Rules are made to be broken, but changed? That’s a whole different game. And, if Hasbro has its way, that game is “Monopoly.” Starting this fall, the board game publisher will issue a special edition incorporating suggested “house rules” used by players. In other words, under the new rules, maybe you can still pass go and collect $200 on your way to jail. Maybe you can even go halfsies on Boardwalk or sublet Park Place.
The company is jump-starting its publicity stunt by posting 10 popular rules on its Facebook page for dissection with plans to winnow it down to five for the final special set.
This brings to mind one question: Why?
House rules aren’t a bad idea, especially mandates that drop the luxury tax or make my get out of jail card eternal. But the fun in house rules is that they aren’t sanctioned by the included paper instructional manner. House rules are like the secret menu at In-N-Out Burger. Animal-style isn’t as fun if just anybody can see it printed in black and white. Neither are those special rules tailor-maid for specific players.
This isn’t the first time Monopoly has tried shaking up sales by shaking up tradition. Last year, much to my chagrin, Hasbro again turned to the public to kill off one token and add a new one to the roster. The iron hit the chopping block and a kitty cat set up shop. Then there is the “electronic banking” edition so that new generations of bankers can hit an ATM rather than flex their monetary math skills. With all of these tweaks, life went on just as it will regardless of this house rule nonsense. Those who abide by the letter of the gaming law will continue to insist on stringent adherence to the official rules created back in the ’30s. Those who prefer skirting established regulations will keep on letting development run amuck on the board and bid-rigging the bank auctions of unpurchased properties.
If the Monopoly rule change makes purists bristle, the proposed change in scoring for Scrabble points will really push them over the edge. This idea would be awesome if blank tiles were suddenly worth 3,000 points when in my possession and my possession only. House rules! But alas, no. A researcher is arguing that language changes in the last half-century or so mean those Qs and Zs are much more commonly used and therefore should be decreased in value. Can you spell L-A-M-E? Six points, by the way. N-E-E-D-L-E-S-S, slightly better with nine points unless one can hit a triple word square.
If the proposed scoring system changes, chances are hard-core players will continue using the original point assignments. Call it vintage house rules.
Speaking of Scrabble, the official players dictionary is getting its first official revamp in nine years. Word is, thousands of new terms will join the ranks in the de facto bible of challenging and at least one will be chosen from player suggestions fighting it out bracket-style for inclusion. Any coincidence Hasbro publishes Scrabble as well as Monopoly? Its “house rules” promotion and “new word” competition are pretty similar attempts to get the public jazzed again about games that don’t feature warfare, mythological creates or anything digital. One fear, though, is exactly what those new additions will be. Selfie? Twerking?
And while all is fair in love and war the same should not be true when it comes to turning fan favorites on their head. Next up, Go Fish will include other animals. Chutes and Ladders will find room for elevators. Candy Land will go sugar-free. Yahtzee will start using 12-sided dice stolen from Dungeons and Dragons sets. The possibilities are endless and endlessly makes one wonder what brilliant makeover is up next. The mind boggles — at least at until Boggle, too, decides it needs a new way of playing.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.