How Did You Play Monopoly? (June theme) by Claudia Mills

We all played a lot of the same childhood board games, but my hunch is that each of us could tell a story about how we found a way to make each game our own.

Here are some of mine.

When we played Clue with the neighborhood kids, none of us could bear to have our character turn out to be the villain. So we decided that whichever suspect card ended up in that little secret envelope, it was REALLY Mr. Green, who had framed one of the rest of us. By the end of several summers of play, the Mr. Green card was crumpled, soiled, spat upon. But I could know in my heart that my favorite characters, Miss Scarlet and Mrs. Peacock, were never really the guilty ones.

Okay, here's one you probably didn't play:

My mother never let us have Barbies - too sexualized! too grownup looking for her little girls! - but our cousins gave us their castoff Barbie board game. The game's objective was to become queen of the prom; in order to do that, along the way you needed to collect a club presidency, a dress, and, of course, a boyfriend. Always the tyrant, I convinced my younger sister that Poindexder loved her so much he would be heartbroken if she ever ran off with Tom, Ken, or Bob. So as she patiently waited for the Poindexder card to come her way, I played the field, snagged the first guy whose card was available, and made my my merrily to the prom.

And here's the one we all played:

But in so many different ways.

In our neighborhood, you got $500 for landing on Free Parking. In a friend's family, you got all the proceeds from all the properties purchased thus far. I was shocked when, as an adult, I discovered that in some families all you got for landing on Free Parking was . . . free parking!

In our family, by common consent, we never paid luxury tax. I mean, who wants to pay luxury tax?

In our family, you couldn't buy a property unless you landed on it by luck of the dice. My now-grown son just told me that we were supposed to be holding an auction for each property when someone landed on it and declined to purchase. Who knew?

And of course, the same older sister who was so horrid about Pointexder was equally horrid here. Convinced that Monopoly victory went to the owner of Boardwalk, I would tell my sister that if she didn't allow me to own Boardwalk, she couldn't be my sister any more. We would still be sisters in name, sure, but the true sisterly bond would be gone.  I never lost a single Monopoly game.

I've put Monopoly scenes in at least two of my books. The first line of The Totally Made-Up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish is "Only in our house, though Amanda MacLeish, could a Friday night family Monopoly game turn into the Civil War." 
 I even titled an early book of mine Boardwalk with Hotel.

So if you have a character playing a board game, pay attention to those family-specific details that in their own odd way give the scene its deepest universality. Did you make up a special taunt for players who had to go directly to jail without passing GO? Did you have a favorite property that you just had to buy each game, however poor the investment? Tell us! We really want to know.


  1. Claudia,
    My sister and I LOVED the Barbie game! It brought back so many fond memories to see those "date" cards again. Without being forced to, I kind of gravitated toward Poindexter...Always was attracted to the brainy guy. Thanks for the fun return trip to childhood.

  2. I just learned about the Monopoly auction, too!

  3. Oh boring family always followed the board game rules. But that Monopoly auction must be new.

  4. Darlene, I never met someone else who loved the Barbie game!

  5. I'd love to get my hands on an old version of "Mystery Date"! Great post, Claudia!


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