You’ve Probably Been Playing Monopoly Wrong Your Whole Life
"Free parking" is not what you think it is.
Andrew Drysdale/REX/ShutterstockEveryone knows how to play Monopoly. The rules of the classic property-gobbling, argument-generating board game are passed down through oral tradition like a beloved family history or noxiously corny dad joke that the old man just can’t help but bust out at every family gathering. But here’s a question for you: When’s the last time you actually sat down and read the rules to Monopoly?
If you are like 68 percent of players, your answer is probably “never.” That’s right: according to an official Hasbro survey, most Monopoly players have never actually read the rules, but rather learned them from other players and taken their word as gospel. And it should come as no surprise that, as a result, we have all been playing Monopoly completely wrong our entire lives. (These ninth-graders put a fascinating new spin on Monopoly.)
Playing the game as its makers intended quickens the pace, reduces the tedium, and provides more head-to-head player interaction. Here, according to Hasbro’s official rule book, are the three biggest ways how.
1. You’re buying property wrong: Most players fatalistically resign themselves to the idea that one must land precisely on a property in order to have a chance at buying it. But, as a quick glance at the rule book points out, that’s not the case. If a player lands on an unowned property but does not wish to buy it, “the Banker sells it at auction to the highest bidder. Any player, including the one who declined the option to buy it at the printed price, may bid.” Yep—any property that any player lands on has a chance to become yours right away, no matter where you are on the board.
As you can imagine, this speeds up the gameplay considerably, taking a lot of the random chance out of property purchases and adding a greater element of strategy. Landed on Baltic but don’t feel like buying it at face value? Let it go to auction and try to squeeze out a better deal. Want to trick your friends into buying a bum property for more than it’s worth? Drive up the bidding with a ruthless poker face that would make that little silver terrier hobble away in horror. Property auctions are like adding a whole new game into the game. Start doing it ASAP.
2. You’re collecting “free parking” wrong: You’re probably used to lining your pockets with Community Chest money every time you plop down on free parking. This, sadly, is also wrong. According to the official rules, “A player landing on this place does not receive any money, property or reward of any kind. This is just a ‘free’ resting place.” If a player tells you that anyone who lands on free parking gets to collect all the money accrued through taxes and card draws, they are the victims of contagious misinformation that will only make the game longer and more tedious. Hasbro has stated that they receive hundreds of calls a year asking about this, despite the rules printed plain as day in every game box. Free parking is merely meant to be a space where the player need not worry about paying rent. Late in the game, any space without property fees is a godsend. Speaking of which…
3. You’re going to jail wrong: You’re not allowed to collect rent on your properties while in jail, right? Wrong. Per the rule book, “Even though you are in jail, you may buy and sell property, buy and sell houses and hotels and collect rents.” The only real penalty of jail time is having your token forced to the jail-side of the board and being prohibited from moving for three turns (unless you roll doubles, use a get out of jail card, or pay a $50 fine before you roll). Indeed, jail is actually one of the best places you can land in the late game, when the board is pocked with your opponents’ costly properties. As long as you’re chilling in the slammer, you run no risk of landing on your rivals’ rent traps. Meanwhile, they still have to pay you for landing on yours. “Go directly to jail”? Yippee!
This is Monopoly as it was meant to be played, and we only have ourselves to blame for endless boring games that go off the rails like so many Reading Railroad freighters. The reason Monopoly lasts forever, as YouTube’s Dan Brown points out, is that the game ends when the money runs out; when players artificially inject extra money into the game’s economy—say, for landing on free parking or providing player-to-player loans (also forbidden)—then the game naturally goes on and on.
Stick to the rules—the real, printed rules that came with the game—and a crazy thing happens. Monopoly becomes fun.