It's How You Play The Game

Monopoly Tourney Challenges Students

March 11, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

Capitalism reigned.

Unhindered by antitrust laws, 100 students inDiane Ferary-James' introduction to business and keyboarding classesat Oakland Mills High set out yesterday to beat each other in cornering the real estate market.

Unhampered by site-plan requirements, they put up rows of houses and hotels from St. James Place to Marvin Gardens, then waited for unlucky opponents to fork over the rent.

The school's second annual Monopoly tournament completed the business classes' study of world economies.

"We zeroed in on capitalism, and Monopoly is the essence of capitalism," Ferary-James said.

The game illustrates free enterprise, the teacher said, and its history illustrates a principle she taught students about how to succeed in business: Find a need and fill it. People had little money during the Great Depression, so board games were a popular form of entertainment, she said. Charles Darrow, an unemployed heating engineer, convinced Parker Brothers to market the game he had seen friends play, and it made millions for the company.

The Oakland Mills players came to the table with an edge. Math students lent a hand with the laws of probability, which computer programming students then wrote into a program to determine which avenues are the most likely landing spots.

The red avenues -- Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky -- have a high probability for landings, reported Omar Sharieff, 16, a sophomore. Mediterranean and Baltic, the firstavenues after "Go," draw few stops.

The high probability of landings on the red and gold avenues influenced the strategy of Ryan Williams, 15, a sophomore, although wherever he landed, he bought. And notat full price. If you say you don't want to buy, the bank will auction the property and you can probably get it for less, he explained.

"If I had to buy all of these properties at full price, I'd be broke," Ryan said.

He managed to acquire most of the board, leaving his opponent, Justin Peck, 16, with just the three pale-blue avenues (Oriental, Vermont and Connecticut), the three greens (North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Pacific), and two railroads.

Railroads turned outto have a high-landing probability because the square Monopoly boardis designed with one on each side, Ferary-James said. But the top landing spot is jail.

"You have a higher probability of going to jail than any (other) place on the board," she said.

In another match, Alicia Thornberry and Maya Thompson, both 15-year-old sophomores, were doing just fine playing Monopoly in French, competing for purchases of the Rue de la Paix (Boardwalk) and the Boulevard de Capucine (Pennsylvania Avenue).

They got stuck, however, when Maya drew a Chance card that said "Votre immeuble et votre pret rapportent. Vous devez toucher F.15.000." The game halted in debate over whether Maya should pay or receive money.

"Maybe it means you should pay me," Alicia said.

Wrong. The card announced that Maya's loan had come through and she was entitled to collect 15,000 francs from the bank.

Even the Anti-Monopoly players concluded that monopolists get rich in the short term, while competitors lose their shirts.

In Anti-Monopoly, both monopolists and competitors buy properties, but develop themunder different rules. Monopolists add housing only after monopolizing a city (buying two properties) and put up a maximum of four units to limit the housing supply and keep rents high. Competitors can build up to five units on any single property, but take in lower rents when someone lands on their property.

Asked which is better, ColleenJennings, 18, a senior playing as a competitor, at first said she wasn't sure. Then she considered her assets. "Well, right now I'm down to $1," she said.

Jon Eng, 16, a junior, said it depends whether players were going for a short game, as in the tournament, or the longhaul.

"In this game, it's probably better to be a monopolist because you can build up properties faster. But if you had longer, it would probably be better to be a competitor because you could deal more." And in the real world, he said, he would opt to be a monopolist.

Clustered around a Monopoly board scripted in Cyrillic letters, the Russian language students tried to play the game all in Russian, urged on by repeated admonitions from Jonathan Alloy, 17, a senior: "Po Russki," which means "In Russian."

It was tough for Mairin Coleman,17, a junior, who lapsed into English when she landed on Kentucky Avenue, which had been built up with three houses.

She looked at herlow cash and few properties.

"I'll pay you back later," she offered. The property owner laughed.

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