I fixed Monopoly

From bad to better

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I decided that during 2024, I'd reinvent one game every month. This month, I decided to fix Monopoly.

I can't think of a board game as famous, or as reviled, than Monopoly. Nobody's ever accused Monopoly of good design, and while probably some people enjoy the game it's usually because they've unknowingly developed their own house rules to make the game more fun than it is by design. Most modern tabletop gamers hate it for its poor design, but I think we tend to hate it all the more for its damaging ubiquity. Because so many people's initial experiences with board games often includes Monopoly, a lot of people refuse to try modern tabletop games under the assumption that all board games are as bad as Monopoly. Even though really good games like Settlers of Catan and Exploding Kittens have become almost as ubiquitous, it doesn't seem that anything's displaced Monopoly as the baseline definition of a board game yet. I decided to lean into this and make some severe modification to the rules of Monopoly to create a game that uses the same physical assets but changes the gameplay into a game that resembles a modern tabletop game.

The old way

Monopoly has been around since 1935. It's about the buying, selling, mortgaging, and auctioning of real [pretend] estate. Fundamentally, it's a feeding frenzy game, in which each player attempts to buy up as many squares on the board as possible, and then to build houses and hotels used to earn income from other players. The game ends when all but 1 player goes bankrupt.

It's a surprisingly gritty and cutthroat game, and it does admittedly have some "modern" touches in it. For instance, players are able to bid on unwanted property in a mini game (an "auction"). There are 2 decks of special cards to provide random surprises throughout the game. The board itself, with its many potential pitfalls and misfortunes, serves both as a timer (once a player bypasses a square, they can only hope to have another chance at it during the next circuit) and as a factor of randomness (if you land on a square someone else owns, you must pay rent).


Problems cited with the game include the last-man-standing win condition. Imagine a 4 player game of Monopoly in which you're the first to go bankrupt. You have to wait around, with nothing to do, for 2 other players to go bankrupt before a new game can begin.

Another problem is that it mirrors life possibly too accurately (and yet not accurately enough). You start out with a lump sum of $1500, and then spend all your time hemorrhaging money for stuff you'll never directly use, in the vain hope of clawing past your fellow humans in an attempt to survive an expensive and apathetic world. To all but the most financially privileged, this is just the tip of what we're up against every day of our actual real lives. No amount of pretend reward money can make it worth repeating as a board game.

To add insult to injury, Monopoly lacks atmosphere or "flavour". There have been many themed sets in recent years (Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and so on) in an attempt to breathe life into the patently mundane board, although the game mechanics remain largely the same.


Monopoly does natively have many useful elements. There's resource management (based on land), colour coding, the potential for randomness (dice and card drawing), and cards that "break" the standard rules. That's a lot of raw material to work with.


Shuffle the Chance and Community Chest cards into a unified draw deck. Any time you're told to take a Chance or Community Chest card, take the top card from the draw deck.

Property and cards

First of all, owning an imaginary title to imaginary land isn't exciting.

In my revised version, when you land on a property square, take a card from the draw deck. When you draw a card, add it to your hand.

You also have the option to choose to purchase unowned property as usual. If you happen to own glass bead tokens, place a token on your property to show that you own it.

If you don't own gaming beads or tokens, then take the land title so you remember that you purchased the property. Place a house or hotel on it to show that it's owned by someone.

The houses and hotels serve no function in this version of the game. You don't pay "rent" when you land on property.

Should you land on property you already own, you receive a new card for free.


When an opponent lands on a square you own, you must give them 1 card of your choice, and they must resolve the card immediately.


Instead of giving them a card, you may offer someone landing on your property some cash. Should they accept cash, you don't owe them a card. This version of Monopoly has fewer ways of earning income, so accepting bribes is sometimes a necessary tactic.

Should a player decline your cash bribe, you must give them a card from your hand. If you have no cards left, no transaction takes place.

Free Parking

In the official rules, Free Parking is a non-ownable property. In 2015, an optional rule was added so that the Free Parking space meant you earned money. That was good, because it helps gameplay progress.

In this version, landing on Free Parking grants two benefits:

  1. Gain $100
  2. You may move your own pawn to any square on the board


This is one of the worst mechanics in the game, and it's hard to solve. The idea is that the game is punishing the player, nominally by forcing their pawn to go to the Jail square without passing go and earning $200, and also by requiring $50 payment to get out. The way this plays out, though, is that it's a minor annoyance for the player, and slows down the game for everybody because it takes one player out of play.

The official game rules defines three ways you can get sent to jail. In this version of the game, a Jail action can occur in only two ways:

  • Land on the Go to Jail square
  • Receive a Go to Jail card

When you are told to go to Jail:

  1. Choose one player pawn (it can be your own) and move it to the Jail square
  2. The player owning the jailed pawn must either give you a card, or pay you $100
  3. You may move your own pawn to any square on the board

The "jailed" player doesn't stay in jail. If you're sent to jail, you give up a card or you pay $100 and you continue playing as usual.

I think table talk and backroom dealing is a great element in tabletop gaming, so you obviously have the option to decline to take any action, or to lie to the other players and only pretend to receive money from your target player, and so on. I guess that's optional, though, because some people don't appreciate the meta.


The end game is triggered when either 1 player goes bankrupt or when there are no properties left on the board to purchase.

When the end game occurs, all players resolve all cards in hand.

The player with the most money wins.


By adding card management as a central mechanic to the game, the focus is moved away from fake money that has minimal impact on the game. Instead, the power of manipulating player fate lies in the hands of the players. Instead of relegating cards to randomized draw decks, they're in the hands of player so they can affect the game world.

The gambling mechanic of proposed bribes allows players to make decisions about their wealth. Is it better to accept a card from an opponent, or to take the sure bet of cold hard cash?

Most importantly, though, the game mechanics work toward the goal of the game instead of against it. In official Monopoly, most of the board is actively trying to stop you from ending the game. In my version, the board helps all players accomplish the goal of buying all property. A card helps an individual player, depending on bargaining, chance, and other factors. Free Parking and Jail ensure you can get a chance to buy more property.

I don't think this version of Monopoly doesn't make for an amazing game, but because it give agency to players, it's definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

Header photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash.

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