Menu

GAMER’S BOOKSHELF: MONOPOLY: THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS GAME AND HOW IT GOT THAT WAY

by Philip E. Orbanes (Da Capo Press, 262 pages with photos, $26)

 

Reviewed by Herb Levy

In the World of Games, no proprietary game has reached the pinnacle of success enjoyed by Monopoly. Which begs the question “Why?”. Where did this phenomenon come from? Why did Monopoly, out of all the boardgames released into the marketplace, connect so strongly with generations of consumers? What accounts for the rise from “mere” game to cultural icon? In his new book, Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game & How It Got That Way, Philip E. Orbanes seeks the answer to these questions and more.monopolyorbanes

Few people are more qualified to embark on such an undertaking. Orbanes knows the game industry from a variety of perspectives. Not only is he a noted game designer (Cartel, Infinity, Forbidden, Trumpet and more) but Orbanes has served in executive positions in several game companies including tenures at Gamut of Games in the 1970s right up to today where he guides Winning Moves. More to the point for insight into Monopoly, Orbanes’ resume includes a stint as a Vice President at Parker Brothers.

Although an unabashed fan of the game, it was only in college while visiting game designer Sid Sackson that Orbanes discovered that there was something BEFORE Monopoly. In his book, Orbanes delves into the shrouded origins of the game illuminating its beginnings and tracing the game’s path and development against a background of popular history. Orbanes charts the influence of the Single Tax theory of Henry George on Elizabeth Magie Phillips who incorporated this theory into her design of an “educational” game she called The Landlord’s Game. The popularity of this game on college campuses in the early 20th Century, spurred by the many homemade versions constructed by fans of the game, gave the game an “underground” fan base which expanded as more and more people were exposed to it – including Charles Darrow . It was Darrow who ended up making the Parker Brothers deal (and receiving erroneous credit as its creator instead of, Orbanes argues, what we would call, more accurately, the “developer”). All of this is told against the backdrop of the growth of Atlantic City and the events of the turbulent times including the World Wars with the Great Depression sandwiched in between. But Orbanes doesn’t stop there.

In bringing the story of Monopoly to the present day, Orbanes goes into the rise of Monopoly overseas with special emphasis on the role of John Waddingtons Ltd. in spreading the impact of the game into Europe (including the part Monopoly played in smuggling escape equipment to British prisoners of war in Nazi prison camps). He follows the rise and fall and rise of the fortunes of Parker Brothers and how Monopoly helped keep the company vital. He tracks the start of the Monopoly World Championship competitions (including some highlights of some of the superior plays in a few crucial games) in which the author was judge.

The volume has photos sprinkled throughout the text with the center of the book devoted to an impressive photo gallery of such rarities as The Landlord Game, early self-produced versions of the pre-official-Monopoly, early Monopoly editions and more. The appendixes provide more insight including a listing of various Monopoly editions and spin-offs, the original rules to the game as written by George Parker in 1935, rules for Finance (another offshoot of The Landlord Game which Parker later acquired and kept in the line for decades) and still more.

Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game & How It Got That Way is a book that transcends its subject. While fans of the game will find the book a worthwhile read, the strength of the book is how deftly Orbanes combines the growth of the game with the flow of history to better understand and appreciate the reasons behind the hold on the consciousness of both American and international audiences Monopoly enjoys to this day. The book is engaging, engrossing and entertaining and well worth a slot on the bookshelf of any gamer and anyone else interested in popular history. – – – – – – –  Herb Levy


 

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.


