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Old 01-27-2019, 10:32 AM
UltraVires is offline
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Monopoly: House Rules and Immunity


Like most Americans who grew up in the 70s and 80s, the board game Monopoly was a large part of my upbringing. Of course, many people refused to play due to the common complaint that the game took too long.

Also like many of us, we always played with the house rules that we did not know were bad like the Free Parking kitty and not auctioning property. Those rules made the game interminable because the last two players were always flush with cash and property equipped with hotels. The game would continue with those two people just passing cash back and forth with no end in sight.

So I decided that I was going to play by the game rules, no house rules from now on. The problem is that nobody wants to play by the game rules. Everytime I start a game, some cheesehead is placing money in Free Parking and I have to point out the official rules and he either complains that "it has always been done that way" or that I am being an asshole and then he doesn't want to play.

Then when kids play and go bankrupt after four turns, someone always wants to change the rules to let them stay in causing the marathon games that we all hate. So, the problem I find is that nobody wants to play by the official rules because in, say, a four person game, at least two go out quickly and are at a party doing nothing while the other two play on. That is an issue that makes people not want to play.

But anyhoo, my point was the legality of an immunity deal. Let's say I want to trade Park Place to someone for St. James Place and cash. The person is hesitant, so I offer to not charge them rent if they land on the orange properties. Other players howl in protest, but the one player agrees.

Is this legit? I see nothing in the rules which prohibit it, but when you do that, it allows the other player an advantage that gives him or her more cash and contributes to allowing the game to last until the Second Coming of Christ.

What say you? Do the official rules allow immunity deals?
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Old 01-27-2019, 10:47 AM
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I doubt the official rules state anything one way or another about immunity deals. By design, the rules are somewhat vague and subject to interpretation and negotiation.

That being said, had I been one of the other players in your game, I would have protested also. House rules are fine and dandy but should be agreed upon by all players prior to the beginning of play. Considering the rules lawyers in my family, it's probably best to have them printed out, laminated, examined for legal soundness by at least three SCOTUS judges and blessed by a high ranking member of the clergy.

Monopoly sucks.
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Last edited by Alpha Twit; 01-27-2019 at 10:48 AM.
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Old 01-27-2019, 10:54 AM
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I would say deals in Monopoly are exactly as valuable as deals in Diplomacy, i.e not at all. Any agreement should only refer to instantaneous changes of hands.
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Old 01-27-2019, 10:58 AM
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I would say deals in Monopoly are exactly as valuable as deals in Diplomacy, i.e not at all. Any agreement should only refer to instantaneous changes of hands.
I don't disagree: after all, a lot of other games handle it the same way. However, since it is typically a family game, other than out-of-game ill feelings, there is a good chance you will be playing against the same person in the future, so it is best for future games to honor your deals. Although I guess if you didn't write the deals down then you could try to pretend the deal was something other than it was and that might work once in awhile.
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Old 01-27-2019, 11:37 AM
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House rules should be agreed upon before starting the game. Anything not in either them or the official rules should not be allowed once play has begun. That's the only way to avoid ill feelings.

Most games that I played as a kid had lots of added rules, almost all being permissive rather than restrictive. Curiously we never did the Free Parking pot(I was in high school when I first heard of it). Side deals like the one described in the OP were common. And contrary to most opinion here, we didn't want to shorten the game - we found ways to extend play as long as possible. Usually it was my sister and I along with a cousin or three, and we all lived within shouting(or short bike ride) distance. When a game ran to called-home-to-supper time we just left it on the card table until we met up again. That might be just the next day after school or it might wait until the weekend when we were all available.
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Old 01-27-2019, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by UltraVires View Post
What say you? Do the official rules allow immunity deals?
I thought this was the kind of thing that would have to be made explicit in any kind of "official" play, like a tournament, so I looked for tournament rules, and found (among others) this site. Near the bottom of the page, it specifies:

"All trades are based on assets owned at the time of trade. No options or immunity from paying future rents may be granted, nor may partnerships be formed." (bolding mine)
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Old 01-27-2019, 11:56 AM
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I think you are on weak ground with the immunity.

