seems reasonable--why not set a number ($4800?) and divide the cash equally among the players?

This is my plan for future games where we have more than 4 players - just divide up the $6000 from the 4-player game evenly (I personally wouldn't play with less than 4). It's possible that that setting the number even lower might result in an even better game, but the game with 4 seems to work just fine without messing with it (other than playing to the the slightly altered play-to-two-bankruptcies short game), so I'd always go with a small change by preference...
 
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Jonathan Ferro
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Stealing an idea from Fast Food Franchise, how about "Until you pass GO at least once, you may reroll any movement roll that would take you to a property owned by another player."
 
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Jonathan Tang
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How about: for first turn only, any property landed on is not sold, but auctioned off.

Once each player has made their first move, the game plays as normal.
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Ryan Bretsch
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Chris,

(Monopoly...an underrated negotiating game...)

This is how we "roll" with Monopoly. It is important that players follow the official rules with this variant. Only variant changes are in override of the official rules in this version. P.S.> We also play with three dice to speed up the game. The player rolling has the choice of rolling two or three dice ... depending how fast or slow they want to try and get around the board. Some interesting mechanisms in play.

BTW, The "Railroads and Subways" can be considered optional to the variant.

-----------------------------------

Monopoly 500 A supplement of the official rules…
*
*

A New Start:

1. Only $500 is given to each player to start the game.
2. All railroads now cost $350 to purchase. See: Railroads and Subways
3. Building must be in chronological order and there must be a “like" availability of equal housing to build hotels. (this is actually an often overlooked very important official rule of the game, which basically states that you can’t build a hotel on an undeveloped monopoly just because you have the money to build… even though no houses are available.)
4. See: Auction of Property.

Auction of Property:

EVERYONE now participates in the buying of properties when someone lands on an unsold property space. This is done through an auction.

When a person lands on a property space, they become the auctioneer. They announce a auctioneer’s fee that everyone who wants to bid on the property must pay to the auctioneer. Auctioneers get to bid for free on the property up for auction.

The auctioneer may elect not to charge a fee. If the auctioneer elects not to charge a fee and no one participates in the auction, then the auctioneer may buy the property at face value.
But if the auctioneer does announce a fee and no one wants to pay that fee, then the property does not go up for sale.

All auction’s must start at the face property value.

Railroads and Subways:

If you land on a railroad space you have two options:

1. If no one else owns the railroad, you may purchase it for $350.
2. If someone else already owns it, you simply pay a fixed rental fee for the equivalent of two railroads in the traditional version ($50) until your next turn… unless you decide to do a subway transfer.

Subways

1. You can own a maximum of two Railroad Cards at the same time and only if both cards create a subway system.
2. You need two opposing railroads to own a “subway�? system. There are two:

When you own BOTH the Short Line and Pennsylvania Railroad a “subway�? is established.
or

When you own BOTH the Reading and B&O Railroad, a “subway�? is established.

About the Subway and Transfers:

If you land on a railroad space and the railroad is owned and part of a subway:

• If you own the subway: You may automatically transfer to the other station, if you desire. If you pass GO, you collect $200.00. No charges or fees apply to using the subway, as long as you own it.
• If another player owns the subway: You can decide to make a transfer to the other listed subway station. You must decide to do a transfer on the same turn you landed on the original railroad space. You do not collect $200.00 if you pass GO AND you must pay a $150.00 transfer fee to the player owning the subway in lieu of the normal $50 rent.

Ending the Game:

The game ends at an exact time limit set by the players. Recommended: 2 1/ 2 Hours.

Counting It All Up: Winning

At the end of the game, players take turns selling everything back to the bank. See values below:

• Houses: Bank pays $100 per house
• Hotels: Bank pays $500 per hotel
• Property: Bank pays original face value price for each unmortgaged property.
• Railroad: Bank only pays $200 (which is the original face value) for each unmortgaged railroad card.

The player with the most money wins.
 
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Lindsay Jamieson
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If it is valid that players 5 and 6 have a disadvantage, then maybe their starting amount should be more - say give them the full $1500 and only $1300 each to the first 4 players.
 
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John Crowe
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Geosmores wrote:
Chris
1) The total amount of money at the start of the game is always the same, 3000$ divided among the players. So in a two player game each player gets 1500$, 3 player 1000$, up to a 6 player at 500$ each.

This isn't enough money in the game. I really don't think there is a problem of too much money in Monopoly unless people add house rules (like $500 from Free Parking) that funnel in more. With more players what you see is a shift of desirable properties towards the higher values (lt blues, violets, oranges --> reds, yellows, greens, blues).

