Recommend
5 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

Monopoly» Forums » Variants

Subject: Free Market rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Joe Black
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
(I have read very thoroughly through the variants posted here, and the sites they link to, searching for anyone who uses the main line of rules I have outlined below. I'm very surprised to see no signs of it, but perhaps I have not been as thorough as I like to think. I apologize if this sort of thing has already been discussed and would be very interested in reading such a discussion.)

I know Monopoly is not a popular game here, the main reasons involve an excess of luck, a lack of meaningful choices, and the tendency for the game to go on and on without anything interesting happening.

The thing that has always bothered me about Monopoly, after the first few times playing it as a small child, was that it isn't really a game about normal business, but rather about the fairly peculiar real estate business, and even there it is slanted toward a fast moral lesson concerning the admirable "single tax" system in land-ownership, a lesson the modern game does not even bother to represent. In short, rather than being a real contest between Monopolies and Free Trade in a real range of businesses, it is simply a neutered version of "The Landlord's Game".

As a result, starting long ago while playing with my nephews, and year in and year out since then playing with various friends, I have developed a group of "house rules" which make the game a much better reflection of what we tend to learn in civics and economics classes, primarily by adding concepts of free trade and competition and dispensing with the myopic real estate theme.

Cleanup

First up, a lot of people have made house rules for Monopoly, and most of these, like the cash on "Free Parking", simply tend to make the game longer, more boring, and even more bound by luck. So I am not interested in most of them, the rules we are starting with are the standard Monopoly rules from Parker Brothers / Waddington's, not whatever crazy thing you might have played growing up.

The one exception to this that has stood the test of time is to start off with no automatic salary or "income" from passing Go. But this will change as we get some "business sites" or properties working, as detailed below. Just note that "monthly income" (passing Go) begins at 0 rather than 200.

Costs

In standard Monopoly, when a player lands on an unowned property, he has the option to buy it at the listed price, or else it is auctioned to the highest bidder. We will dispense with this option to buy and begin the auction immediately! This, like the following rule, adds a powerful Free Market aspect to the game. Costs represent whatever the market will bear, not what someone reads on a card.

Once a property is owned, the owner may set the "cost" of doing business with it (formerly rent) at whatever rate they want. This sounds like it will destroy the structure of the game, but due to further rules and results outlined in our next section, it simply makes that structure more reasonable and self-organizing rather than being arbitrarily dictated.

Competition

In Monopoly Free Market, each side of the board represents an industry. We tend to refer to the first side (between Go and Jail) as Supplies, the second (from Jail to Free Parking) as Hardware or Electronics, the third (from Free Parking to Go To Jail) as Software or Intellectual Property, and the fourth (from Go To Jail back to Go) as Marketing. This sounds like a simple and pointless re-theming, but in fact it's the major improvement in game play.

When the player lands on a colored property on a side, this represents a business need for products from that industry. If the property is owned, they may choose to buy there. If unowned, they may try to supply that need for themselves, by investing the money needed to build a business installation there. OR they may choose to do business with any other owned outlet on that side of the board!

For example, suppose a person lands on Park Place. This represents a need for marketing. If the owner of the Park Place marketing site charges 100 for services, however, he may wish to do business with the owner of the site on Pennsylvania Avenue, who only charges 25 for similar services. He should be able to simply move his piece back to the site he prefers to do business with.

This will tend to cause prices to stack from less to more expensive down the given side, just as they do in arbitrary costing in The Landlord's Game, because the sites closer to the beginning are more likely to create a situation where the next roll causes the player to land on that same industry again. This becomes a wonderful simulation of the situation in which a business buys cheaper, shoddier products to save money and ends up having to make further purchases; or, vice-versa, spends more than they really "have to" for quality, and ends up totally satisfied with their purchase that round (as they get completely off that side of the board.)

Convenience

On the other hand, this is still a little flat in that it neglects the factor of convenience. If I am actually near Macy's (or K-mart) when I discover a business need, it is more convenient to buy there, even if I might get a lower price (or better quality) at some other site. To represent this properly, when you opt to move to a different site to make your purchase, you do not move there until your next turn. This move represents your whole turn, you do not roll the dice, you simply move over to the competing site, complete your purchase, and stop there.

The competition mechanic and related movement does not apply to the Utilities, which represent state franchises. (Water Works does not represent a direct competitor to the Electric Company). It does, however, apply to the Railroads, and wonderfully so, as they represent Transportation businesses, and moving to a different one gets you to a whole different side of the board!

