A MONOPOLY on Board Games

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Interesting Facts

About the Board Game

Monopoly

Monopoly was first produced in 1935 by Parker Brothers, and has been ruining friendships and tearing families apart ever since. Despite how frustrating the game is, it’s considered the world’s most popular and, as of 2009, over 250 million copies have been sold.

 While the game is meant to be played by people of all ages, it is meant to show the dangers of a small group of people accumulating all the wealth. If you’re playing the game, and someone builds hotels all over the board, and you have a house on Baltic Avenue? You have to borrow money before ultimately going bankrupt and losing. It’s annoying in the game, but it would be tragic in real life.

10. Are You Playing the Game Correctly?

Have you ever taken the time to read the rules of Monopoly? Probably not, because an overwhelming amount of people don’t follow the official rules while playing.

One rule that many people didn’t know existed is that if you land on a property and choose not to buy it, the property goes up for auction. The opening bid can start at any price and the highest bidder pays the bank. This speeds up the game and when playing with these rules, it lasts about an hour to 90 minutes. (Another hint if you really want to speed up the game, but isn’t in the official rule book, is to deal out all the properties at the beginning of the game.)

One reason that so many of us play Monopoly the same way, which is different from the official rules, is because Monopoly is so popular, and many people are taught how to play as children. So for generations, no one read the rules, and older generations just taught younger generations to play the way that they were taught. Think about it – do you even remember learning how to play Monopoly? If you can, did you read the instructions, or were you taught to play by someone who already knew?

As for why no one plays the game according to the official rules, it could be because the game is often played by children, and the auctions may have led to fights, so parents omitted the rule and it simply got phased out as the rules of the game were handed down generation-to-generation.

Another common house rule, which isn’t an official rule, is that when fines and taxes are collected, they go into the center of the board and whoever lands on Free Parking wins the jackpot. However, in the official rules, nothing happens when you land on the Free Parking space.

Finally, some people play that you can’t get money while you are in prison, but there is no official rule against that.

Since the house rules and official rules are so different, Hasbro did a study and ended up releasing official House Rules of the game.

9. Three Most Landed on Spots include Illinois Avenue, GO, and B&O Railroad

One thing that might be helpful to winning the game is getting the square that is landed on the most. According to computer scientist Truman Collins, who built a simulation of the game, the square most likely to be landed on is In Jail. This is for several reasons. The first is that if you land on the Go to Jail square, technically you go straight to jail (duh). Secondly, people roll to get out of prison. All of this in addition to landing on the prison square, and you’re just visiting.

The second most landed on square is Illinois Avenue. This is followed by Go, New York Avenue, and rounding out the top five is B&O Railroad. As for the least likely squares to get visits? Those would be the three Chance squares, the Community Chest Square, and Mediterranean Avenue.

When it comes to the most expensive property, Boardwalk, it’s the 18th most likely square to be landed on.

8. The Characters

In Monopoly, there are several different characters and all of them have their own name. The first one is Mr. Monopoly. He is the iconic character who has a three piece suit, a top hat, and white hair. Also, a lot of people seem to remember him having a monocle, but he has never worn one.

It’s unclear who the inspiration for Mr. Monopoly is. Some people think it is famed American banker and financier J.P. Morgan. It certainly would make sense because they look and dress similar, and both are businessmen.

Others believe that it is based on a salesman at Parker Brothers who had business cards with over-the-top caricatures of himself printed on them. Often times he would be wearing a top hat, or riding a train. Finally, it could be based on Little Esky, which is a former mascot of Esquire magazine.

The character wasn’t given a name until 1946, and even then, it wasn’t announced via Monopoly. Instead, he appeared as the mascot on a different game called Rich Uncle. In the game, the Daily Bugle identifies him as Rich Uncle Pennybags, and he is the man who runs the town.

However, in 1999, Hasbro conducted a study and found that many people didn’t know that Rich Uncle Pennybags was his name, so they changed it to Mr. Monopoly.

