What is supposed to happen when you land on “Free Parking” in Monopoly?

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Dear Cecil: I have always played Monopoly with an unstated rule that when a player pays out cash as a result of a Chance or Community Chest card, the money is put into the center of the board. Then, when somebody lands on Free Parking, they get to take all the cash that’s accumulated up to that point. No one I know plays by any other rule. Yet the official rules of the game state, “A player landing [on Free Parking] does not receive any money, property or any reward of any kind. This is just a free resting space.” When did this variation begin? Why? Dan J., Evanston, Illinois


Illustration by Slug Signorino

Cecil replies:

You’d think Parker Brothers would keep track of vital facts like this, but guess again. Here’s the sum total of their wisdom on the subject: “It is not known when the practice of collecting money on ‘Free Parking’ began.” However, they do graciously allow that “while the official Parkers Brothers rules followed in tournament play do not allow such variations, you may follow ‘house rules’ if all players consent before play begins.” Thanks a heap, guys.

The Free Parking variation is apparently well known in all parts of the country, although an equal number of people play by the official rules. The purpose of the variation, obviously, is to enable financially inept players to scratch up a little extra capital. One of my sources says the kids on his block had worked out an even better scam: whenever you landed on Free Parking, you got one bill of each denomination from the bank — $686, if my addition can be relied upon. Such corruptions make it just about impossible for anybody to go bankrupt, meaning games go on forever. Talk about creeping socialism.

Other interesting board-game rule variations include the blank-tile substitution rule in Scrabble. Under this rule, if somebody puts a blank on the board to signify “R,’ say, and later you wind up with an “R’ in your rack, you can substitute the real letter for the blank and re-use the latter. This keeps the blanks in constant circulation, which can be useful toward the end of the game when everybody is getting down to the nubs, letters-wise. Another variation is the two-rooks rule in chess, which (as I understand it) allows you to move both rooks one square forward from their original spots at the same time. Sort of like castling, I guess. If you guys know of any other interesting variations, send ’em along.

The Teeming Millions come through!

To the Teeming Millions:

Speedily responding to my recent request, Alex M. of Evanston, Illinois, has submitted a list of what appears to be every Monopoly rule variation ever devised by the mind of man, ranging from the mundane to the criminally deranged. Herewith a sampling:

  • If you land directly on Go, you collect $400 instead of the usual $200. There’s also the “subway” variation — if you land directly on Go, on your next turn you can choose not to roll the dice and move instead directly to any other space on the board.
  • If you go bankrupt, you can file for reorganization under Chapter 11, meaning you distribute all your cash on hand to your creditors but continue to play.
  • Players can establish “investment funds” by paying any sum of money into the bank. Subsequently they draw 10 percent interest on their investments (plus $200) every time they pass Go.
  • If you own all four railroads, you can build “stations” on them. (These stations look suspiciously like houses, thereby demonstrating the monotonous uniformity that is characteristic of modern architecture.) Rent progresses upward until you get to “Grand Central Station,” the equivalent of a hotel, which permits you to extort $1700 from the unlucky sap who lands on it.
  • For the ultimate in sybaritic living, we have the concept of “building beyond hotels”: an Estate with Gardener’s Cottage (a hotel plus a house), an Estate with Gardener’s Cottage & Rolls Royce Garage (a hotel plus two houses), and a Palace (a hotel with three houses). These permit rents to be raised to truly astronomical levels — a Boardwalk palace will net its owner a whopping $7500, resulting in instant ruin for the lessee/victim.
  • Then there’s the WAHOO card, which you get one of every time you land on Free Parking. Among other things there is the Three Mile Island Contamination card, in which “the color group of properties of your choice is contaminated by leaked nuclear wastes and no owner of a property on that group can collect rent until they have twice passed Go and paid a $500 clean-up charge to the bank.” Guaranteed to bring a touch of realistic contemporary angst to the game.

Finally, for those who are truly interested in making Monopoly a spiritually significant experience, hustling Straight Dope managing editor Pat C. suggests a splendid variation called Cosmonopoly. Here, instead of chasing after tawdry commodities like Baltic and St. Charles Place, we aspire to the Platonic virtues, Truth and Beauty. We replace Community Chest and Chance with Free Will and Predetermination, one of the cards from which may sternly admonish you to “GO DIRECTLY TO THE METAPHYSICAL VOID. Do not pass Being or Essence. Do not collect $200.” To get out of the Metaphysical Void, you either have to grasp the meaning of the universe or roll doubles twice.

On the Catholic side of the board, instead of collecting all the properties in a color group, your aim is to acquire Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Piety, Fortitude, and Fear of the Lord. Playing pieces to select from include the Jean-Paul Sartre piece (comes with blank dice and it’s up to you to to decide how far you want to go) and the Nostradamus piece (you just sit around and guess who’s going to win). Entrepreneurs interested in making a killing on this outstanding concept may write care of this column for a complete prospectus.

Cecil Adams

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.