The origins of Monopoly can be traced back to 1904, when an American woman named Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips created a game through which she hoped to be able to explain the single tax theory of Henry George (it was intended to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies). Her game, The Landlord’s Game, was commercially published in 1923.
In 1941, the British Secret Service had John Waddington Ltd., the licensed manufacturer of the game outside the U.S., created a special edition for World War II prisoners of war held by the Nazis. Hidden inside these games were maps, compasses, real money, and other objects useful for escaping. They were distributed to prisoners by secret service-created fake charity groups.
Due to a lengthy court process and a number of appeals, the legal status of Parker Brothers’ trademarks on the game was not settled until the late 1970s. Ralph Anspach won a lawsuit over his game ‘Anti-Monopoly’ on appeals in 1979, as the 9th District Court determined that the trademark Monopoly was generic, and therefore unenforceable.
The Original Version of Monopoly
In the 1930s, John Waddington Ltd. (Waddingtons) was a firm of printers from Leeds that had begun to branch out into packaging and the production of playing cards. Waddingtons had sent the card game Lexicon to Parker Brothers hoping to interest them in publishing the game in the United States. In a similar fashion, Parker Brothers sent over a copy of Monopoly to Waddingtons early in 1935, before the game had been put into production in the United States.
The managing director of Waddingtons, Victor Watson, gave the game to his son Norman (who was head of the card games division) to test over the weekend. Norman was impressed by the game and persuaded his father to call Parker Brothers on Monday morning – with transatlantic calls then being almost unheard of. This call resulted in Waddingtons obtaining a license to produce and market the game outside of the United States. Watson felt that for the game to be a success in the United Kingdom, the American locations would have to be replaced, so Victor and his secretary, Marjory Phillips, went to London to scout out locations.
The Angel Islington is not a street in London, but an area of North London named after a coaching inn that stood on the Great North Road. By the 1930s, the inn had become a Lyons Corner House (it is now a Co-operative Bank). Some accounts say that Marjory and Victor met at the Angel to discuss the selection and celebrated the fact by including it on the Monopoly board. In 2003, a plaque commemorating the naming was unveiled at the site by Victor Watson’s grandson, who is also named Victor.
The standard British board, produced by Waddingtons, was for many years the version most familiar to people in countries in the Commonwealth (except Canada, where the U.S. edition with Atlantic City-area names was reprinted), although local variants of the board are now also found in several of these countries.
The original income tax choice from the U.S. board is replaced by a flat rate on the UK board, and the $75 Luxury Tax space is replaced with the £100 Super Tax space, the same as the current German board. The U.S. Edition now also uses the flat $200 Income Tax value and the upped $100 Luxury Tax amount since 2008.
Modern Versions of Monopoly
Starting in the UK in 2005, an updated version of the game, titled ‘Monopoly Here and Now’, was produced, replacing game scenarios, properties, and tokens with modern equivalents. Similar boards were produced for Germany and France. Variants of these first editions appeared with Visa-branded debit cards taking the place of cash, and the later US edition has unbranded debit cards.
The success of the first Here and Now editions caused Hasbro US to allow online voting for 26 landmark properties across the United States to take their places along the game board. The popularity of this voting, in turn, caused the creation of similar websites, and secondary game boards per popular vote to be created in the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and other nations.
In 2006, Winning Moves Games released the Mega Edition, with a 30% larger game board and revised game play. Other streets from Atlantic City (eight, one per colour group) were included, along with a third “utility”, the Gas Company. In addition, $1,000 denomination notes (first seen in Winning Moves’ Monopoly: The Card Game) are included. Game play is further changed with bus tickets (allowing non-dice-roll movement along one side of the board), a speed dice (itself adopted into variants of the Atlantic City standard edition), skyscrapers (after houses and hotels), and train depots that can be placed on the Rail-road spaces.
This edition was adapted for the UK market in 2007, and is sold by Winning Moves UK. After the initial US release, critiques of some of the rules caused the company to issue revisions and clarifications on their website.
The Rules of Monopoly
Players take turns in order, with the initial player determined by chance before the game. A typical turn begins with the rolling of the dice and advancing their piece clockwise around the board the corresponding number of squares.
If a player lands on Chance or Community Chest, they draw the top card from the respective pile and obey its instructions. If the player lands on an unowned property, whether street, rail-road, or utility, they can buy the property for its listed purchase price. If they decline this purchase, the property is auctioned off by the bank to the highest bidder, including the player who declined to buy.
If the property landed on is already owned and un-mortgaged, they must pay the owner a given rent, the price dependent on whether the property is part of a set or its level of development. If a player rolls doubles, they roll again after completing their turn. Three sets of doubles in a row, however, land the player in jail.
A player also lands in jail if they land on “Go to Jail” or draws a Community Chest or Chance Card saying “Go to Jail”. When a player is sent to jail he cannot pass GO or collect his $200 salary and his turn ends. If the player is not “sent” to jail but just lands on that space, he is “Just Visiting”, incurs no penalty, and moves in the usual manner on his next turn.
If a player is in jail, he does not take a normal turn, and may either pay a fine of $50 to be released from jail, use a Chance or Community Chest ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card, or attempt to roll doubles on the dice. If a player fails to roll doubles, he misses his turn. If he fails to roll doubles three times, he must automatically pay the $50 fine to be released. While a player is in jail, he can still buy and sell property and buildings, participate in auctions, and collect rents. If a player does roll doubles, he may immediately move according to the roll, but he cannot roll a second time after exiting jail.
During a player’s turn, that player may also choose to develop properties, if the player owns all the properties of the colour group. Development involves the construction of houses or hotels on properties, for given amounts of money paid to the bank, and is tracked on the board by adding plastic houses and hotels to the square. Development must be uniform across a monopoly, such that a second house cannot be built on one property in a monopoly until the others have one house.
Although houses and hotels cannot be built on rail-roads or utilities, the given rent also increases if a player owns multiple rail-roads or utilities.
Properties can also be mortgaged, although all developments on a monopoly must be sold before any property of that colour can be mortgaged or traded. The player receives money from the bank for each mortgaged property, which must be repaid with interest to unmortgage. Houses and hotels can be sold back to the bank for half their purchase price. Property may not be given away to another player.
A player goes bankrupt, and is thus eliminated from the game, if he cannot pay what he owes. If the bankrupt player owes the bank, he must turn all of his assets over to the bank, who then auctions off his properties (if he has any). If the debt is instead to another player, all the assets are instead given to that opponent, but the new owner must still pay the bank to unmortgage any such properties received. The winner is the remaining player left after all the others have gone bankrupt.