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Winning moves for Monopoly while in quarantine
A guide for keeping cool while driving your family to the brink. | Column
A Monopoly cat rests on a Boardwalk deed next to a die and some houses at Hasbro Inc. headquarters in Pawtucket, R.I.
A Monopoly cat rests on a Boardwalk deed next to a die and some houses at Hasbro Inc. headquarters in Pawtucket, R.I.
Published Apr. 10, 2020
Updated Apr. 10, 2020

The longest anyone has played Monopoly, according to Hasbro, is 1,680 hours. We are on track to beat that.

My family is heading into Night Five of a self-isolation Monopoly game. If there was ever a time to play for days on end, it’s now. Where do we have to be? Busch Gardens? “Parties” with “friends”? No, we are going to drive each other into bankruptcy no matter how long it takes.

Moreover, I have cracked the key to winning. All it took was a pandemic for these secrets to show, like The Da Vinci Code. I will reveal the grail beneath La Pyramide Inversée in this column, near the bottom so you have to keep reading.

Playing a board game in coronavirus times feels different. It’s not a screen-free mandate shoehorned at the end of a busy week. It’s just something to do. But bonding sneaks up. We have trash-talked. We have scammed. We have threatened. We have been to prison. What fun!

Lizzie Magie invented the game in 1903. She called it the Landlord’s Game, designed to promote the economic philosophies of Henry George and ding the Rockefellers and Carnegies of her time. Charles Darrow sold a version of her idea to Parker Brothers in the 1930s and enjoyed the spoils. The game today is not what Magie intended.

Nonetheless, Monopoly is great for the whole family. It teaches math skills, tax evasion and a bloodthirsty quest for dominion. Also, kids lack fear. The 8-year-old will spend her last dollars building Ritz-Carltons on Park Place. “$16,000?” she shrugs. “That’s not bad.” She always wins.

I always fail. Between Baltic and Boardwalk lies a field of financial landmines, utility bills, rents, passive-aggressive wins in a beauty contest. Gripping $346 dollars and never developing any properties is the norm.

In pandemic Monopoly, I have been relaxed and confident. I chose the modern T-Rex game piece with his gaping scream and tiny arms; a business posture. I have left each night in fiscal health.

Herewith, the tips:

1. Know that you have already won because you have spent quality time together.

2. Ditch the sentimentality and buy all the railroads. This gives you four additional chances to collect $200 per lap. It’s passive income, like an Airbnb.

3. Buy one of each color property. Will you become a real estate magnate? No. Will you frustrate everyone when they can’t complete their sets? Yes. Sit back and enjoy being the 1,000-square-foot ranch house in the neighborhood of McMansions.

4. Decide how long you want this to last. You now control the game, and thus, the length of family fun.

Am I actually going to win? Probably not. On Night Four, I sold Kentucky Avenue to Gordon Gekko Jr. for $6,000, giving her the trio of red properties. She promptly built several Holiday Inns.

The other adult raised an eyebrow.

“I know what I did,” I said.

It’s time to move this thing along. This isolation isn’t ending soon, and Scrabble is waiting.

• • •

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