Of course, there are other characters in the game. On the Community Chest and Chance cards, there is Mr. Monopoly’s wife, Maude, and his three nephews – Randy, Sandy, and Andy. Finally, there is Officer Mallory, who sends people to jail, and Jake, the Jailbird.

7. People Have Killed Each Other Over the Game

If you’ve even been near a group of people playing Monopoly, you know that players can easily get frustrated. All it takes is one flip of the board to end a friendship.

While most adults don’t resort to violence when it comes to their frustrations over Monopoly, some games have spiraled violently out of control. One such game happened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 25, 2011. 60-year-old Laura Chavez and 48-year-old Clyde “Butch” Smith were playing the game with their 10-year-old grandson. At some point, Chavez caught Smith cheating. A fight ensued and the grandson was sent into a bedroom, and that’s when the grandparents got violent.

Smith hit Chavez with a wine bottle, and then she went at him with a knife. He was stabbed and slashed around the chest, neck, and face. Luckily, he survived.

Another tragic fight that stemmed from the game happened on July 19, 1991, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Two best friends, 25-year-old Marc Cienkowski and 31-year-old Michael J. Klucznik, were playing Monopoly when a fight broke out. It got physical and several punches were thrown. Cienkowski grabbed his compound bow and an arrow, and told Kluvznik to leave. Kluvznik left, and when he was seated in his car, his best friend fired an arrow into his chest. Kluvznik ended up dying and Cienkowski was sentenced to nine-to-25 years in prison. We like to think the judge told him to go directly to jail, to not pass GO, and to not collect $200 at his sentencing.

6. You Can Win a Game with 2-players in 21 seconds

Games of Monopoly are notoriously long, and can drag on for hours, or even days. On the other end of the scale, Daniel J. Myers, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame, and his son have figured out the quickest way to end a game of Monopoly. It’s just four turns and nine rolls, and the game lasts 21 seconds.

How it would have to work is that player one rolls double sixes and lands on Community Chest, where they receive $200 because of the “Bank error in your favor” card. Next, player two has to land on the Income Tax square. The next turn involves player one getting double twos and landing on Park Place, where they purchase it, and then double ones to land on Boardwalk, which they need to purchase as well. Since they got doubles, then they roll again and pass GO, collecting $200. Once they are past GO, they need to purchase three houses for Park Place and two for Boardwalk. Player two would then land on a Chance square and pick up the “go directly to Boardwalk” card. When they do, they won’t have enough money, and the game is over.

Of course, the chances of this game happening in real life aren’t exactly good. According to a Columbia professor, it would happen once every 253,899,891,671,040 games. So he’s saying there’s a chance.

 5. Best Way to Win

As we’ve already mentioned previously, and will probably continue to mention throughout the article, playing Monopoly can be downright frustrating. However, if you really want to ratchet up the frustration level among your opponents, and win in the process, you should follow this strategy to win, which comes from a Reddit user named Elfie.

Basically, the diabolical plan revolves around the houses. There are 32 in the box, and once the houses are sold out, then no one else can buy one. So the plan is simply to buy up as many houses as you can.

Early in the game, buy a set of properties and build all houses on it (not a hotel). It can also be any set of properties. Later in the game, get a second monopoly and build up houses on each of those properties. If you get two monopolies containing three properties, then that only leaves 8 other houses out there among the rest of the players.

Limiting the number of houses is important because houses are needed to build hotels. By monopolizing the houses, it makes it harder for people to progress, and then you simply outlast them.

Evil, right?

4. The Real Creator was a Woman Who Didn’t Get Credit For Her Invention

The person credited with inventing Monopoly is Charles Darrow, an unemployed heater salesman from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While Darrow created the Monopoly we know today, he ripped off the idea. The real inventor was a stenographer named Elizabeth Magie, who lived in Washington D.C.

Magie worked at night trying to teach people about the evils of monopolies. She was concerned with the accumulation of wealth and power by a small group of families during the Gilded age. She thought that this type of control by a small group of people could lead to monopolies, which could have devastating effects on everyday Americans. The problem was that her message was hard to spread because many people simply weren’t interested in listening.

