i’ve been casting around for a way to cover mass market games like Monopoly in such a way that my existing niche board game audience wouldn’t head for the hills and unsubscribe in droves. i hope i’ve found it in this 5 Things format, where i animate some crude doodles (i call them croodles!) to tell the story of five interesting pieces of trivia. Here’s that format’s maiden voyage, with a game that’s absolutely lousy with juicy history:

(click to view transcript)

Hi! I’m Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and here are 5 things you didn’t know about Monopoly.

#1. It was stolen.

Elizabeth Magie designed and started selling a board game called The Landlord’s Game in 1904. The game became popular in University economics departments, including at at the University of Chicago, where it was played by the Hoskins brothers. They introduced it to their sister Ruth. Ruth moved to Atlantic City and brought a copy with her; at that time, it was common practice to rename the streets in the game after the streets in your own town. Ruth’s gaming group of Quakers included Charles Todd, who was an old high school chum of a woman named Esther Darrow. Todd ran into Esther and her husband Charles one night on the boardwalk, and invited them over to play the game. Charles Darrow made his own version of the game, which was a copy of Charles Todd’s version, right down to the misspelling of Marvin Gardens. Elizabeth Magie’s patents had expired by this point, so Darrow copyrighted the game, and started selling his own hand-made copies. He pitched the game to Parker Brothers, who initially rejected it, telling him his game had 52 problems (but gettin’ rich ain’t one. But Parker Brothers changed their tune when they saw how many copies Darrow was selling, so they bought the game after all, and made Charles Darrow a millionaire.

#2. It didn’t matter how many Big Macs you ate: you were still gonna lose.

Since 1987, fast food chain McDonald’s has run a cross-promotional Monopoly themed contest where burger lovers collect paper game pieces affixed to their food packaging. But the game was rigged. In 2000, it was discovered that the guy responsible for protecting and distributing winning game pieces was sending them out to friends with their promise to split the proceeds. The entire sordid story is told in fascinating detail by The Daily Beast – i’ll drop the link in the video description. It’s definitely worth a read. The story is so good it was optioned for a film that Ben Affleck was going to direct with Matt Damon in the lead, until Disney bought 20th Century Fox in 2019 and scrapped the company’s entire production slate.

#3. We’ve been playing it wrong for a hundred years.

Quite a few official rules are regularly skirted, which makes the game take longer to play. A popular house rule has players collecting money when they land on Free Parking, but that isn’t in the official rules, and it draws the game out unnecessarily. Many players think they can land on a property, decide not to buy it, and pass the dice. In fact, properties MUST be purchased – if the player who lands there doesn’t buy, the Banker has to auction the property off to the other players.

#4. The characters all have names (and perfect vision).

The tycoon character on the box is named Rich Uncle Milburn Pennybags, and he’s patterned after real-life banker JP Morgan. Pennybags was later renamed to Mr Monopoly. The guy behind bars is named Jake the Jailbird, and the cop who put him there is named Officer Edgar Mallory, but you may see him incorrectly credited as Edward Malloy on different trivia sites. In an example of the Berenstain/Mandela effect, where large numbers of people share false memories, many swear up and down that Mr Monopoly wears a monocle. He does not. They’re probably thinking of Mr. Peanut.

#5. It could literally help you get out of jail free.

In World War II as part of the Geneva Convention, Allies were permitted to send care packages to their prisoners of war, including games and pastimes. So they came up with a jailbreak version of Monopoly, which had a compass and a file disguised as playing pieces, and a silkscreened map of the area hidden inside the board. Real money was hidden under stacks of Monopoly money. These covert copies of Monopoly helped thousands of prisoners escape.

But ironically, if you find yourself stuck with your family over the holidays and someone shouts out “Let’s play Monopoly!” … there IS no escape.

That’s it for this one. Now it’s your turn: let me know what you think by clicking a thumb and leaving a comment. If you want to see more, click the badge to subscribe, and then click the bell to get notifications when i’ve got new stuff. If you want to KEEP seeing videos from me, join my merry band of board game fanatics over on Patreon.

Get Your Own Copy of Monopoly

Chances are, you already own Monopoly… everybody seems to have three or four copies sitting on the top shelf of a closet somewhere. But in the off chance that there’s a Monopoly-shaped hole in your board game collection, here’s an Amazon link to buy the game (the clicking of which will earn use a small commission):