Modern Living: Monopoly in Elysium

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When Monopoly was first marketed 40 years ago, its manufacturer was certain that a complicated, long-running game centered on the acquisition of Atlantic City real estate would have a short run for its funny money. Since then, nearly 80 million sets have been sold —a record 3.5 million this year alone —and two generations of Monopolists have been hooked on the game from Moscow (where it is officially banned as "too capitalistic") to Tokyo. Now, belatedly, Monopoly is being treated with the seriousness its addicts have always thought it deserved.

Just out is the first exhaustive analysis of the tactics and strategy of the world's leading proprietary board game (McKay; $5.95). Titled The Monopoly Book (what else?), it was written by Lifelong Player Maxine Brady, 33, a writer and lecturer who is married to Chess Writer and Arbiter Frank Brady. It draws on the research of mathematicians, economists and psychologists. The game's maker, Parker Brothers of Salem, Mass., also will sponsor next week in Manhattan an annual World Monopoly Championship—an event from which will emerge the game's grand master. The contest will pit British, Canadian, European and U.S. regional champions, probably six in all, against one another for a gold and silver trophy.

The appeal of this contumelious parlor rat race, Author Brady suggests, is that it permits respectable citizens to cheat and browbeat with impunity as they seek to amass paper fortunes and drive other contestants into bankruptcy. "It is a game," in one buffs words, "in which everyone loves to hate his neighbor." The Monopoly Book, however, gives the player more of a chance to rely on intellect than odium. Starting from the beginning, when each player has an issue of $1,500 in scrip, Brady gives advice on which property group to buy and develop, how many buildings to put on it, and what the prospects of returns and appreciation may be. Using the laws of probability ("The most commonly thrown dice total is seven, and you have a 1-in-6 chance of rolling it"), she lists properties in order from the most frequently landed on (Illinois Avenue) to the least (Pennsylvania Railroad).

Beating the Cheat. Suggested strategies range from the Pauper's Attack (choose a property that pays off well with a minimum of investment and build early) to the Prince's Restraint (put everything into an expensive color group, preferably green). Sounding like Monopoly's J.P. Morgan, Brady suggests ways of driving competitors out of business by bluff, capital acquisition or snapping up cheap properties that will appreciate in value. Whether as paper realtors or real-life investors, players will profit from hardheaded sections on avoiding the mortgage morass, deferring bankruptcy and beating the cheat.

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