Looking to spread her message faster, Magie developed The Landlord’s Game in 1903, and got a patent on it in 1904. The game was never mass produced, and instead, the game spread through word-of-mouth. Usually someone would learn the game, and then they would make their own copy of the board and the pieces. In turn, they would teach it to someone else.

One of those people who learned to play the game was Charles Darrow. He pitched the game to Parker Brothers and they eventually bought the rights to it, and gave Darrow a royalty. However, Parker Brothers knew that Magie actually owned the patent on the game. So they contacted Magie and bought the rights to The Landlord’s Game and another game that she developed for $500. But in a massive jerk move, Parker Brothers never intended to mass produce The Landlord’s Game. Instead, they released a few hundred copies of it, but mass produced Monopoly, which became a massive hit. Beyond the $500, Magie didn’t get any other payment or credit for the game. She died in 1948 and her contributions to the game weren’t publicized until the 1970s. Darrow died a millionaire in 1978.

3. The Unusual Story of Marvin Gardens

 There are localized versions of Monopoly, but the original game, and one that most people in North America are familiar with, has all of the properties named after streets or areas in Atlantic City, New Jersey. With one exception, that is: Marvin Gardens, which is supposed to be Marven Gardens.

While it’s a small mistake, it actually shows the interesting history behind Monopoly. When asked why he chose Atlantic City, instead of Philadelphia, where he was born and lived, Charles Darrow said it was because it was his favorite vacation spot.

However, what we know from the last entry is that Darrow didn’t invent the game, he just signed a deal with Parker Brothers to sell it. Before Monopoly’s publication, when people made their boards for The Landlord’s Game, they would localize the street names. Darrow was taught to play The Landlord’s Game by a couple from Atlantic City and when Darrow was given a copy of the board by the couple, it contained the wrong spelling of Marven Gardens. In turn, Parker Brothers copied Darrow’s incorrect board. Making Darrow not only a thief, but a lazy one at that.

In 1995, Parker Brothers apologized to the people of Marven Gardens for the misspelling. However, they have never credited Magie’s contributions to the game. Just wanted to really emphasize that part again.

2. Monopoly was Rejected by Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers

After Magie developed the game, she didn’t get it mass produced because she didn’t want to. She took it to Parker Brothers, twice. Once in 1910, and again in 1924, and both times it was turned down. The reason they gave was that it was too political.

Jump ahead to 1934, and Darrow pitched his version of the game to both Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers. Both of them sent back rejection letters. Part of the creation myth is that Parker Brothers rejected it for 52 fundamental reasons. However, there is no real evidence of that and it definitely does not say it in the rejection letter. The game was rejected unanimously by the executives of Parker Brothers because they thought it took too long to play and was too complex to be popular.

Instead, Darrow used his own money to make 7,500 copies, which sold well in stores in Philadelphia, and Parker Brothers changed their mind and struck a deal with Darrow. From there, the game grew to be the biggest board game in history.

1. Escape Maps Were Smuggled to British POWs during WWII

When it comes to making maps for war, paper is a terrible material for many reasons. For example, it can’t get wet, it rips, it crumples, and so on. A better material for maps is silk, and it has been used for hundreds of years.

During World War II, a printing company that had mastered printing on silk was John Waddington Ltd. The company was used by the British secret service unit MI9, which was the secret service unit for escape and evasion, to print silk maps. Waddington was also the printer of Monopoly for the United Kingdom. An MI9 agent named Christopher Clayton Hutton came up with the idea to put maps and other materials into board games that would be sent to POW camps. Games were often brought into POW camps by humanitarian and charity groups, and the games wouldn’t have drawn too much attention from the enemy.

Inside the Monopoly boxes were hidden compartments that contained compasses, tools, maps, and under the money were real bank notes. There were six different maps created for areas around German POW camps, and other maps for Italy.

They marked the special Monopoly boxes by putting a red dot on the Free Parking space. Also, to figure out where the maps should go, periods were added to the end of specific properties. For example, if it was going to Germany, there was a period after Mayfair, and if it was going to Italy, there would be a period after Marylebone Station (since the game was the UK version, the properties were named after streets in London, not Atlantic City).

