Sunday, September 28, 2014

Monopoly arithmetic

who: J1
when: at bedtime (we were supposed to go to sleep, but stayed up to play)
where: bedroom

We have recently had an outbreak of Monopoly.

Apologies for blurriness; my shutter speed isn't fast
enough to catch the lightening action of this game
J1 and I have been playing a lot of City Monopoly.  Basic play is similar to the classic version, but on every turn the player uses a little randomization device (not a dice!) to determine how many enhancements they can build on their properties (1-3 building blocks or a railroad). This device can also be used a minute timer for auctions and an hour timer for the overall game. I guess these extra functions justify why they didn't just use a tetrahedron dice.

Monopoly games have been known to last for a very long time, but we aren't allowed to keep a partially-completed game lying around the house.  Instead, we play for about 40 minutes and then tally up the assets to see who has won. One of J1's interesting observations: we usually end up with less money than when we started the game.

Where's the math?
There is a ton of thinly veiled arithmetic in this game as every action requires some type of calculation. This ranges from 2 dice addition when moving the pieces to simple multiplication when calculating the cost of building several blocks to 3 digit subtraction when making change.

There are slightly more subtle points around deciding where to build property enhancements based on which properties give a greater return on capital.  J1 is starting to build an intuitive sense and has made some good observations when comparing between properties.  The most sophisticated analysis he started was looking at the first ten squares and talking about which ones are "easy" to hit.  For example, the very first property can't be hit until players have gone all the way around the board and he was excited to realize that..

Where's the game?
Strategically, there doesn't seem much depth.  The only frequent choice on each turn is where to build the enhancements, including railroads.  Occasionally, there is also a choice about where to build a hazard or a bonus structure.

I said that we usually end up with less money than at the start.  Actually, we have played 10 times and always lost money.  Seems that the winning strategy is just to avoid taking action.  For us, that mostly means not building enhancements, except for the very rare times when they immediately increase the properties rental value as much as the enhancement cost.

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