Sometimes game design is about creating a brand new concept...and sometimes it's not. In this project, the goal was to rework the mechanics of Monopoly while maintaining the original intent. "Original intent" is an interesting term in this case (read up on "The Landlord's Game" if you're curious), but for the purposes of this project we opted for the version popularized by Hasbro where the goal is to finish with the most assets.
Note: all of this redesigning is really just an academic exercise, as Hasbro owns all of the rights and probably has no interest in reworking the game. However, just to make it clear that we understand this to be an academic exercise, the final board and rules are only available to interested parties to serve as a topic for conversation. (Sorry, no links or assets here. Hasbro owns Monopoly. Really.)
...and now for the bloggy part...or "Tales of how we reworked the mechanics without destroying the intent." (Or at least that was our intent.)
We started with the obvious -- play a few games. Well, we intended to play a few, but what actually happened was that we sat and whined about all the things we didn't like and we managed to play just enough to remind us of what to whine about. As it turns out, all that whining paid off, and we were on the trail of what we might want to change.
Now, for those of you who are fans of the classic Monopoly, we understand that you like it the way it is. Great! We also understand that many of you think that other people whine because they aren't "playing it right". That might also be true. It is also possible that people aren't playing it "right" because it doesn't appeal to their player type, it doesn't provide the experience they want, or they just don't "get it". We've opted to take the approach that if people feel the game needs "house rules" to be fun to play, then there is probably something they are looking for that they aren't getting with the classic rules. Right or wrong isn't the point today; instead, the point is to investigate what players are looking for and explore ways to provide it without turning Monopoly into a different game (i.e. preserve intent, change the dynamics).
So, where to start? We were encouraged to play with the auction rules first. Auction rules? Yes, Virginia, there are auction rules. Well, not so much rules as guidelines...something along the lines of "If you do not wish to buy the property, the Bank sells it at through an auction to the highest bidder." Indeed, as there is only one way to run an auction, that's clear. Or is it?
...and with that hackneyed cliff-hanger, we discover that there are actually at least 4 well-known ways to run an auction, and there are variations on those. What do do? Try them out, of course. Or at least argue about why not to even try them. So that's what we did. An hour or or so later we had narrowed it down -- good old sealed-bids with the property going to the highest bidder. Best part? No rules against bidding a cartoon. A nameless team mate felt that a moustache was both easy to draw and very clever. As this bidder did not actually have a moustache to exchange for the property, we interpreted this to mean "I'm not bidding", and we kept it because it provided entertainment without unbalancing the game.
We had a great time taunting each other as we secretly wrote our bids, and that worked great for a few rounds. At that point, nobody had any money left. Auctions were a lot less fun as we all focused on just passing GO. Hmm. Is the intent of this game to be excited about passing GO?
In the real world, I don't get money for passing GO. (If you're reading this and you DO get money for passing GO, could you please direct me to it?) No, in the real world, I GO to work. It doesn't grow on trees and I don't get it for passing a particular square on the side walk. I do something to earn it. We pondered this a bit. After trying a couple of ideas too silly to mention (but which are an important part of brainstorming), we settled on income from purchased property as the sole income from the game. Ah, mechanic is the message. If you don't buy property, you don't have income. Simple as that.
...This adventure is to be continued, but we're going to take a break from blogging to go work on some games. We'll come back later. You can always drop us a line if you're impatient to see the next chapter.