Some historians believe that thousands of POWs used the Monopoly games to escape. Since the war, all of the Monopoly escape kits were destroyed.


A MONOPOLY

on Board Games


 

Board Game Backstories – WIF Edu-taiment

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Origin Stories Behind

Famous Board Games

The board game market is one of the toughest to break into. Thousands of games are released every year and throughout all of history only dozens have broken through and become mainstream hits. These are 10 of those select few games that somehow managed to become rainy day staples.

NOTE: Since humans have been playing some games like Chess, Checkers, and Mancala for thousands of years, their origins aren’t clear, so they were omitted from this list.

10. Risk

risk

Originally called La Conquête du Monde (The Conquest of the World), Risk was invented by Academy Award winning French film director Albert Lamorisse. Lamorisse, who is most famous for his 1956 short film “The Red Balloon,” invented the game while on a family vacation in Holland. The game takes strategic elements of chess, but the playing area is much more expansive and up to six people can play, which complicates the strategy. Also, with the dice, there is an added element of randomness. Originally, Lamorisse said the game should take 90 minutes to play, but if you’ve ever played Risk, you’ll know that the first 90 minutes of the game are just the set up and opening turns.

Lamorisse took the game to Miro, a French board game company, and they manufactured the first games in 1957. In 1959, the game was purchased by Parker Brothers, who made some minor tweaks and renamed the game Risk.

Lamorisse continued to make movies after inventing the game, but sadly, he was tragically killed in a helicopter accident in Iran in June 1970 while filming.

9. Settlers of Catan

catan

In the 1980s, Klaus Teuber was running a dental lab outside of Darmstadt, Germany, and, in general, he wasn’t happy with his work life. For a bit of escapism, he took up making board games. His first game, Barbarossa (a clay-shaping guessing game), was a hit in 1988 after he won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award, which is awarded to the best German board game of the year.

After his initial success, Teuber created a few more games, and won two more Spiel des Jahres awards, but he was still working at the dental lab.

In 1991, Teuber was reading about Vikings and the Age of Discovery and it sparked the inspiration for Settlers of Catan. He said a major breakthrough in the game came when he realized he should use hexagonal board pieces instead of square pieces, as this allowed for more areas to play in the same amount of space.

The game was an instant bestseller in Germany when it was released in 1995 and Teuber claimed his fourth Spiel des Jahres award. In 1996, Catan made its way to American hobby shops and slowly gained a small, but devoted following. In 1998, Teuber finally quit working at the dental lab because he was making a living off his games.

Sales of Catan continue to increase each year and as of 2015, it has been translated into 30 languages, sold over 22 million copies, inspired spinoffs, and the rights for the movie and the TV show were purchased.

8. Cranium

cranium

In the 1990s, Seattle-based Microsoft employees Richard Tait and Whit Alexander were trying to think of a business to start. At first, they were thinking a dot-com company, but they thought that the space was already too crowded. In 1997, Tait came up with the idea that would become Craniumafter a weekend of intense board gaming with his wife and another couple. During that weekend, Tait noticed that there was a gap in the board game industry; a lot of games were based on only a small segment of skills. For example, with Scrabble, you need pattern recognition, planning, bluffing, strategy, and a big vocabulary, but not much else. Also, those skills don’t translate well to a game like Pictionary. What was missing was a game that utilized a variety of skills. A single game that challenged different skills would mean that there was a good chance anyone who played it would be really good at one aspect, and completely horrible at another. This would make the game uniquely inclusive.