Spring 2007 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by Frank Hamrick (Days of Wonder, 2 players or teams, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes; $70) The following review carries my name – but is actually a collaborative effort between me and my gaming friend – Scott Brooks. Scott is more of a hard core war gamer than me, while my preferences lie closer to typical Euro games (though I love conflict in ...
Read More
Reviewed by Chris Kovac (Kosmos/Mayfair Games, 3-4 players, ages 10 and up, 90-120 minutes; $49) The first thing do be done in a turn is the starting player, who goes first in all phases, rolls the dice to determine what resources are generated this turn. Four resources are rolled each turn and the number has to be unique. If a seven is rolled, he gets ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Jax Ltd, 2-6 players, ages 6 to adult, about 30 minutes; $7.99) Games are generally categorized by genre and there are plenty of genres in the World of Games. You have your wargames, your sports simulations, abstract games of all kinds and, of course, this is merely scratching the surface. Somewhere, in this glut of genres, are dice games. But for ...
Read More
BOOK TO MOVIE OR MOVIE TO BOOK It's interesting how this works. You go to the movies and see a film that captures your imagination, thrills you, excites you, gets those juices flowing. Do you leave that darkened theater to rush out to buy the book that served as the basis for that film? If you've just seen The Godfather or Harry Potter, you might ...
Read More
GAME CLASSICS: TYCOON [Since our early days, we have enjoyed highlighting great games that, for one reason or another, only lasted for a relatively short time on the gaming stage despite exceptional qualities. In some cases, we've reached back decades to shed some light on great games but greatness is not the sole province of the distant past. Sometimes, it's much more recent - ...
Read More
by Philip E. Orbanes (Da Capo Press, 262 pages with photos, $26) Reviewed by Herb Levy In the World of Games, no proprietary game has reached the pinnacle of success enjoyed by Monopoly. Which begs the question "Why?". Where did this phenomenon come from? Why did Monopoly, out of all the boardgames released into the marketplace, connect so strongly with generations of consumers? What accounts ...
Read More
Reviewed by Pevans (Mind the Move/Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 12 and up, 90-120 minutes; $39.95) Like football (soccer), Hermagor is a game of two halves, as the saying is. Actually, it’s more a game of two parts since the two sections are anything but equal halves. The first part is a clever and highly competitive auction. The second a logistics/delivery challenge. Emanuele Ornella’s ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy HEROCARD: RISE OF THE SHOGUN (Tablestar Games, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 60 minutes; $24.95) Tablestar Games has come up with an intriguing concept: a series of games all using a battle/duel card game imbedded into a boardgame. Each game in this series use a different setting. In HeroCard: Rise of the Shogun, designed by Alexei Othenin-Girard, the setting is ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Temple Games, 3-7 players, ages 10 and up, about 40 minutes; $34.95) A decade ago, I reviewed the then new Cheapass Game of murderous intentions designed by James Ernest called Kill Doctor Lucky. In addition to the often interesting ideas to be found in the line, Cheapass Games were known for their, well, cheap presentation. Whatever the merits of their games, ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Z-Man Games, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $39.99) You could make a convincing argument that the Vikings were the premier plunderers and pillagers of history. With a culture lauding battle and bravery, Viking warriors certainly impacted greatly on the shores of Europe. Those days of lusty combat are back as players become chiefs of various Viking clans vying ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (MindWare. 2- 4 players, ages 6 and up, 30-60 minutes; $25) A "gateway" game is one of those rare concoctions - a game able to introduce players with only the most glancing relationship to games to more challenging play while able to engage the more seasoned gamer. The desire for a definitive "gateway" game seems eternal and is certainly a ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Blue Orange Games, 2-4 players, ages 8 to adult, 20 minutes; $29.95) If you think you've been going around in circles, you may not be confused. You may simply have been playing Ringgz, the colorful abstract from Blue Orange Games. Ringgs is a pretty package, its large, square box filled with lots of wood: a sturdy wooden board, four sets of ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (SAS Games, 2 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes; $29.99) The great philosopher Mary Poppins was quoted as saying, "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down". Although Mary is better known for her childrearing skills, there is little doubt that these words of wisdom ring true. As though inspired by those words, we came across a game ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $29.95) The exotic South Seas provides the setting for Taluva, the new game from Marcel-André Casasola Merkle. Taluva represents a volcanic island and players, through the placement of volcano tiles, will create the island and attempt to successfully expand their presence by creating and expanding settlements to win ...
Read More

If you enjoy games, then Gamers Alliance is right for you!