First, the rules don't seem to refer to guidelines specifically covering trades (but I may have overlooked something). They say that players can "sell" properties to other players "for any amount that the owner can get can get." (I'm quoting from the rules for the "Millenium edition" which claim to be the same as the original rules. I couldn't quickly google a copy of the original rules.) But we can consider properties as having a value, so trading them can be construed as one side selling to the other, just without converting the property to cash.

To me, the word "amount" in the rules refers to a specific value in cash and property, not nebulous favors or immunity. But you could argue that immunity entails the present value of the foregone future rent, and therefore conforms with my definition of "amount" (especially if you changed the immunity to "I won't charge rent the next "X" times you land on the property" instead of immunity in perpetuity).

But I would then point out that the rules specifically state that players cannot lend one another money, they can only borrow money from the bank and only in the form of a mortgage, and that deferring part of the consideration paid in the trade (I get these properties right now, but you get paid in the form of rent forgiven in the future) is a type of loan, and therefore not permitted by the rules.
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Old 01-27-2019, 11:57 AM
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Or what Thudlow said.
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Old 01-27-2019, 12:45 PM
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The one part of the Official Rules that we could have NEVER managed to follow as kids would have been the rules about the total number of houses and hotels.

Thinking back to childhood, the occasional house or hotel would periodically get mixed in with all other toys in a toy box, disappear down a heating vent, or otherwise get lost. (Tokens, money, title deeds, chance and community chest cards would also encounter attrition, but that didn't affect the rules in quite the same way.) Partial sets would get combined, and you'd have 47 houses and 19 hotels. The idea of a fixed number of houses and hotels in a Monopoly set was simply unsustainable.

Which reminds me of one house rule we had at summer camp: unlimited hotels on a property. If you could afford ten hotels each on the light blue group, landing on Oriental would cost your opponent a sweet $5500. We could and did finish games during our after-lunch rest period.
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Old 01-27-2019, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by wellanuff View Post
I think you are on weak ground with the immunity.

First, the rules don't seem to refer to guidelines specifically covering trades (but I may have overlooked something). They say that players can "sell" properties to other players "for any amount that the owner can get can get." (I'm quoting from the rules for the "Millenium edition" which claim to be the same as the original rules. I couldn't quickly google a copy of the original rules.) But we can consider properties as having a value, so trading them can be construed as one side selling to the other, just without converting the property to cash.

To me, the word "amount" in the rules refers to a specific value in cash and property, not nebulous favors or immunity. But you could argue that immunity entails the present value of the foregone future rent, and therefore conforms with my definition of "amount" (especially if you changed the immunity to "I won't charge rent the next "X" times you land on the property" instead of immunity in perpetuity).

But I would then point out that the rules specifically state that players cannot lend one another money, they can only borrow money from the bank and only in the form of a mortgage, and that deferring part of the consideration paid in the trade (I get these properties right now, but you get paid in the form of rent forgiven in the future) is a type of loan, and therefore not permitted by the rules.
Well, if we want to lawyer-ball this thing, I don't think that would be a "loan." You sell me the fee simple in St. James Place, and you reserve a life estate to yourself. The consideration for the trade or sale is based upon the value of the fee simple minus the life estate in the property. Not a loan, but a bargained-for transaction.

If a player refused to collect a rent, what is the remedy? Everyone screaming "you must" and stomping away from the board? That happens in many Monopoly games, sadly.