After coming up with the basic premise of the game, over breakfast Tait convinced Alexander that they should leave their high paying jobs with Microsoft to go make a board game, even though there hadn’t been a massive, hit board game since Pictionary in 1984. With the odds stacked against them, in early 1998, they put $100,000 into a prototype. Then, instead of trying to get it stocked in stores, they took a rather unique approach to sales. Tait had recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a friend of Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, and the friend set up a meeting between the makers of Cranium and Schultz. They ended up playing a few rounds ofCranium and Schultz liked the game. He had been looking for something similar to put in Starbucks, and agreed to put games in 1,500 stores so that customers could play. Through Starbucks, Tait and Alexander learned that people would highly recommend the game. To help spread the word-of-mouth recommendations, they gave games to Starbucks employees and patrons, and by the time the holiday season rolled around, Tait and Alexander couldn’t keep up with orders. Soon, Barnes and Nobles and Amazon started selling the game and it became a runaway hit.

In 2008, Cranium was purchased by Hasbro for $77 million. After the purchase, Tait and Alexander, who held the titles of Grand Poo Bah and Chief Noodler, respectively, left the company.

7. Pictionary

pictionary

Creator Rob Angel first came up with the basics of Pictionary in 1981, and he would break out the game at parties when festivities had reached a lull. He would pick a word out of the dictionary and then try to get people to guesswhat he was drawing. He never really thought much about selling the game until the Trivial Pursuit phenomenon in 1984, when the creators sold 20 million copies in just over a year. Seeing the potential in his game, Angel started to work on it in 1985.

Angel realized that the key to the game was getting the right words. Most people have an active vocabulary of about 20,000 words, but there are 171,476 active words in the English language (a number that continues to grow over the years, as well). Also, not everything can be drawn. That meant just randomly picking words from the dictionary wouldn’t work, so Angel, who was working as a waiter at the time, picked up the dictionary and started reading it. He also had a friend design cards and a board. With a $35,000 loan, they went around to local stores and sold them some copies. Then Seattle based retailer Nordstrom ordered 167 copies. This caught the attention of 58-year-old Thomas McGuire, who was a salesman for the board game company Selchow & Righter. After playing the game with his family, McGuire quit his job to sell Pictionary with his own marketing company, and it was published by Western Publishing Group Inc. By Christmas season 1987, Pictionary was the bestselling game of the year with three million copies sold. In 1994, Western sold its gaming section, including Pictionary, to Hasbro for $105 million.

6. Candy Land

candy land

The quintessential game for children, Candy Land, is full of bright colors and pretty imagery, but its origins are actually fairly depressing. The game was developed by retired schoolteacher Eleanor Abbott in 1948. Abbott was in a San Diego hospital for polio and she, and the children in the ward, were bored. So Abbott used a piece of butcher paper and drew up the plans forCandy Land. The game was popular among children in the ward and they encouraged her to submit it to Milton Bradley, who agreed to produce the game.

The game became a surprise bestseller for the company. In hindsight, there were a few factors that contributed to its success. One reason is that it was easy enough that most children could play it; there’s no reading, no counting, and no real skill involved other than deciphering colors. Secondly, in the Post-War period, Americans had more disposable income and it was the start of the Baby Boom, so toys and games, especially ones directed at very young people, exploded in popularity. Finally, during the polio outbreak of the 1950s, people weren’t encouraged to go out in public, meaning they spent more time inside and away from other people. Thus, games that could be played in the home were in high demand.

Milton Bradley, which was taken over by Hasbro in 1984, kept the origin story of Candy Land quiet for decades because they didn’t want the colorful, upbeat game for children to be linked with a horrifying and deadly disease. The story was finally made public in 1998 when a 50th anniversary edition game was released.

5. Trivial Pursuit

trivial pursuit

The origin of Trivial Pursuit has a bit of a mythical aura around it. Various versions of the story exist, but here is what we do know for sure. It happened on the night of December 15, 1979, in Montreal, Canada. Chris Haney, a high school dropout who worked as a picture editor at the Montreal Gazette, and Scott Abbott, a sports journalist for The Canadian Press, were playing someScrabble. According to some stories, they spent the night drinking like Wade Boggs (years later, Haney said they only had one beer…but since it was Saturday night, and they were newspaper men working in Montreal in the late 1970s, we’re guessing the true number of beers was quite a bit north of that claim). Either way, somewhere in there, an idea for a new game was born.

