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Monopoly – The first Board Game?

1904 Elizabeth Magie Patent

Across all our Social Media interactions we have noticed some rejection to the board game Monopoly, especially among the more frequent board game players. So we decided to write a little post about it because believe it or not, there is more to it than you think.

First of all, yes, we agree that, once you have tried something else, Monopoly falls into the “No-Go” games, especially since once you know the rules, each game depends exclusively on luck. But in fairness, it has been “the first” board game for plenty of us, and it will always have a little place in our hearth.

As you know, the game is basically a praise to capitalism. You buy terrains, you get rents, then you buy more terrains, you construct houses, you charge higher rents, and so on. Until someone falls off that spiral, money starts bulking in one player’s hands and the rest of players end up totally bankrupt. As simple as it seems, it has always seemed a little bit of a rough game, basically just like life.

Well, it turns this is not completely true. The game was designed to mock capitalism.

Monopoly was originally known as “The Landlord’s Game” and it was first registered by Elizabeth Magie, more than 30 years before the game Monopoly was released. Despite the current ludic aura around the game, Magie’s creation had a different goal. As she explained herself, the game was to be a “practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences”. That is, to show the world the effects of the not yet well-spread capitalism.

1904 Elizabeth Magie Patent

1904 Elizabeth Magie Patent

The game’s original rules were designed to fed up players. For example, in the original rules, if a player stops in a property not yet own, you can purchase that property provided no one bids for it a higher price, in which case you would have to buy the property at that price. Not fair, is it? Basically the rich can decide what you pay for each property. The other disturbing rule is that players don’t really “loose”. If you don’t have money to pay, you go to the “Poor tile”. You can get out if you throw a dice and stop in your properties, but because you have no money at all, you will end up with your bones back in the Poor tile in no time. Evil, isn´t?

As you can see, it was born not as simple mechanics board game about selling and buying real estate, but as a warning mock on how things could go if capitalism went wild. The game was first patented in 1904, when the world was about to change to what we currently know. The current neo-liberal capitalistic model was still in its nappies, but some could already perceive what it could turn into. And it has. This is where we are now. And indeed, because the world follows now a capitalistic model, the Monopoly board game looks so much like “real life”.

There are some good news. When Elizabeth Magie had to re-issue her patent in 1924, she also included a new set of rules of a board game called “Prosperity”. It uses the same board, but different rules. For example, the game applies taxes to each rent that are paid to a common pot, and that is used to re-buy public utilities. There are no monopolies, and if land has not been purchased under the Monopoly rules, it then becames “public” land, for which you pay a lower rent that goes into the common pot.

You will need to give a few tweaks to your monopoloy board game, but if you want to give it a go, you can download the prosperity rules on the following link: http://landlordsgame.info/games/lgp-1932/lgp-1932_rules.pdf

Finally, if you want to know a little bit more about the original game, you can check the following links. They are about to produce a replica of the original board game!

Original The Landlord’s Game rules
Alternative Prosperity rules
Sign up for a replica

Thanks for reading.

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The GiaBOX Team.