Chronology

Rounds represent a month of business. This becomes particularly important as we discuss contracts and related income below. But with all this moving back and forth, different players are very likely to get out of synch with one another. To make up for this, it is necessary to keep track of what "month" (round) each player is on. Whenever any player is more than one month behind the leader, their next turn constitutes "passing Go" regardless of where they are on the board.

One can keep track of this on paper, but in experience we have found it is better to use a chalkboard or dry-erase screen for this purpose, along with other bits of bookkeeping we will be doing like stock offers and set prices.

Conglomerates

Because the whole side of the board is in competition, it is possible to own a whole color-group without having a real "monopoly" on the service, simply cornering the market on the high or low end of that industry. This is good, as modern law does not favor real monopolies anyway but controlling a whole chunk of market share is perfectly allowable and predictable.

On the other hand, controlling the market does not have a truly additive effect on income. When Walmart runs all the other marts out of business or buys them up, they do not really keep all their stores open and so forth. Also, as players begin to control at least one piece of each side of the board, the use of them to represent standard income for a business begins to fail.

As a result, a new way of representing income is needed as the board gets bought up. We tend to make up for this by collecting 200 on passing Go for each business we own, or only 500 for each conglomerate (color group). Yes, that means that only with the lowest end of Supplies and the highest end of Marketing is it truly profitable in general to own a conglomerate, except when dealing with the other players.

As we have dispensed with the "real estate" aspect of the game in favor of a corporate business approach, instead of rules about building we just use the houses to mark businesses we own, similar to the "ticket booth" mechanic in Monopoly Jr. Once we own a whole color group we replace these stores or business sites (houses) with a single superstore or headquarters (hotel) placed spanning the edge of two properties. Except with the highest and lowest end, this leaves one property without a building, which can be imagined to represent the trade-show or mail-order manifestation of a given business.

Corporations

The corporations in this game are the players, as represented by their "logos" or distinctive pawns. Whenever a player goes past the Free Parking space, representing the stock market, he may offer to buy or sell shares of stock in a given corporation at whatever price he sees fit. These offers are also kept track of on the chalkboard, and whenever an offer to buy is higher than an offer to sell, that transaction takes place immediately. The number of blocks of shares available is based on the alleged starting price from the cards. Thus the owner of Boardwalk, Oriental Avenue, and Marvin Gardens has a total of 780 blocks of shares, say a hundred shares to a block. As he acquires new sites, this increases, representing normal dividends via "stock splits".

Let's walk through this. Say the owner/chairman of the Scotty Dog corporation has offered to buy 10 blocks of the Thimble corporation at 50 apiece (50 cents a share). Later, due to financial problems, the Thimble owner needs to raise money and offers to sell 20 blocks at 30 a share. Scotty Dog immediately acquires half of those, at the lower price! If the owner of Thimble hadn't been in such a rush, he could have first offered only ten blocks at 50, taken Scotty's cash, then on his next pass of the "Stock Market" (Free Parking) he could have offered the other ten at 30 to capture more cash.

Contracts

Once a player owns at least one property on a given side of the board, their corporate business needs for that industry can be fulfilled internally. It may not be possible to accomplish this, however, as other players build conglomerates and the board starts getting locked up. But a player may be totally sick of the random excess expenses luck can bring them with straightforward costing, so they may wish to make a contract with the owner of a business or conglomerate on that side of the board. By arranging to make a single payment each round (on passing Go) they may purchase a guarantee that if they do have business needs in that industry they can fulfill them at the chosen provider's site without further expense. Contracts may be arranged for 12 rounds or another specific number.

We also tend to only allow set prices for "retail" or random purchases, and only allow the owner to change those prices after passing Go (a new round.) This tends to reduce collusion and arbitrary price changes for one person over another in the course of normal business. But contracts provide a method for favoring particular customers separate from this "retail" aspect. If you walk into my store and I see you coming, and don't like you, and raise my prices, and then lower them again as soon as you leave, that would be very bad behavior, wouldn't it? But if I make a contract with you at a cut rate because you are a good customer and I need money, and then don't go so easy on the next guy I negotiate with because my circumstances have changed, that's just normal business, right?

Cartels

When a player does own both conglomerates on a given side of the board, they have a real monopoly on the whole industry and can jack their prices up as high as they want. While a realistic depiction of the anarchy of business, modern society tends to frown on this kind of behavior and regulate it in various ways.

Their are other kinds of bad behavior businesses can engage in, such as not paying their debts, in a timely manner or at all, colluding with other businesses to maintain artificially high prices, and showing prejudice in charging one set of rates to one class of person and a different rate to someone else. Rather than simply making arbitrary rules preventing this sort of thing, a more realistic mechanic for dealing with them will be detailed below.