How Haney and Scott were able to transition their drunken idea into a cultural phenomenon involved a bit of conning and hustling. First, they attended a toy makers convention under the guise of a journalist and a photographer who were doing a story on bringing a board game to market. Through this ploy, they got a lot of insider information for free. Then they spent the next two years writing 10,000 questions before dwindling it down to 6,000.

Finally, the game was released in 1981, just as the United States was going through a recession, which had a massive effect on the cost of production for first the 1,000 copies. It cost them $75 to make the game and they were only selling it for $15. This caused them serious problems when they tried to order more games because they didn’t have the funds. Haney and Scott also couldn’t get a traditional loan because they had been connected with a pyramid scheme. Instead they took on 32 investors, who all chipped in $1,000.

Luckily for the investors, the game exploded in popularity shortly after they handed over their money. People would line up for hours or drive hundreds of miles to buy the game. By 1984, more than 20 million copies of Trivial Pursuit, which amounted to nearly half a billion dollars in sales, had been sold in North America. In 1988, Trivial Pursuit was purchased by Hasbro for $80 million.

With his new found riches, Haney partied hard and developed medical problems later in his life. He passed away on May 31, 2010, at the age of 59.

4. Scrabble

scrabble

Born in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1899, Alfred Mosher Butts was always a good student, and attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he pursued an architecture degree and played on the school’s chess team. After school, he got a job as a draftsman, designing suburban homes.

When the Great Depression struck, Butts’ salary was cut by 20 percent in 1930, and he was laid off in 1931. Like many other people at the time, he didn’t hold a steady job for years. During that time, he tried his hand at writing, did some painting, and worked as a statistician. He found a little bit of success in all them, but wasn’t able to build a new career for himself.

Another project that Butts started working on when his salary was cut was a board game that mixed anagrams, chess, and crossword puzzles. Butts’ first thought was to design a game that involved making words, using letters on tiles. Next, he scanned the newspapers and culled the most common letters in the English language, and devised a point system on their usage. He also thought that drawing letters from a pool would add a level of randomness, which would level the playing field in terms of skill.

In October 1933, Butts started selling the first incarnation of the game, which he called Criss Cross Words, out of his apartment in New York City. Originally, the game didn’t have a board; it was just letters with number values glued onto pieces of plywood, and the tile holders. Over the next 10 months, Butts tweaked the rules and added a board and by August 1934, he had sold 84 copies of the game for $1.50, which brought Butts to a grand total of a loss of $20.43. He tried to get a patent on the game, twice, and tried to find manufacturers, but had no luck. In 1935, Butts’ architectural firm began to get more business and he went back to designing homes.

Twelve years after Butts stopped selling Criss Cross Words, James Brunot, who was the director of the President’s War Relief Control Board during World War II, got in touch with Butts. Brunot was a fan of Criss Cross Words and wanted to buy the rights to it. He would manufacture and market the game under the name Scrabble. For each copy sold, Butts would get two-and-a-half cents, and Butts agreed.

Over the next few years, Butts’ slightly modified game sold moderately well, but it didn’t take off until 1952. That summer, the president of Macy’s was vacationing in Long Island and saw people playing the game, so he decided to stock it. By 1954, they sold 3,798,555 copies of the game, including 100,000 foreign language copies and a Braille edition.

In 1971, Butts agreed to sell the rights of Scrabble to one of the companies that originally turned him down in 1934, Selchow & Righter, for $265,000. Butts believed he made over $1 million on Scrabble, but it ultimately didn’t change his life much. He continued to work as an architect until 1978. After that, he invented another board game called Alfred’s Other Game, but not many copies were sold. In the fall of 1987, Butts was in a car accident that he never fully recovered from, and he died in April 1993.

3. Clue

cluedo

Board games are quintessential for times when you can’t leave the house, and in England during World War II, Britons who were suffering Nazi bombings and blackouts had some very good reasons to stay inside. Anthony Pratt, of Birmingham, was working in a factory and thought that the bombings were killing the social lives of the British, so he invented Clue‘s precursor, Murder! In 1944, he filed a patent for the game.

