It's thought that Monopoly originated in the early 1900s by Elizabeth Magie, except then it was called "The Landlord's Game" (that's her original patent in the picture). A professor at the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania even started using Magie's version as a learning tool in his classes. Evidence shows it was also used at the University of Toledo, Smith College, Princeton, MIT and Columbia. She took different versions of The Landlord's Game to Parker Brother on several different occasions but was turned down by George Parker every time.
Eventually, a later version of the game was played by Esther Darrow, the wife of Charles Darrow. It was Charles who changed the layout and some rules of the game and began calling it Monopoly. Darrow tried to sell Monopoly to Milton Bradley but was rejected in 1934. Bad move, Milton Bradley. But Parker Brothers again passed on the game too, saying it was too complicated, too technical and too long. However, the company heard about how well the game was selling locally and reconsidered their rejection just a year later. They bought all of Darrow's remaining inventory and helped him patent the board. They also bought Elizabeth Magie's patent to The Landlord Game to make sure that they had undisputed rights. Uh, pretty smart, considering that Monopoly has sold more than 250 million copies worldwide since then.
• For some reason, I always thought the Monopoly guy was Uncle Moneybags. Nope. But "proper" names for him include Rich Uncle Pennybags, Milburn Pennybags and Mr. Monopoly (his most recent name). Some sources say he's loosely based on J.P. Morgan.
• Marvin Gardens is actually a misspelling of Marven Gardens, a housing area in Margate City, N.J. In fact, all of the properties on the "classic" Monopoly board are named after places or streets near or in Atlantic City, N.J.
• In the London version of the game, Trafalgar Square is a red property, Piccadilly is yellow, Regent, Oxford and Bond Streets are green and the blue properties are Mayfair and Park Lane. The railroads are replaced by Underground stops (King's Cross, Marylebone, Fenchurch Street Station and Liverpool Street Station).
• Neiman Marcus once sold an all-chocolate edition. The whole set, including dice, money, hotels and board, was edible.
• F.A.O. Schwarz in NYC sold a $100,000 version, which included 18-carat game pieces, a rosewood board, real money, street names written in gold leaf and various gems scattered across the board.
• The most expensive board even made is a set worth $2 million It's made of 23-carat gold and has rubies and sapphires embedded in the top of each house and hotel.
• Various versions of Monopoly include Batman, ESPN, Family Guy, American Idol, Nintendo, Sephora, and, honestly, just about any other version you can possibly think of.
What we in North America know as Clue, the rest of the world knows as Cluedo. Would you believe that it was invented by a part-time clown? Totally true. Anthony E. Pratt invented the game in England and it was published for the first time in 1949 by a British company. Bought by Parker Brothers, the U.S. version came out the same year.
• The dead dude is known as Mr. Boddy in North America, but he's Dr. Black everywhere else. Also, Mr. Green is apparently alias Reverend Green in some parts of the world.
• Also, some of the Clue characters have little-known first names. They are: Colonel Michael Mustard, Miss Josephine Scarlet, Professor Peter Plum, Reverend/Mr. John Green, Mrs. Blanche White and Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock.
• Characters used in other or deluxe versions of Clue include Miss Peach (not to be confused with Princess Peach), Lady Lavender, Prince Azure, Rusty Naylor and Captain Brown.
• The original nine weapons were axe, shillelagh, bomb, rope, dagger, pistol, syringe, poison and poker.
The Game of Life
Life has been around since 1861... not in the format we recognize today, of course. Milton Bradley himself invented "The Checkered Game of Life" when his lithography business started to go down the tubes (his major product was a portrait of clean-shaven Lincoln… when Lincoln grew the beard, Bradley went out of business).
He had actually been circulating the game on a smaller scale before his clean-shaven Lincoln lithograph took off, but he abandoned it once demand for his lithograph increased. After that plummeted, he focused more attention on marketing and ended up selling more than 40,000 games in 1861 alone – no small feat for that time period!
• Milton Bradley used a spinner to count the number of spaces people could move because dice were associated with gambing.
• In the original Checkered Game of Life, landing on the "Suicide" square put people out of the game completely. Obviously.
• Other squares on the original game board included Prison, Infancy, Ruin, Gambling, Disgrace, Honesty, Truth, Cupid, Industry and "Happy Old Age" (the goal of the game).
• One interesting variant (among many) is The Game of Redneck Life. Careers include Mullet Salon Operator and Monster Truck Announcer. The goal of the game is to get out with as many teeth as you can – through the various fights and brawls you get into over the course of the game, this can prove to be pretty challenging. I'm dead serious.
Scrabble came about in 1939 when architect Alfred Mosher Butts modified a game he had been working on earlier – Lexiko. At first he called it Criss-Crosswords and based the values of the letters on based on letter usages from the New York Times (and other reputable sources). In 1948, he allowed James Brunot to manufacture the game as long as he got a cut of each board sold… which wasn't much, at first. They actually lost money the first year they produced it. Legend goes, though, that the President of Macy's played the game while on vacation and, upon his return to work, was shocked that his store didn't carry it. When they did start to carry it, sales skyrocketed.
• There are 96 two-letter words that are "legal" in Scrabble… including 10 that are spelled with vowels only. I'm so learning those.
• A typical Scrabble board has 225 squares.
• The highest known score for a single word in competition Scrabble is 392. In 1982, Dr. Saladin Khoshnaw achieved this score for the word "caziques," which means "Indian chief."
• The highest possible score a player can get in Scrabble on a first turn is for the word MUZJIKS (128 points).
I realize there's tons of beloved board games I've missed, so maybe I'll turn this into a series… a three-parter, or something. Sorry!, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Risk, Trivial Pursuit. Lots of options. Have one you'd like to read about? Leave it in the comments and maybe I'll add it to the list!