Do not pass ‘Go’

Monopoly Visa card

It’s funny the things you think of when lying ill in bed. For example, this afternoon — in between angry calls to BT Broadband Support (again!) — I got to thinking about Monopoly and how I’ve never actually ever finished a game.

And the more I thought about it the more I realised: I’ve never actually ever finished a game. Sure, I’ve started hundreds of games, never actually finished one of them. If by “finish” you mean that there is one overall winner after the game has run its complete course.

In football, after 90 minutes there is an end result — or after extra time and penalties if necessary. In rugby the same is true after 80 minutes (plus injury time). In cricket there is a winning team (sometimes) at the end of anywhere between a day and 5/7 of a week! But when does a game of Monopoly end?

Wikipedia defines “monopoly” as

In economics, a monopoly (from the Latin word monopolium – Greek language monos, one + polein, to sell) is defined as a persistent market situation where there is only one provider of a product or service.

So presumably the true end of a game of Monopoly should be when one player owns everything and has pwned everyone! And by that definition I’ve never been involved in a game that has finished with one clear, Sir Alan Sugar-esque winner.

Monopoly v Poleconomy

I remember one long, summer holiday, back in the day, where a few friends got together at my house and we indulged in the best part of a week of gaming. The closest we ever got to LAN-parties in the olden days was huddled over a board, pushing shapes of plastic around and exchanging scraps of paper.

We played two games: Monopoly (which you know about) and Poleconomy (which you probably don’t). Poleconomy was like a grown up version of Monopoly that involved buying advertising and companies but with an added twist: there was a government.

As a member of the government you could determine the rate of inflation, and all prices went up in accordance with inflation. So if you were doing particularly well and your fellow gamers were struggling: whack up inflation and watch them suffer! I remember playing Poleconomy once for three days straight, and we only stopped because we completely ran out of money, having already liberated two Monopoly boxes, Family Fortunes and the Game of Life of their notes.

My grannie always said that I should finish what I started. Well, I tried but it took three and a half days and we ran out of money before we could even finish. Many a business has experienced the same fate.

Why even create a game that doesn’t come with enough money to allow world/board domination?! (Thankfully you can now download and print your own money on the Monopoly website (see the Treasure Chest).

Didn’t even pass Go

My favourite Monopoly tale, however, was for a game that didn’t even begin. The scene was our living room in Selkirk. It was the evening of the Common Riding Ball and my sister Jenni had been invited to the ball by another friend, Graeme.

He came to pick her up at 19:30.

She wasn’t ready. Because she was still making her dress! Don’t misunderstand me, she wasn’t getting into it, she was still making it. (That’s fashion design students for you!)

At 21:00 I walked into the living room where an increasingly impatient Graeme was waiting with his Mum. “Anyone for a game of Monopoly?” I ask cheerfully.

“I hate Monopoly,” came the reply.

Still, it would have been rude not to have asked. And even if we had begun a game we wouldn’t have finished that one either; by 21:30 Mum was sewing Jenni into her dress (who needs a zip or buttons!) and the grumpy couple were off to the dance at last.

Seemingly the longest Monopoly game ever played was 1,680 hours – that’s 70 straight days! The longest game in a bathtub: 99 hours; the longest game underwater: 45 days; the longest game played upside-down: 36 hours. But nowhere does it say that they ever finished a game!

4 thoughts on “Do not pass ‘Go’

  1. Gareth,
    The reason you’ve never finished a game of Monopoly is because you take the huff when you’re losing. I remember a few board games going flying in the Living Room. (Ha Ha – that gets you back for mentioning my last minute ball dress! Mum was actually sewing the hem (not me into it!))
    Love you Jen (wee sis!)

  2. It’s funny what we remember. My memory goes something like this:

    What I usually take the huff at is not that I’m losing — although, I have to admit that I do like to win! — it’s that I discover that others are cheating!

    The conversation usually goes like this:

    Them: “No, it’s fine … those are the rules we always play!”
    Me: “No! That’s cheating! You can’t change the rules half-way through a game”
    Them: “You’re only cross cos you’re losing!”
    Me: “No! I’m cross because you’re CHEATING!”
    Them: “It’s not cheating, it’s … house rules!”
    Me: “Yeah, house rules that you are introducing half-way through a game!”
    Them: “Yeah…”
    Me: “Well, you can’t do that!”
    Them: “I just did.”
    Me: “But that’s unfair.”
    Them: “It’s only unfair on *you* because you’re losing!”
    Me: “It’s still unfair …”

    And so we end up finishing games early because a) I don’t like playing with folks who change the rules half-way through a game, and b) they think I’m a bad loser.

    The truth is probably somewhere in between.

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