Pratt’s neighbor had just published a popular game called Buccaneers with Waddington’s Games in Leeds, and this led to a meeting between Pratt and Waddington’s in 1945. Waddington’s liked the game and agreed to sell it with a few minor changes. Notably, some of the characters were changed; there would no longer be a Dr. Black, and a bomb and a syringe were no longer weapons, for example. Also, the name of the game was changed to Cluedo.

The problem with the game was that a lot of materials were needed to manufacture it, and England was still rationing material so the game wasn’t released until 1949. When it was released, it was also licensed by Milton Bradley for overseas sales, sold under the name Clue.

Success didn’t come in the first few years and in 1953, Pratt agreed to sell his royalty on overseas sales for £5,000, which is about £130,000 today ($188,000 USD). In hindsight, this was a massive mistake because the game took off and has since become the second bestselling game of all time, along with spawning a movie and television series. Pratt never got rich or famous from inventing one of the best known board games of all time, and he died in 1994 at the age of 90.

2. Monopoly

monopoly

Monopoly, aka The Great Destroyer of Friendships, got its start in 1903 in Washington, D.C., when it was designed by stenographer Elizabeth Magie. Magie was a progressive, single woman who saved up her money and purchased her own house, which was fairly unusual for the time. At night, she tried to teach people about the dangers of possible monopolies brought on by the large accumulation of wealth by a small group of people, which was going on during the Gilded Age with families like the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, and the Morgans, who gained massive amounts of wealth and controlled major industries. However, she didn’t think she was reaching enough people. To spread the word and show how problematic a monopoly is, Magie designed The Landlord’s Game and patented it in 1904. However, instead of mass producing it, it became a folk game and was passed along from person to person. All someone had to do was copy the board and playing pieces.

For years, the game spread throughout the Northeastern United States. Then in late 1932, an unemployed Philadelphia man named Charles Darrow played the game with friends. He enjoyed it and he drew his board on a tablecloth. He took the game to Parker Brothers, who bought it and agreed to pay Darrow a royalty.

Knowing that Darrow’s game was based Magie’s patented game, Parker Brothers agreed to buy the rights to The Landlord’s Game and two other games created by Magie for $500. Then, in an unbelievable jerk move, Parker Brothers didn’t mass produce The Landlord’s Game, instead releasing Monopolyin 1935. It became an instant success – and one for which Magie was not entitled to receive any royalty or recognition.

Charles Darrow went on to be rich and famous. When he was asked where he got the inspiration, he said it was just one of those amazing freak eureka moments. He passed away in 1978 after becoming the first millionaire game “designer.” Magie passed away in 1948 without being given proper recognition for her work.

1. The Game of Life

game of life

In 1860, Milton Bradley was 24-years-old and owned a lithograph studio in Springfield, Massachusetts, that sold a popular picture of Abraham Lincoln, who was running for President at the time. That’s when something unusual happened, and forever changed American culture. On October 15, 1860, 11-year-old Grace Bedell from Westfield, New York, sent Lincoln a letter, encouraging him to grow a beard, and amazingly Lincoln wrote back…and agreed to do so! When Lincoln grew his beard, not only did people no longer want Bradley’s lithograph, they wanted their money back for the ones they had already purchased.

Seeing his business was in trouble, Bradley, who had worked as a draftsman, started working on a board game that depicted the drastic ups-and-downs that happen in life (gee, we wonder what his inspiration for that could have been?). His game was on a checker board and a teetotum, which is a top, was used for the dice. The object of the game was to collect 100 points by landing on the right squares. You could lose points by landing on squares labeled “Disgrace,” “Crime,” and even “Suicide.” He called the game The Checkered Game of Life.

The game was an immediate success, and in 1864 he launched Milton Bradley and Company, one of the most famous board game companies in history. Bradley died on May 30, 1911. The modern Game of Life was published in 1960, 100 years after Bradley first started selling The Checkered Game of Life…all because an 11-year-old girl asked Abraham Lincoln to grow a beard.


Board Game Backstories

Family Board Game Night

– WIF Edu-taiment