8 Obscure Twists on Monopoly

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In the nearly 75 years since it was first released by Parker Brothers, Monopoly has inspired hundreds of spinoffs. Most of them are licensed by Hasbro, but there are also plenty of eccentric and unauthorized variants, like many of the ones below.

1. BibleOpoly

BibleOpoly, "A Biblical Game of Fun and Faith," takes the rules of the original Monopoly game and kicks the piety up to 11. Instead of building houses, you build a church; instead of going to Jail, you go to Meditation; all the properties are replaced by Biblical cities; the four railroads are replaced by four Abysses; the Chance and Community Chest cards are replaced by Faith and Contingency cards; some of the cards require you to recite Bible verses or else lose a turn. If you land on a city where another player is building a church, you don't pay rent, but instead must make an offering. And, of course, there is no "GO" space. Rather, an "In the Beginning."

The description of the game on the publisher's website sounds like something straight out of the Flanders home: "In BIBLEOPOLY, you can't win by destroying your opponents. You will only win by assisting the fellow players." At first, this seems a bit counterintuitive, since players are racing to build a church in one of their cities. But in order to get a Cornerstone, the first piece of a church, you have to do Community Service by voluntarily sitting out for three turns. Creative, eh?

2. HomoNoPolis

HomoNoPolisIn case you can't tell from the name, this Dutch edition is Monopoly gone gay. Dubbed "The Most Gayotic Game," HomoNoPolis is played on a pink triangular board. Using game pieces that resemble Amsterdam's street lights, players hop along spaces representing the city's gay bars and clubs"¦or, at least, the ones that were around in the mid-90s. When another player winds up in a club that you own, you want to charge them as much as possible, so you can purchase Barkeepers and "Back Rooms."

The game is deliberately campy, down to the pink die. The most risqué part of HomoNoPolis is the "SM Cellar," replacing the Jail. As for the name, "Homo polis" means "gay city." But what about the "no" in the middle? According to one board game website, this is a reference to a local in-joke that Amsterdam is a town, not a city. So the name is meant to be both a pun on the word "monopoly" and a portmanteau defining Amsterdam as the "gay non-city."

3. Anti-Monopoly

Anti-MonopolyBoard game enthusiasts hate it when people try to play by their own rules. But in Anti-Monopoly, that's part of the point. Designed by economics professor Ralph Anspach, in this game, players are evenly divided into Competitors and Monopolists. To win, you have to be the richest Competitor after all the Monopolists have been bankrupted, or vice versa. Depending on which type of player you are, you have to observe different requirements. For example, landing on the northeast corner space sends Monopolists to Prison and Competitors to Price War. While in their respective equivalents of Jail, Competitors can keep collecting rent, while Monopolists cannot.

Technically, this game is Anti-Monopoly II; the first game to be called Anti-Monopoly led to ten-year legal battle between Anspach and General Mills, which owned the rights to the Monopoly name at the time. The professor lost twice in the lower courts, and appealed both times, eventually bringing the infringement battle before the Supreme Court. After the SCOTUS ruled in Anspach's favor, in 1984, Anti-Monopoly sold half a million copies. However, the game was deemed to be too confusing, so Anspach revised the rules and published Anti-Monopoly II. He then went on to write a book about the legal battle and the history of Monopoly.

4. Ghettopoly

GhettopolyThis is probably the best-known version of Monopoly on this list. Sold by Urban Outfitters starting in 2003, Ghettopoly transformed the normal Monopoly board into a stereotypical ghetto, with guns, basketballs and marijuana leaves among the game tokens. The game's imagery outraged African-American leaders, who objected to the game's "Hustle" and "Ghetto Stash" cards, which said things like "You have been elected Pimp of the Year. Pay each playa $50."

The threat of a boycott campaign, led by the NAACP and black clergymen nationwide, convinced Urban Outfitters to stop selling the game. Inventor David Chang maintained that he wasn't spreading stereotypes, but was instead making fun of them. For a short while afterwards, Chang sold the game himself, along with a sequel, Redneckopoly. However, after Hasbro successfully sued Chang for infringement, he was barred from making any more games with the suffix "-opoly," including his planned sequels, "Hoodopoly," "Thugopoly" and "Hiphopopoly."

5. Franklin Mint Collector's Edition Monopoly (and others)

Franklin Mint Monopoly PiecesIf you have enough money to build a real hotel in Atlantic City, this might be the Monopoly for you. Inside the elegant wooden box, you'll find a luxurious board, the center of which is lined with fine green felt. Say goodbye to mixing up your 10s and 20s during cleanup "“ the board sits atop a money drawer, which is also lined with felt and can be pulled open via a golden circular handle sporting Mr. Monopoly's famous mug. You can also forget about keeping the bank's property cards in a stack "“ how plebian! In this game, the banker uses a bound real-estate portfolio.

But wait, there's more "“ the houses are all dipped in silver, and the game pieces and hotels are plated in 24 karat gold. The Community Chest and Chance cards are likewise decorated with gold foil. Not surprisingly, the design of the fake money you play with is unique, but you might as well be playing with real money. The Franklin Mint edition costs $595 (or "3 easy monthly payments of $198.33," according to the Franklin Mint site). That's not including the optional $90 glass cover plate. When the game was first released in the 80s, the Mint also sold a $300 stand and special Monopoly chairs for $100 apiece. Over 100,000 sets were sold.

And as far as exclusive Monopoly boards go, that's on the low end. Details are scant, but some board game fansites also tell of one-of-a-kind sets, made with things like leather and rubies, costing as little as $25,000 or as much as $100,000.

6. Petropolis

PetropolisThis Monopoly variant, designed by the late French aristocrat Arnaud de Rosnay, finds its niche in the global oil trade. The original rule book has pictures of sheikhs and lists 30 oil tycoons to whom Rosnay sent special deluxe editions. Starting from the Geneva Airport space in the center of the board, players travel counterclockwise outwards and then back in, hopping from country to country and continent to continent.

All the money bears the slogan, "In oil we trust," and instead of houses and hotels, players erect oil rigs and drilling platforms. The Chance-like cards are called Telex Cards, and they naturally deal with the sort of problems oil barons must face on a regular basis, like "The radar of your private jet is out of order. You miss a turn." And, of course, the Jail-equivalent is the Tribunal of The Hague.

7. HMOnopoly

As you might expect, HMOnopoly is all about health care, and instead of buying properties and building residences, players vie "to become the dominant provider of health care services." Sounds like fun, right? This Monopoly variant is free online; that is, you can't play it online, but at this website, you can print out segments of the game board and paste them over your normal Monopoly board.

There are some slight rule tweaks, including the ability of the players/HMOs to attempt a Hostile Takeover of their opponents' Health Care Facilities. If you land on a Facility owned by another player, or on the Hostile Takeover space (which replaces "Go To Jail"), you can attempt a Takeover and roll the dice. Rolling doubles lets you take money from the other players, but if you roll double sixes, you can take all of their money. That's harsh.

8. War-opoly

No discussion of Monopoly trivia would be complete without a mention of War-opoly, which mental_floss discussed in more detail in this article from the magazine's November-December 2007 edition. In brief, British soldiers used Monopoly to escape from German POW camps. How? The British secret service sent Monopoly boxes in Red Cross care packages with items like a magnetic compass and a metal file disguised as game tokens. Also included were silk maps of the region surrounding the prisoner camp and real local currency to aid in the captured troops' escape. Get Out of Jail Free, indeed.

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June 12, 2009 - 3:30am
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