And, I don't think people mind long games per se, its the typical long game caused by too much money everywhere, unlimited houses and hotels (usually made with paper) whereby people are basically in a stalemate, alternatively collecting and paying money.
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Old 01-27-2019, 01:29 PM
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The trouble I see with the proposed transaction is that it's not enforceable. Suppose Ultra Vires completes the proposed transaction, with the suggested addendum. The first three times that the other player lands on an orange property, no rent is charged. Then, on the fourth time, Ultra Vires realizes that the rent would wipe the player out of the game. Ultra Vires insists that the player pay the rent, noting that the "gentleman's agreement" on not paying rent is not covered by, nor enforceable under the rules, and it's just a case of caveat emptor. Imagine the result of this. And, yet, Ultra Vires would be correct, unless there's an agreed-upon house rule that allows for trades of this type, requires that they be made public, and allows for their enforcement.
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Old 01-27-2019, 02:28 PM
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Suppose there are three players: X, Y, and Z. Player X has a monopoly but Y and Z don't. Player X thus seems poised to win eventually. So Y and Z agree to swap properties so each now has a monopoly Furthermore, they make a deal--not strictly enforceable--to not charge each other rent until player X has been eliminated from the game. As long as player X retains a strong position and seems likely to retain it, neither Y nor Z has any incentive to renege on the deal. Player X would not seem to have any recourse. According to the official rules "the owner may not collect the rent if he/she fails to ask for it before the second player following throws the dice." If Y and Z don't charge each other rent, X can't force them to pay. Of course, when it becomes likely that X will soon lose his superior position, now Y and Z have an incentive to start reneging on the deal. But if they start reneging too soon, they are both likely to lose to X.

Last edited by bibliophage; 01-27-2019 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 01-27-2019, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
I thought this was the kind of thing that would have to be made explicit in any kind of "official" play, like a tournament, so I looked for tournament rules, and found (among others) this site. Near the bottom of the page, it specifies:

"All trades are based on assets owned at the time of trade. No options or immunity from paying future rents may be granted, nor may partnerships be formed." (bolding mine)
I was going to say, definitely not allowed unless agreed upon beforehand. After about the age of 12, I started playing Monopoly by the real rules, and it's been a much better game, with the average game lasting about an hour to an hour and a half. I've actually had good luck finding people who play by the official rules, with auctions, housing shortages, no immunity deals, no lending, etc. We had a group of four of us as teenagers that would play Monopoly almost daily at one point, but as an adult, I've been to a few board game nights at various friends' houses, and they've all played by official rules.
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Old 01-27-2019, 03:25 PM
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If Y and Z don't charge each other rent, X can't force them to pay. Of course, when it becomes likely that X will soon lose his superior position, now Y and Z have an incentive to start reneging on the deal. But if they start reneging too soon, they are both likely to lose to X.
If they're going against the spirit of the game and going to be dicks about it, then X can be a dick in return by simply not rolling the dice when Z lands on Y's property and Y doesn't collect rent until Z collects rent for Y. You'd have to be playing with some real assholes, though.

Last edited by pulykamell; 01-27-2019 at 03:26 PM.
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Old 01-27-2019, 03:43 PM
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The trouble I see with the proposed transaction is that it's not enforceable. Suppose Ultra Vires completes the proposed transaction, with the suggested addendum. The first three times that the other player lands on an orange property, no rent is charged. Then, on the fourth time, Ultra Vires realizes that the rent would wipe the player out of the game. Ultra Vires insists that the player pay the rent, noting that the "gentleman's agreement" on not paying rent is not covered by, nor enforceable under the rules, and it's just a case of caveat emptor. Imagine the result of this. And, yet, Ultra Vires would be correct, unless there's an agreed-upon house rule that allows for trades of this type, requires that they be made public, and allows for their enforcement.
If it is a legal transaction according to game rules, then it should be enforceable. If a person demanded rent after making this deal, then the person charged could just as easily refuse to pay and claim that it is indeed an enforceable contract.

Of course you are free to make house rules about anything, but let's stipulate that everyone agreed to play by official rules only. So, the question is, has Parker Brothers ever ruled on this point?

The game is called Monopoly after all. Is it pre-Sherman anti-trust act Monopoly where the collusion mentioned above is allowed?
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Old 01-28-2019, 09:39 AM
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This looks like the official Monopoly rules.

I see there is a rule "the owner may not collect the rent if he/she fails to ask for it before the second player following throws the dice". Thus, an owner may always choose to not collect rent. This means that a player could informally agree to not ask for rent from another player under whatever conditions they so choose. There is no in-game mechanism to enforce a "contractual" promise to not collect rent, but neither can other players force an owner to collect it.
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Old 01-28-2019, 10:01 AM
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This looks like the official Monopoly rules.

