Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal Arts
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NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
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Nicolas Poussin. Dance to the Music of Time. 1634-1636


The Great Depression has not ended in the United States yet, and it is difficult for an engineer who has lost his job to find one. His work – the installation of heating equipment in houses – has little meaning, when one can only dream of large-scale construction.

How could he sell this dream?

The answer is a little later.




But what about a person who doesn’t have to go to work? In the 50s in the USA there was already a specific idiom for answering the question: “What is your father doing?” – “Watching TV”. But before that time there are still 20 years, there are no TVs yet, what to do?

I’ll try to refer to my own experience. I have never been unemployed, but there were times when there was not much to do in early childhood. I read, played in the yard, and then what? So I pestered my grandmother, “Let’s play, huh? Well, a little! Please!”

What could she do? Board games are the most psychedelic activity for a home circle, knowingly not violating decency and strengthening relationships. The playing field was laid out. Colored pieces were placed on the starting position, and we began to throw the dice.

I had several such fields – each has its own story: either according to the plots of fairy tales, or with historical roots. How many points have dropped out – so much you walk. There were special fields: on some it is necessary to pass a course, on others to move forward or backward. There was excitement, there was interest.




In my youth, I did not know that such games were still under the Egyptian pharaohs. A set for a similar game was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun – it is almost 4000 years ago. At first, it was considered a semblance of chess or, in extreme cases, checkers – the field is drawn into cells, figures of several types.

Then it turned out that it was not entirely true – the figures were moved, throwing the dice, as many fell out, as many moves you could go. The game simulated the passage of a certain path and the fight against obstacles that are encountered along the way. It was called “senet”, that is, “passage”.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
Senet of Tutankhamun

The game was so important for Egypt that it was mentioned in the 17th chapter of the Book of the Dead and in ancient parchments dedicated to death and reincarnation, about the long journey of the soul to the divine light. It is not for nothing that sets for senet were found in the tombs of pharaohs and nobles.

The game was forgotten after the fall of Rome, but suddenly experienced a resurrection. It was featured in the TV series Lost, and after filming, the senet sets that were used in them were sold at auction to fans of the series. There is also a computer implementation of this game.




Such board games – in the modern terminology of “walkers” – never disappeared altogether: they appeared with rules reflecting the realities of their time. For example, the ancient Indian chaupar, which appeared in the 4th century, has similar basic ideas I, only the playing field is in the form of a cross. The Great Mogul Akbar, the ruler of India, also liked to play it.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
Chaupar field

The game invented in the middle of the second millennium has become really popular. It may have been first mentioned in the book by Gabriele da Barletta, published in 1480. And at the end of the 16th century, the Florentine Duke Francesco Medici presented such a game to King Philip II of Spain.

The playing field for this game usually had 63 positions, some of which were marked with the image of a goose. Most likely, that is why they began to call it “goose”. The goose who got his token on the image doubled the length of its move. Anyone satisfied with the cage with the skull was thrown to the beginning of the board. There were cages – “hotels” – whoever got on them missed the move.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
One of the fields for the game of goose

The game became popular, a lot of its modifications appeared, each of which bore the imprint of its time. For example, at the end of the 18th century, the game Jaet de la Revolucion Française appeared, that is, The Game of the French Revolution – the same goose, but with a revolutionary entourage.

The apotheosis of the game, perhaps, was the novel by Jules Verne The Will of an Eccentric. In it, an eccentric millionaire bequeathed his fortune to the one who wins in the goose, being a game piece, moving according to the roll of the dice across the different states of the USA. Read it – it ended funny.




As you can see, the goose can be adapted to any history and ideology – the main thing is to correctly name the cells where bonuses or fines are issued. To support the ideas of the American economist Henry George, Elizabeth Magie, an American Quaker from Illinois, decided to use this game.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
Elizabeth Magie

She believed that all the troubles of American society are the result of the greed of landowners who constantly increase their land rent. She also knew the correct solution to all problems – the introduction of a single land tax. To promote these ideas, and not just for fun, she came up with the board game The Landlord’s Game in 1903.

