For many, many years Monopoly has been called the world's most popular board game... and rightfully so. A member of the GAMES Magazine Hall of Fame, Monopoly is licensed or sold in more than 80 countries and produced in at least 26 different languages. It has been around, in its current form with almost no change, for more than 60 years.

One of the reasons for Monopoly's popularity is the fact that any age can play and enjoy the game, and children can compete or a more or less equal footing with adults. Being the most popular game however, doesn't necessarily mean it is without flaws...

The object of Monopoly is to bankrupt your opponents and become the wealthiest player. I won't discuss the mechanics of the game since I'm sure most players are already aware of them. Simply put, players take turns rolling the dice, traveling around a circular board, buying, selling and trading real estate, as they collect and pay rent, fines, and taxes.

A 'typical' Monopoly game usually lasts SEVERAL hours... and this is because a typical Monopoly game is not usually played by the official rules. In most every Monopoly game I've seen, all sorts of 'house rules' are usually in effect, all of which almost always incorporate an extra amount of cash flow or 'income' into the game, thus making it much more difficult for players to bankrupt each other than it is supposed to be. For example, what Monopoly player hasn't heard of the 'Free Parking' rule, where one receives a cash reward for landing on the Free Parking space? The official rules, if you take the time to read them, spell it out clearly: FREE PARKING... 'A player landing on this space does not receive any money, property or reward of any kind. This is just a 'free' resting place.' Another house (or misinterpreted) rule is believing (incorrectly) that one receives $400.00 if one lands DIRECTLY on the GO square. Wrong again.

Players who play by these types of house rules, the ones that increase the structured cash flow of the game, contribute to prolonging it unnecessarily, probably without even realizing it!

Despite the large amount of luck in the game, experience is a small factor. Knowing how and what to trade, how many buildings and hotels to buy... and when, how much of a cash cushion you should leave yourself, etc., can only be learned after you've played a number of times. One must also be aware that property values change as the game goes on. For example, in the beginning and middles stages of most games, Boardwalk and Park Place are NOT the best properties to own. Give me the Oranges or the Reds instead any day. The reason is simple... these properties are landed on much more frequently than your beloved Boardwalk and Park Place. Furthermore, Boardwalk and Park Place, along with the Greens, are too expensive to properly develop in the early stages of the game.

Knowing the Monopoly Frequency Chart (a sorted table of the frequency that each square is landed on) is beneficial to know and often helps when making trades.

It is no big secret one should almost always purchase every property they land on. Even if you have no use for it yourself, simply by owning it you prevent anyone and everyone else from owning it and using it to complete their own color group. Also, by owning it you can always raise some cash by mortgaging the property if need be... for 1/2 the purchase price. This being said, if one was allowed to make just ONE rule change for the better, my choice would be this: Double the purchase price of all existing properties. Upon doing so, now it's not so easy to purchase everything you land on... in fact you'd probably go broke if you attempted to do so. NOW, a careful decision must be made upon which properties to purchase outright and which ones to decline... which, as per the rules, would immediately be put up for auction by the bank.

If that's not enough, try something a little more extreme. As soon as ANYONE lands on an unowned property, it immediately goes up for auction and all may bid on it. This eliminates one player getting "luckier" than the rest, who might otherwise have landed on the property by a fortunate dice roll.

Expert players and gamers will incorporate all sorts of other house rules that allow for more skill and more decision making. For example, normally one can buy buildings at any time... simply ask the next person to hold the dice and buy to your heart's content. However, I suggest changing the rules so that you can only purchase buildings PRIOR to your OWN turn. The reasoning is simple... with this rule change each player must now make a decision. For example, it's my turn... should I buy some buildings now, knowing that I might have to immediately tear them down a moment later (at half the purchase price!) if I throw a bad roll and land on my opponent's hotel, the hotel that's sitting just eight spaces away from my token? Or should I wait and purchase these building later, hopefully after I've missed landing on my opponent's hotel, but knowing someone else might have landed on my barren property in the mean time?

As with most games, the more decisions there are, the more skill is incorporated into the game. I could give several more ideas, rule changes, and variations, but I think you get the idea.

Disadvantages of Monopoly are many:

Players are eliminated one-by-one. This means the unlucky player who is eliminated first has to wait around, sometimes for hours, while everyone else continues to play.

As mentioned above, it's no secret that one should almost always purchase every property they land on. This doesn't allow for much decision making.

Going last, and next-to-last, in a five or six player game, is a big disadvantage. These players are landing on property, and now paying rent, on properties that were unowned just a moment ago.

The game, even when played correctly and according to the rules, can still last a long time.

Arguments over the rules often emerge.

It doesn't play well at all with two, or even three players. At least four players (and preferably five) make for a much better game.

Monopoly CAN be considered a good game... as long as it is played between competitive players, with some of the slight rule changes as described above. The only problem is finding four of five other players who share your ideas and feelings. As played by the actual rules, the luck element is too high and the other disadvantages, (as described above) make the game only so-so by today's standards.