Hasbro is releasing a Cheaters Edition Monopoly that encourages players to get ahead in any way they can.
The classic board game Monopoly has undergone countless special editions over the years, with themes ranging from Star Wars to World War II. Every one of these iterations has been built on the assumption that players will be honest and follow the rules. But that’s over.
This fall, Hasbro will release a Cheaters Edition Monopoly that encourages players to get ahead in any way they can: by skipping spaces, stealing extra bills from the bank, dodging rent payments, or removing another players’ hotel when they’re not looking.
If the news alone doesn’t make you ask “is nothing sacred?” then listen to how Hasbro got the idea to create the new edition:
“A recent study conducted by Hasbro revealed that nearly half of game players attempt to cheat during Monopoly games, so in 2018, we decided it was time to give fans what they've been craving all along—a Monopoly game that actually encourages cheating,” Jonathan Berkowitz, senior vice president of Hasbro gaming, told INSIDER.
The goal of the game is still the same: crush your opponents and end up with the most property and cash. But the new game structure required upending some of Monopoly’s long-standing rules.
“For the first time in Monopoly history, there is no designated Banker,” Berkowitz told Insider. “Players are in control of the Bank on their turn, and pass it to the next player when their turn is over, making it easier to pull of “cheats” such as a the Bank Heist.”
But with great vice comes great consequence: cheaters who get caught have to fork over cash or even get chained to the board game with the pair of plastic cuffs that comes with each set.
“We've finally decided to embrace our less-than-honest fans by encouraging them to partake in those iconic (yet sometimes unspoken) Monopoly moments that occur during family game nights,” Berkowitz told Insider. “We're excited to see what fans can get away with and how they'll react to the new sneaky twists in the game.”
The game will sell for $19.99 this fall.
Monopoly’s secret history
Cheating runs deep in Monopoly—and not just in the game, but arguably right down to its creation.
At the beginning of the 20th century, when board games were becoming increasingly popular, a left-wing feminist and teacher named Lizzie Magie spent years infusing her political observations and ideology into a board game she called the Landlord’s Game.
“It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences,” she wrote in a political magazine. “It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life’, as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem[s] to have, i.e., the accumulation of wealth.”
She patented the game and it became popular over the following decades, especially in left-wing academic circles, who perhaps saw it as a somewhat satirical commentary on wealth inequality and the competitive nature of capitalism.
A man named Charles B. Darrow eventually discovered a modified version of the game and brought it to Parker Brothers, the toy manufacturer that was eventually purchased by Hasbro. The company bought Magie’s patent and two of her other game ideas for $500, a figure which probably didn’t cover the costs of developing and patenting the Landlord’s Game.
Hasbro went about tweaking and repackaging the game, which would become a worldwide hit in the years to come. For introducing the game to Hasbro, Darrow would go on to make a fortune from Monopoly through royalties that lasted the rest of his life.
It wasn’t until years later that Magie realized she had lost the real-world game of capitalism by making a bad deal. But it’s arguably in legacy where she was cheated.
On the Hasbro website, a history of Monopoly begins in 1934 when Darrow “presented a game called MONOPOLY to the executives of Parker Brothers.” Magie’s name is never mentioned.
When The Guardian asked Hasbro about Magie’s role in creating the game, the toy company responded with a brief comment: “Hasbro credits the official Monopoly game produced and played today to Charles Darrow.”
In an interview with the Washington Post about her short-end deal from Hasbro, Magie said “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Here's Ta-Nehisi Coates on how formative Dungeons and Dragons was for him:
‘Buy land – they aren’t making it any more,’ quipped Mark Twain. It’s a maxim that would certainly serve you well in a game of Monopoly, the bestselling board game that has taught generations of children to buy up property, stack it with hotels, and charge fellow players sky-high rents for the privilege of accidentally landing there.
The game’s little-known inventor, Elizabeth Magie, would no doubt have made herself go directly to jail if she’d lived to know just how influential today’s twisted version of her game has turned out to be. Why? Because it encourages its players to celebrate exactly the opposite values to those she intended to champion.
Born in 1866, Magie was an outspoken rebel against the norms and politics of her times. She was unmarried into her 40s, independent and proud of it, and made her point with a publicity stunt. Taking out a newspaper advertisement, she offered herself as a ‘young woman American slave’ for sale to the highest bidder. Her aim, she told shocked readers, was to highlight the subordinate position of women in society. ‘We are not machines,’ she said. ‘Girls have minds, desires, hopes and ambition.’
In addition to confronting gender politics, Magie decided to take on the capitalist system of property ownership – this time not through a publicity stunt but in the form of a board game. The inspiration began with a book that her father, the anti-monopolist politician James Magie, had handed to her. In the pages of Henry George’s classic, Progress and Poverty (1879), she encountered his conviction that ‘the equal right of all men to use the land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air – it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence’.
Travelling around America in the 1870s, George had witnessed persistent destitution amid growing wealth, and he believed it was largely the inequity of land ownership that bound these two forces – poverty and progress – together. So instead of following Twain by encouraging his fellow citizens to buy land, he called on the state to tax it. On what grounds? Because much of land’s value comes not from what is built on the plot but from nature’s gift of water or minerals that might lie beneath its surface, or from the communally created value of its surroundings: nearby roads and railways; a thriving economy, a safe neighbourhood; good local schools and hospitals. And he argued that the tax receipts should be invested on behalf of all.
Determined to prove the merit of George’s proposal, Magie invented and in 1904 patented what she called the Landlord’s Game. Laid out on the board as a circuit (which was a novelty at the time), it was populated with streets and landmarks for sale. The key innovation of her game, however, lay in the two sets of rules that she wrote for playing it.
Under the ‘Prosperity’ set of rules, every player gained each time someone acquired a new property (designed to reflect George’s policy of taxing the value of land), and the game was won (by all!) when the player who had started out with the least money had doubled it. Under the ‘Monopolist’ set of rules, in contrast, players got ahead by acquiring properties and collecting rent from all those who were unfortunate enough to land there – and whoever managed to bankrupt the rest emerged as the sole winner (sound a little familiar?).
The purpose of the dual sets of rules, said Magie, was for players to experience a ‘practical demonstration of the present system of land grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences’ and hence to understand how different approaches to property ownership can lead to vastly different social outcomes. ‘It might well have been called “The Game of Life”,’ remarked Magie, ‘as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seems to have, ie, the accumulation of wealth.’
The game was soon a hit among Left-wing intellectuals, on college campuses including the Wharton School, Harvard and Columbia, and also among Quaker communities, some of which modified the rules and redrew the board with street names from Atlantic City. Among the players of this Quaker adaptation was an unemployed man called Charles Darrow, who later sold such a modified version to the games company Parker Brothers as his own.
Once the game’s true origins came to light, Parker Brothers bought up Magie’s patent, but then re-launched the board game simply as Monopoly, and provided the eager public with just one set of rules: those that celebrate the triumph of one over all. Worse, they marketed it along with the claim that the game’s inventor was Darrow, who they said had dreamed it up in the 1930s, sold it to Parker Brothers, and become a millionaire. It was a rags-to-riches fabrication that ironically exemplified Monopoly’s implicit values: chase wealth and crush your opponents if you want to come out on top.
So next time someone invites you to join a game of Monopoly, here’s a thought. As you set out piles for the Chance and Community Chest cards, establish a third pile for Land-Value Tax, to which every property owner must contribute each time they charge rent to a fellow player. How high should that land tax be? And how should the resulting tax receipts be distributed? Such questions will no doubt lead to fiery debate around the Monopoly board – but then that is exactly what Magie had always hoped for.
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.