As she wrote in the patent application, “The purpose of the game is not only to please the players, but also to show them that under existing laws, landowners have an advantage… Let the children immediately see clearly the blatant injustice of our modern land systems. And when they grow up, this evil will be corrected”.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
Field of game Landowner

Publisher Charles Parker did not acquire the idea for “political engagement”. For example, there was a cage where “only rich guests” were received. One dropped – go to jail for stealing a chicken. A deuce dropped out – the society is robbed: get $ 200 and now you are a senator. Hmmm…

The game nevertheless gained some popularity among left-wing intellectuals, and in 1913 it even came out in Scotland (for some reason, under the name Brother Fox and Brother Rabbit). But Charles Parker did not buy it even in a modified form in 1929.




Meanwhile, engineer Charles Darrow, a seller and installer of heating equipment from the small town of Germantown in Pennsylvania, was left without a job – in the country of the Great Depression, no one had time to build new houses, the old ones would somehow be kept… Trouble.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
Charles Darrow

In order not to starve to death, he found a much less qualified and worse paid job – walking other people’s dogs, whose owners still had money. But communication with smart animals set him up for a positive, and he had a lot of free time.

He may have seen the Landowner game somewhere, perhaps not — no one will prove it now. But after taking all his dogs for a walk, he was thinking about a new game, and for some reason it turned out terribly similar to it – except without jokes of political content and with a red arrow on the “Go” field.

He called the play cells streets, using the real street names in the Atlantic City resort town. To work out the nuances, it was necessary to play a lot of trial games – he hooked several unemployed friends and his own wife on this game (they had time…).

Lacking the political views of Elizabeth Magie, he formulated the main goal of the game in a completely different way. It was necessary to achieve not social harmony, but just the opposite – to “ruin” all other players and become the sole owner of all game “property”.


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Not only the unemployed can be interested in getting rich at least in the game, ruining all other players and becoming a monopolist.

There is a name for the game Monopoly! We must try to implement it and make it popular…




Charles Darrow followed the path already beaten by Elizabeth Magie – he turned to the powerful publisher of board games Charles Parker. As expected, the result was the same – Parker was completely uninterested and refused to release, sell or distribute it.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
First page of the application for Monopoly

Charles Darrow did not want to give a damn on the wasted time and go back to walking the dogs. He went all-in – he tried to fix the “52 design mistakes” that Parker found in his game, begged a friend to invest in his hopeless business, and released 5,000 copies of the game himself.

A real miracle happened – a department store in Philadelphia accepted them for sale, and they scattered! The depression ended, a mass of people wanted to learn a successful business, and it soon turned out that Darrow simply could not cope with the increased demand – there were not enough resources.

I had to turn to Parker Brothers again, but from a completely different position – with a successful game that is quickly becoming a nationwide fashion. Of course, Parker Bros.’s decision was completely different, and with their help, already in 1936, Monopoly became the best-selling game in the United States, although only a year had passed since its release.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
Late 30s Monopoly box




Elizabeth Magie didn’t like that, of course. Her game wasn’t just like Monopoly – it was VERY similar. And she received her US patent for the game Landowner\ No. 748626 back in 1904 – 33 years before the release of Monopoly. It turned out to be somewhat inconvenient…

However, the difference between Monopoly and Landowner was still, and not so small – Darrow improved the rules of the game, made it more interesting. Are the changes significant enough to consider Darrow’s game a new idea? 

The Parker Bros. did not want to fight and preferred to negotiate. They simply bought back from Elizabeth Magie her rights to Landowner and another similar game, Finance, she created in 1932. A rare case – this conflict was resolved to everyone’s pleasure.

Darrow soon ceased to deny the possibility of borrowing from Elizabeth Magie, and all rights were transferred to Parker Bros. But by that time, Charles Darrow had already become a millionaire, and the first millionaire who made his money on board games.




Much later, in 1973, San Francisco State University professor Ralph Anspach decided to debunk this game. He announced that Monopoly preaches attitudes harmful to society, and proposed his game with the logical name Anti-Monopoly.