With only $500/player in a 6-player game, you wouldn't have enough money to even buy an entire monopoly, let alone build houses on them. Also, there is little cash available for use in trade negotiations.

Though I've never tried it, I like the idea of later players starting with more money to compensate, but how much is a tough question.
 
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Ken Waido
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Ever try rotating?

1st rotation: Player 1 goes first, Player 2 second , Player 3 third, then Player 4.
2nd rotation: Player 2 goes first, Player 3 second, Player 4 third, then Player 1.
3rd rotation: Player 3 goes first, Player 4 second, Palyer 1 third, then 2.
4th rotation: Player 4 goes first, Player 1 second, Player 2 third, then Player 3.

Or, how about 1, 2, 3, then 4; follwed by 4, 3, 2, then 1

I've also played where no player had any money at the start. Players were only allowed to be in debt for a predetermined number of times around the board (usually three).
 
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Tim Shippert
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cfarrell wrote:

It's tempting to bid, but I think the real value is just too opaque for everyone to sensibly bid on, and "incorrect" bids might screw things up right from the get-go.
[...] It would be more satisfying to have a good guess as to what that is and just set the number and avoid the risk of games getting screwed up at the outset by a bad bid.

In the 1975 book 1001 Ways to Win Monopoly Games, by Jay Walker and Jeff Lehman, the authors note that in college tournaments of the day turn order was decided by sealed bid. The record bid at the time was $225 to go first, made by somebody who actually won his game. For home games they suggest offering $100 to the player who rolled first to switch places, especially if you are last; that's a $200 marginal difference from first to last (in a standard four player game), although I think they were deliberately lowballing to try and get you a bargain.

So my suggestion is to use $100 increments between each successive player; for 4 players give each position 1350,1450,1550,and 1650. With less starting money the value of going first probably goes down, so maybe go to $50 increments with $3000 total, or whatever.

I agree with the general consensus that giving less total money makes the game more interesting. I've even heard of people starting play with absolutely no money at all, which admittedly seems rather extreme and probably means the first half hour is just rolling and moving. The first guy to get a lucky Chance card can probably pick up some serious bargains, and if that beauty prize money gets you a Railroad you are going to have a huge advantage. But it might be fun to play that way once and see.
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Chris Farrell
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tinderfire wrote:
Geosmores wrote:
Chris
1) The total amount of money at the start of the game is always the same, 3000$ divided among the players. So in a two player game each player gets 1500$, 3 player 1000$, up to a 6 player at 500$ each.

This isn't enough money in the game.

I agree that $3000 is a ludicrously small amount of money, especially at larger numbers of players. Too little money would be as much of a problem as too much, as properties sell for less than their mortgage value at auction because there is so little cash available and the early game becomes painfully protracted.

To me, the $1500 in the four-player game feels about right, but ...

Geosmores wrote:
I really don't think there is a problem of too much money in Monopoly unless people add house rules (like $500 from Free Parking) that funnel in more. With more players what you see is a shift of desirable properties towards the higher values (lt blues, violets, oranges --> reds, yellows, greens, blues).

Is this really true? It seems like the problem of the Green and Blue properties is just that they are a poor value proposition because of the whole Jail issue, while Red, Orange, and maybe Yellow have much higher hit frequencies. It doesn't seem that simply having more money in the game would necessarily make the Greens a better value proposition (they seem to totally suck in the normal game). Plus, each player still only has the same amount of cash, so a big rent on the Reds (or Oranges) is still going to be enough to generate that first or second bankruptcy that puts you in contention for the win, while Greens take too long to develop.

If it were true that adding a bit of cash to the initial allotments would make the Greens (or Yellows) more viable while not lengthening the game too much, I might be tempted to do it even with 4 players to even out the values of some of the properties. But I fear the added game length. Monopoly is already pushing the limits of what is reasonable.
 
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Jeremy S

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Hmm Idk. But I do have a good tip! Buy everything you land on. Usually pretty broke but you prevent people from getting houses. You ususally get a full set of at least one thing then you can slowly elimate them haha. Me and my twin play like that all the times, then its a matter of luck, dice numbers, turf landgings, ect.
 
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Aaron Tubb
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sigmazero13 wrote:
I think one variant I saw (maybe it was on a computer version I used to have) was that you could not purchase any properties until you've passed go at least once. While I didn't take the time then to determine if that would balance the "turn order" problem, I suspect it may to some degree. Obviously, whoever gets the best dice to get around the fastest will have an advantage, but at that point, the next person to pass may not be the "next player" - ie, turn order may not have a bearing on it.