I see there is a rule "the owner may not collect the rent if he/she fails to ask for it before the second player following throws the dice". Thus, an owner may always choose to not collect rent. This means that a player could informally agree to not ask for rent from another player under whatever conditions they so choose. There is no in-game mechanism to enforce a "contractual" promise to not collect rent, but neither can other players force an owner to collect it.
Nor can you force the player to throw the dice, I suppose. If you're in a three-player game, mentioned above, at some point Z is going to land on Y's property and Y is going to - under their agreement - not ask for the rent. So as player X, whose turn is up next, I don't throw the dice. Whatchagonna do?
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Old 01-28-2019, 10:10 AM
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Switch to a better game?

I'd say a player exercising an option described in the rules is qualitatively different than refusing to continue the game.
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Old 01-28-2019, 10:16 AM
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Monopoly sucks.
Pretty much this. Monopoly sucks for anything other than demonstrating the downsides of unregulated capitalism.

In high school my friends and I used to play a lot of games, always way too seriously, including Monopoly. Invariably what would happen is that one player would get pissed off, either due to the game itself or some perceived offense outside the game, and gift all of their money to whoever was still in the game who they hated the least. At that point it's pretty much impossible for anyone else to win. Sure, this violates the "no collusion" rule, but what are you going to do? Force someone to keep playing when they clearly have no chance of winning and don't want to play anymore? The match ends up turning into an argument and nobody has fun.

We eventually stopped playing Monopoly altogether, as it's a game where the only skill is how much you can subvert the rules to your advantage.
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Old 01-28-2019, 10:55 AM
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Pretty much this. Monopoly sucks for anything other than demonstrating the downsides of unregulated capitalism.

In high school my friends and I used to play a lot of games, always way too seriously, including Monopoly. Invariably what would happen is that one player would get pissed off, either due to the game itself or some perceived offense outside the game, and gift all of their money to whoever was still in the game who they hated the least. At that point it's pretty much impossible for anyone else to win. Sure, this violates the "no collusion" rule, but what are you going to do? Force someone to keep playing when they clearly have no chance of winning and don't want to play anymore? The match ends up turning into an argument and nobody has fun.

We eventually stopped playing Monopoly altogether, as it's a game where the only skill is how much you can subvert the rules to your advantage.
Which is precisely why the only house rule I consistently required was the "Mercy Rule".

This comes into play if at any time, any one player controls four or more monopolies or if there are no more houses available for purchase. Under the mercy rule, any player may honorably concede the game with no social consequences and go do something more interesting. This requires the conceding player to offer a brief acknowledgement of the remaining player's dice rolling superiority. This acknowledgment must be delivered verbally with no other actions, motions or penalties applied. This acknowledgment must not be required to exceed thirty seconds in length, must not be delivered in a mocking, sarcastic or insincere tone (at the discretion of the conceding player) and must not be required to include any discussion or description of the conceding player's attributes or abilities. The conceding player is then required to leave the area immediately and take no further part in the game.

When a player concedes a game, all funds controlled by that player are returned to the game box and are not be be given to any other player. All property controlled by that player and all houses and hotels on those properties are returned to the game box and considered to be unowned property. These assets are then considered to be available for purchase by the normal game rules.
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Old 01-28-2019, 11:12 AM
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I bought a computer Monopoly game about a decade ago, and I remember one of the options was to negotiate immunity deals with your (computer) opponents. I found this to be the one surefire way of always winning.
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Old 01-28-2019, 11:58 AM
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Switch to a better game?

I'd say a player exercising an option described in the rules is qualitatively different than refusing to continue the game.
Yeah. My house rule is that anyone suggesting we play Monopoly gets roundly mocked before we go play a game that isn't terrible.
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Old 01-28-2019, 03:56 PM
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I just want to say that I have lived an extraordinary life. I have never, ever played a game of Monopoly using house rules, unwritten rules, this-is-the-way-we-play-it-here rules or anything like that.

