Bank error in your favor? Maybe.
For generations of young and some not-so-young players of the board game "Monopoly," those three sentences were sufficient to strike, if not fear and dread, then exasperation and loathing. The glittering vision of owning two hotels each on Boardwalk and Park Place was going to be put on hold, until enough money was coughed up to spring yourself loose from the slammer.
Ready to relive the glory days of yesteryear? Or continue to burnish the skills you've continued to nurture over all these years and decades? Then a visit to the Martha Canfield Library's Monopoly tournament this Saturday, Oct. 13, may be in order. Here, no one is too big to fail, or go bankrupt, or land on free parking.
The tournament starts at 1 p.m. in the downstairs meeting room and will probably involve a maximum of 16 players, although more may be added in. It's not too late to apply. The tournament is not a fund-raising event for the library; just an attempt to make more people aware of the library and what it offers, while having a little fun along the way, said Martha Folsom, one of the organizers of the tournament.
"It's part of our ongoing effort to increase programming at the library, and have programming that appeals to the whole family," she said. "Also, games are something that patrons can check out at the library, so this is a chance for them to realize this is part of the library too."
There are about 50 board games all told in the library's inventory, along with all the books and other fare available, she said.
The tournament will be overseen by Phil Orbanes, who is as close to a living Mr. Monopoly as gamers are likely to ever encounter.
He formerly headed the research and development department at Parker Brothers - the company that sold and marketed Monopoly along with many other well-known board games. He eventually became Parker Brothers' chief judge for U.S., Canadian and world Monopoly tournaments and continues in this capacity for Hasbro, the current owner of the Parker Brothers brand and the Monopoly game. Widely recognized as the world's foremost authority on the game, he presently serves as president of Winning Moves Games, a company he co-founded in 1995. Winning Moves specializes in re-launching classic games from the Hasbro archives, as well as developing newer ones, he said in a recent telephone interview.
While Monopoly was officially launched in 1935 - right in the heart of the Great Depression - its roots go back almost another 30 years, to a game called "The Landlord's Game." According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, it was introduced in 1903 as a way illustrate the perils of concentrating too much wealth in too few hands. Before there was Occupy Wall Street, there was The Landlord's Game, apparently.
"One of the reasons Monopoly is such a fine-tuned game is because it had 30 years of gestation before it broke on the national scene," Orbanes said. "Unlike games of pure strategy - like chess or bridge - Monopoly is much like real-life; there's a component of personal interaction that's required if you're going to win the game."
For those who have forgotten - or haven't yet played the game in digital form as an online app or video game - the standard Monopoly board consists of 40 squares; 28 of them are properties, along with three squares each of "Chance" and "Community Chest," which hold good or bad news for players. The remaining squares are the old favorites of Luxury Tax, Income Tax, and the four corner squares of Go (the starting line), Jail, Free Parking and Go to Jail.
The goal of the game is to bankrupt your opponents, and players try to do that buy acquiring properties and then developing them by purchasing houses and then hotels. Rents are charged to opposing players when they land on your properties.
Success in the game involves both number and negotiating skills, Orbanes said.
"The chances are, if I want to get a superior color group (of properties), I'll have to make a deal," he said. "I've got to talk and persuade my opponent that what I'm offering is every bit as good as what I'm getting. That's much akin to real life."
So is it luck or skill? There are a couple of winning strategic tips that boost a player's chances of success if followed, he said.
First, buy every property you land on, even if you don't like it. Trading later on is inevitable, and the more properties you have, the more options there are for deals.
Second, if you have the chance, acquire the Red or the Orange group, which surround the Free Parking square. Most players will wind up going to Jail at least once, and then they are very likely to land on one or both of those color groups, to the benefit of your bottom line.
Third, regardless of what properties you acquire, develop them with houses and hotels as quickly as possible. There's a big jump in price when an opponent lands on one of your properties with more than one house, and again, money flows at a faster rate into your coffers.
And if you do go to jail early in the game, get out of there as fast as possible. Just pay the fine and get back in the game. Buying up properties early is a key, he said. But later in the game, when the board is fully developed, staying in jail for a few moves may not be such a bad idea, Orbanes said.
This Saturday in Arlington, Orbanes will give a pre-game briefing to the players and explain the tournament rules. He'll also supervise play to make sure there's no cheating - something not unheard of in Monopoly - and answer whatever questions may come up.
The tournament will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Martha Canfield Library, which is located on East Arlington Road across from the Arlington Memorial High School. For more information, call the library at 802-379-2219, or Martha Folsom at 802-375-6330.
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