Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I should really be concentrating on the bar

"Monopoly" would be a better game if it involved more interpersonal dealings and less luck. It could also reflect the world of real estate and city management more accurately. Here's a little variant rule set for the game that I thought up.

1. Jobs and Elections. The game begins with an election. Players will elect, by majority vote, people to fill the following positions: Zoning Commissioner, Police Commissioner, Utilities Commissioner, Union President, and Congressional Representative.
Job Descriptions:

The Zoning Commissioner collects, on behalf of the city, all money spent on building houses. This money does not go directly into the bank: instead, it goes into an envelope marked "Zoning Department Budget." The Commissioner is the only one who has access to this envelope, and is free to embezzle funds from it, but you can't put money back into it. (But see city funds rules, infra.) The Zoning Commissioner's special power is the ability to initiate Eminent Domain proceedings. At the beginning of your turn, announce a property on the board that you're trying to condemn. If a majority of players vote for the condemnation, all improvements on the property are torn down, the city pays the owner the price marked on the board, and the property goes back into city hands.

The Police Commissioner collects the $50 bail for getting out of jail, and also holds onto any rent collected by a player who's in jail in the Police Budget. Again, embezzlement from the budget is allowed. That extra rent should be so powerful that you don't need a special power.

The Utilities Commissioner collects Water Works and Electric Company fees, as well as assessments for street repair, into the Utility Budget envelope. Embezzlement rule applies. (The utilities are city-owned and can't be bought: you pay 10x your roll when you land on them.) At the beginning of your turn, you can declare or cancel a Construction Project. While one is in place, all players roll one die to move.

The Union President collects fees for building repairs and hotel construction into the Union Budget envelope. Embezzlement rule applies. At the beginning of your turn, you can declare or cancel a Strike. While the workers are on strike, nobody can build improvements on their properties.

The Representative doesn't get an envelope. But, every time the Senator passes Go, the Representative may change the Income Tax rate, the Luxury Tax amount, or the amount of money you get from passing Go. (Naturally, the old rates still apply for your turn: you can't land on Income Tax just after passing Go and declare that the tax is zero.) You'll have to get your extra money by having people bribe you to change the rates.

Taxes, property purchase money, and other unspecified payments go straight to the city budget (i.e. the bank).

Every time a player is sent to Jail, his or her job comes up for election, and people in Jail aren't eligible to run. If anyone draws the "Chairman of the Board" card, everyone's job is up for election.

3. Zoning. At the beginning of the game, all properties are zoned R-1. You can build one house per property on any block you own. If you want to build another house, you have to request that the property be rezoned R-2. All players vote on this rezoning, and majority rules. You'll have to do this again for R-3 (three houses), R-4 (four houses), and C (hotel).

4. Mortgages. At any time, any player can negotiate a mortgage to another player for any amount of money. While the property is mortgaged, no one collects any rent from it. But the next time the mortgagor lands on the mortgaged property, the mortgagee either has to pay back the full amount of the mortgage, or the mortgagor forecloses, becoming the new owner of the property and any improvements thereon.

5. City Funds. The bank now represents money in the city's general purpose budget. If the city can't meet its payment obligations (for Go, Chance cards, whatever) out of the general purpose budget, the players must negotiate payments out of the departmental envelopes. If there's no money in the departmental envelopes, the city is bankrupt and everyone loses.

"But Sal," you say. "How am I supposed to get other players to agree to do things that will only benefit me?" Well, Sparky, how do they do it in real life? I'll tell you how. Back-scratching, alliances, smoke-filled rooms, bribes, and cutthroat politics.

I don't think anyone would ever actually play this version because it would take even longer than real Monopoly, but let me know if anybody tries it.

This version of the game should use street names from Chicago.


Christine in DC said...

Awesome. Love it. I work in real estate-ish stuff and suck at Monopoly. My degree's in urban planning and people say "oh, like Sim City." Um, not so much. In real life, you have the pesky thing called "other people" who get in the way of the way you think things should be done. And don't get me started on the meetings.

Thorin said...

These rules are definitely intriguing, though I'm not so sure about voting to assign roles. The Zoning Commissioner is overpowered, I think, since they will practically be the only person able to keep a monopoly, which makes their special power more powerful than anyone else's even without the envelope. But maybe in a clever game the other players would gang up on them and refuse to condemn each others' properties.

The envelope idea is interesting, but I don't follow what reason anyone has not to embezzle all the money in their envelope. I would expect all these budgets to actually be used for something at some point.

It seems to me that it would be tricky convincing the other player to zone your properties up, even if you bribe them. They wouldn't be wise to accept much less than whatever they expect the difference will be between the rent they'll end up paying as a result and the rent they would pay on the less improved property, and that makes it no longer worthwhile for the builder. Moreover, the mortgage rule can be used in ordinary Monopoly, as the soul of Monopoly is making deals. It just won't be enforced by the game mechanics proper, just by the honor of the players.

I appreciate that you wanted to parody actual politics and to find a way to simulate them in Monopoly. However, it may not always translate well because in real life not everyone is playing solely to get the most money and bankrupt everyone else--some people actually do care about the welfare of their city and neighbors.