In this game, everything began where the game Monopoly ended – all streets, houses and hotels already belonged to the monopolist, and only then did the players enter the role of federal agents fighting the monopoly. They brought charges against every monopolized business and thus tried to bring the game situation back to a free market system.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How to spend time during a crisis?
Ralph Anspach

Then the second version of this game came, in which some players continue to act as the monopoly seekers, and others like their competitors. Competitors charge less fees and can upgrade any property at any time, and monopolists must own two properties in a group before building houses on them.

Anspach began suing Parker Bros. In 1977, he lost the court, after 2 years the investigation was resumed and the court allowed the release of Anti-Monopoly, depriving Parker Bros. of the rights to this name. They were able to return the rights, but Anti-Monopoly sold out enough – millions of copies were sold. And Monopoly – half a billion: compare!




The rules of Monopoly are well known to everyone, but you always want something new… Therefore, from time to time, new rules appear. Some accept them, some reject them. In general, it is always a matter of general agreements. If everyone agrees, why not?

For example, not everyone uses the “auction rule,” although they sometimes do. This rule means that if a player enters a cell with property that does not belong to anyone and does not buy it, then this property is immediately put up for auction and the one who pays the most gets it.

Hasbro, which bought Parker Bros., even listed the most common home rules – that are or are not accepted by common agreement. Here are six of the most common home rules in their list:

  • All taxes and fines are deposited in a special (not in the main!) bank. The player who stands on the “Free parking” field takes the entire special bank.
  • Stopping directly at the Start field gives 400 coins instead of 200.
  • In prison, the player cannot receive property rent.
  • In the first circle, the player cannot buy anything. Only after passing the start, he can start buying real estate.
  • If the dice roll “1-1”, the player receives 500 coins.
  • The selling price of a building to another player cannot exceed its cost x2 + 100.




On Monday November 27, 1961, University of Pittsburgh students Eddie Leeds, Howard Finkel, Allen Polenoff, and Sherman Vogel decided to play Monopoly. A few hours later, they split into two teams and continued the game. And then we decided to check how much they would play. At three o’clock in the morning on Tuesday, journalists came to them to fix the record.

By Wednesday morning, the bank had run out of money. They sent a telegram to Parker Brothers and got the answer: “We won’t let the bank empty. Airmailing you one million monopoly dollars. Keep playing”. The toy money arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport and was transported in a security vehicle. The game continued.

When it became obvious that the game was marking time, the two teams finally decided to simply calculate who had how much money and declare the winner. The Parker Bros. Vice President, who arrived at the scene, rolled the dice for the last time. It turned out that Finkel and Leeds had $ 146,000, while Polenoff and Vogel had $ 133,000. However, everyone survived, and it is already good news…

And a little later, sociologist Dan Myers and his son decided to play the shortest game. It turned out that it is theoretically possible in 21 seconds (if you roll the dice very quickly). It only takes four double moves and only nine dice rolls are required.

The first player needs to roll two sixes twice, then four and five, in order to immediately get to the third cell “Public Treasury”. In this case, the first card in the pile must be “Bank error”, according to which the player is entitled to 200 coins. Rarely, but maybe…

The next three turn alternations also had to be done in a very precise way, after which player number one could become the owner of the houses in Park Place and Boardwalk, and player number two would be left with $ 100 debt. Game over. The chances that the dice will fall out in this way and the player will get the right cards are equal to one in 271 trillion games.




Each idea usually has ancient roots – thousands of years ago, people thought as well as you and me. Search the web for senet rules and be amazed at how they resemble Monopoly!

A useful property of playing goose is insensitivity to surroundings: you can do anything with a theme. I have seen games of this kind, the theme of which was The Adventures of Dunno, and Andersen’s tales and the history of civilization…

If you squeeze gunpowder, it will explode with great force. If a smart person is left with the job of walking the dogs, he will find how to spend time looking for another job.

How should the rules of the game differ in order for it to be a different game? It is not an easy question – for example, Ukrainian legislation clearly states that the rules of the game are not patented, and not only in it. But in the USA it is possible. But lawyers have where and how to make money on it…

The rules of the game must be one that everyone agrees on. It is important not to abide by the original rules, rather than violate recognized conventions. And it applies not only to Monopoly…


All illustrations from open sources

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