Court

Whenever a player passes the Jail space, representing the Court, they may tender a lawsuit against anyone who owes them money for some reason. For example, if the owner of the Top Hat corporation has a contract with the Polo Pony corporation to provide marketing services, and he has stopped paying that contract, the Pony owner can sue him!

In the same way, whenever a player feels someone has done him wrong maliciously, upon passing the Go To Jail spot (representing the police) he can lodge a criminal complaint against them. Thus, if the owner of the Steam Train company is suffering because the Race Car has bought the whole software industry and jacked the prices up, or made a deal with the owner of Top Hat to keep electronics prices artificially high, he can press charges!

Note that this is on passing these spots, not landing on them. As a starting rule, subject to further modification below, when a player actually lands on the "Court" (Jail) space in ordinary play ("Just Visiting") he automatically wins any cases he is involved in. On the other hand, when he lands on the Police Station ("Go To Jail") or gets sent to Court ("Jail") by means of a card, he automatically loses his cases.

If these are merely civil cases, filed at the courthouse, he only has to pay the bad debts and is not subject to imprisonment (the rolling doubles to get out mechanism.) On the other hand, if they are criminal cases filed at the police station, he has to pay the damages specified by the plaintiff twice over, once to the person claiming damages and again back to the bank ("punitive damages" or fines.) He is also "In Jail" and cannot move until he gets out, either by rolling doubles, waiting, or using a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card. If he is the paintiff in a criminal case and loses, it is he who pays the fines and damages and does the time, at least until further modified, to represent the dangers of filing a false report etc.

If the player does not have enough money to pay his fines or damages, first stock in his company is sold at the rates specified by previous offers, regardless of his wishes. If this is still not enough, his companies are auctioned off starting from the cheapest and working up. If this is still not enough and he continues to owe, he is bankrupt.

Community

In real business, the government has a tendency to interfere in the business process in its own way, and sometimes develops into a complex bureaucracy as a result. The best way to deal with this is to make everything changeable in the course of the game by means of majority vote.

Don't like the automatic win-or-lose courthouse scheme detailed immediately above? Campaign to change it by establishing rules for judges, juries, and regulatory bodies. Set specific penalties like 12 rounds rather than 3 "In Jail" for specific crimes. Legislate, adjudicate, execute.

Want to create a constitution establishing particular rights and procedures and making it harder to take those away once established? Get a majority vote to pass it, and include a provision that it takes a 2/3 or 3/4 to change it.

And so on, the sky's the limit here! It may not be practical to have a judge for cases, depending on how many people are playing. Or it may, or the impracticality of it may be a convenient mechanism for people to exploit. It's all up to you.

It's common in this line of play to prevent people voting who are "In Jail". This might be only for normal community voting, but corporations may make their own rules for voting as well, particularly as the movement of stock makes it so that no one person owns a majority share of stock in some corporations. A rule allowing proxies to be assigned by people who are unable to vote in their corporation because of their legal problems is very common. Or not, just as suits the stockholders ...

Conclusion

Ending the game should be expedited, no one wants this game to last forever. A friendly way of dealing with it is to count up whoever is ahead at the first bankruptcy and declare them the winner. Depending on how the game play works out though, this may not be fast enough.

As the "building" mechanic has been dispensed with, the standard Monopoly factor of running out of houses is gone. On the other hand, it is now quite possible, with the anarchy of pricing at the front of the game, to run out of currency. This is another good point to stop, count up, and declare a winner.

If there's a tie, don't worry about it. You can settle it the next time you feel like playing. Remember, it's only a game. Have fun!

cool
6 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
sunday silence
United States
Maryland
flag msg tools
You know, I must have played this game 200+ times as a kid, and I never garnered any feelings towards the single tax system...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls

Lacombe
Louisiana
msg tools
badge
Suddenly a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
What... the... heck... ?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Serious? Lee
United States
Coppell
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
Lost in thought.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
NateStraight wrote:
What... the... heck... ?

Nicely said.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Reis
United States
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
I like the alliteration.

Also, your rule of choosing to not pay (and instead buy elsewhere) coming with the "penalty" of spending the entirety of your next turn moving to a different site is not much of a penalty. Pay less AND skip a turn, when turns are often risky in Monopoly? Yes please.

To be fair, this may be addressed elsewhere, because I stopped reading when I saw how much more there was left and I was starting to go cross-eyed.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.