Of course, that sometimes led to endless, unwinnable games. At some point, we'd just throw the dice and all the little houses and hotels back in the box and walk away.
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Old 01-28-2019, 04:29 PM
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Someone really ought to link to this Straight Dope column:

What is supposed to happen when you land on “Free Parking” in Monopoly?
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Old 01-28-2019, 04:31 PM
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Someone really ought to link to this Straight Dope column:

What is supposed to happen when you land on “Free Parking” in Monopoly?
Maybe someone will eventually.
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Old 01-28-2019, 04:41 PM
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If anyone would like to try your hand at Monopoly by the book rules against up to three computer players, go here: http://www.freewebarcade.com/game/monopoly/

A game against three other players usually takes an hour or so.
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Old 01-28-2019, 04:46 PM
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If anyone would like to try your hand at Monopoly by the book rules against up to three computer players, go here: http://www.freewebarcade.com/game/monopoly/

A game against three other players usually takes an hour or so.
That's about right. I still like Monopoly. All you Carcasonne and Settlers of Catan folks can just fuck right off. And I don't understand the "endless, unwinnable" games playing by the rules. Between 14 and 16 years old my friends an I must have played about 300 games of Monopoly. I never remember a single game going beyond two hours; most were finished in 60-90 minutes.
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Old 01-28-2019, 04:57 PM
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The official rule that many ignore, lengthening the game, is that if a player doesn't want to or can't afford a property he lands on, that property is to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
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Old 01-28-2019, 05:50 PM
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That's the official rule I like the least. I enjoy having no free parking rule and paying interest when you unmortgage a property, but it seems quite enough to build in enough of a bankroll to afford properties you happen to land on, let alone properties other people land on that they can't or won't buy, and all of that on a random schedule.
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Old 01-28-2019, 07:06 PM
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I bought a computer Monopoly game about a decade ago, and I remember one of the options was to negotiate immunity deals with your (computer) opponents. I found this to be the one surefire way of always winning.
Was this an official Monopoly game, or just one of the many clones?

The official NES game allowed you to offer properties and cash, so that's how I knew that trading properties was officially okay. If an official Monopoly game allows immunity, then I'd think that the non-tournament rules allowed it.

But I do like the idea that, since the game has no rule to enforce agreements after the fact, there is no way to enforce immunity. There's a critical difference between contracts that are instantaneously filled, where you physically cannot renege, and contracts that occur at the same time.

Doing it the former way is how you enforce contracts without laws that force the issue, and allows you to make deals with known swindlers. Instantaneous contracts are, in effect, self enforced.

Last edited by BigT; 01-28-2019 at 07:07 PM.
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Old 01-29-2019, 05:47 AM
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In high school we played Monopoly with three boards connected together corner-to-corner, so there were three different Boardwalk deeds, distinguished with colored paper clips. There was a 4th board called the Debtor's Colony; bankrupts could go there and hope to get enough money to get back in the main game. We also had insurance companies and private banks and, IIRC, municipal elections. Yes, the game was interminable, but the game was just backdrop anyway: we used the get-togethers to plot revolution and, perhaps, to flirt with the two girls who had strayed into our clique by accident.
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Old 01-29-2019, 08:55 AM
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It is entirely apropos of our discussion that this story come out this morning.
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Old 01-29-2019, 09:30 AM
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To me immunity is grounds for forfeiture due to 'no game'. The game simply doesn't allow these things to happen, if they do your not playing the game. Note this is different from penalties which are allowed by game rules(we see this all the time in sports like football where a penalty sometimes taken intentionally.


I went through this years, no decades ago. We came to the conclusion that no you can't give immunity, additionally informal partnerships are still partnerships and is grounds for the forfeiture of the game. The rule is that rent must be paid. About that part that the owner must ask for payment, which quite honestly didn't come up back then), I believe the spirit of that is if you accidentally miss that payment you are SOL, but intentionally ignoring it (which would be defacto if the any player announces that they are owed rent) is a partnership and thus grounds for forfeiture on the grounds that a player is not following the rules and thus no game.

Any partnership would be about the same as rerolling the dice because you didn't like the rule, it's not allowed and grounds for calling the game.

Last edited by kanicbird; 01-29-2019 at 09:31 AM.
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Old 01-29-2019, 09:51 AM
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As for house rules, I believe much of the reason for them was monopoly is not really suited for children, and rules to soften the harsh reality of the game had to be put in place. Once those children grew up then they carried forth those rules, and the hippy movement started, free love and sexual revolution . JK
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