Or, as an alternative to that, you could simply make the rule that nobody can buy properties until at least ONE person passes go. However, this may give a disadvantage to that one person, as it would leave some of the meatier end properties available to those who are lagging behind, while the person who passed go is probably only eligible for the purples and cyans that turn.
The way to play this variant has to be that everyone can buy when ONE person passes Go. I think this could be a good idea, since players should be all over the place on the board when someone passes Go. I've played the other way (each person individually has to pass Go) and IMO the game just about breaks. What happens if only one or two people have passed Go and want a property to go to auction? Also, there is always the one guy who goes to jail before passing Go the first time who will net about 3 properties the entire game. Also, the it doesn't help people buy different properties without just landing on what the player before them bought, because all players have to start at Go (after passing it once) and then land on the properties that everyone who passed Go before them already bought. It is effectively a different way to determine who goes first and make the game even more random at the same time.
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John Clark
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I agree, but I would start with $1500 each for THREE players - $4500 total - and distribute that around however many players there are, so four would have $1100 each and five $900. I still think that is too much. I would be very interested to see how it goes if you try starting with a lot less money.

As for the disadvantage of going last, I will try to simulate this - what is probability that a player will land on the same square as another player over, say, the first five rounds? The total average value of properties 'lost' can be calculated.

Of course, if you start with less money, then it is less of an issue, since the first player will quickly find he cannot buy everything he lands on.

Another option is to reverse the direction every turn, so the player going last in one round goes first in the next round. That is, in a four player game, this is the turn order:

1234432112344321 etc.

I doubt many people would do this as it would get confusing.

Of course, once the game is 4-5 rounds in it does not matter who went first, so I think I favour solution based around financial compensation.
 
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One of the problems with late starts is that you land on already-owned properties. It's a double whammy, since not only can't you buy it, but you have to pay rent as well. How about adding a "stepping stones" rule:

* When you land on an already-owned property, do not pay rent to the owner. Instead, throw the dice again and move forward. Repeat if you land on another owned property.
* Doubles: Only "standard throws" count.
* * For example, I throw 3-3 and land on Oriental, which is owned. I make a stepping-stone throw of 2-5 and land on States, unowned. I buy it, then get to throw again because of the initial 3-3.
* * Another example: 3-3 as before, but 3-3 again to land on Electric Company. Then 6-6 off of Electric Company; this does not send me to Jail, because that second 3-3 was a stepping-stone throw, not a standard throw. Now, if I follow that 6-6 with another double on a standard throw, I go to Jail.
* You lose stepping-stone throws once you land on or pass Go.

The exception for doubles sounds more complicated than it is, but most gamers should be able to take to it quickly. You could simplify things and just eliminate the extra-move-for-doubles rule until the stepping-stone rule goes away.
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JonRock wrote:
Stealing an idea from Fast Food Franchise, how about "Until you pass GO at least once, you may reroll any movement roll that would take you to a property owned by another player."

A simple and perfect solution. This has my vote.
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Mike Patrick
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Any thoughts on banning purchases until someone throws a certain dice combo, perhaps five or nine? That would tend to randomize both the starting point and player.
 
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John David Galt
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I don't see a later start as really being that big a disadvantage. The only practical effect is the chance that you'll land on a property someone else bought first.

But I have played a variant that addressed it for people who thought it was a problem, and it worked out pretty well. Our variant was this: (We had four players.)

(1) One player, randomly chosen, starts at each corner space of the board. (After everyone chooses a token, someone puts all the tokens in a cup and shakes them out, one at a time.) This order is not related to who goes first.

(2) The first time each player passes Go, the salary payout is modified to reflect your starting point. The player who started on "Go to Jail" gets only $50, the player who started on "Free Parking" gets $100, the player who started on "Just Visiting" gets $150, and the player who started on "Go" gets $200. After that first time, Go pays the normal $200 to everybody.

No other changes to the standard rules.
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Jim Hill
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only play with four players?

I don't really see a scaling issue. With more players there is a wider distribution of the properties, so there is more trading. Those who don't get a fast start will have more money for auctions. With less than four players the only change I'd make is to reduce the number of houses and hotels to reduce the chance of long seesaw games. There's no need to adjust cash, auctions sort that out, a property, after all, can sell for a dollar.

Can't believe the low rating for this game. It's infinitely superior to Talisman.
 
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