March 10, 2007

This Post is Old!

The post you are reading is years old and may not represent my current views. I started blogging around the time I first began to study philosophy, age 17. In my view, the point of philosophy is to expose our beliefs to rational scrutiny so we can revise them and get better beliefs that are more likely to be true. That's what I've been up to all these years, and this blog has been part of that process. For my latest thoughts, please see the front page.

Laissez-faire (the game) Version 2

Update (6/2/07): Three minor changes: (1) the cost of the Home Maintenance Co. has been increased to $500. (2) A provision has been made (see under "Taking a Turn" and "Jail") to ensure that players going out do not gift their properties to other players to alter the course of the game. (3) Changes have been made to the selection order at the beginning of the (not yet play-tested) zero sum variant in the hope of increasing the fairness of the initial selection of properties. Also some clarifications have been made. I am considering removing the Petroleum Distribution Co., but I consider this a major change, so if I do I'll call it version 3. Please let me know in the comments if you try this game and if you have any suggestions.

After a second play test of Laissez-faire with Paul Ferree (who happens to be an economist), we decided that, while the original game was quite fun, a substantial revision of the rules was in order. The new rules are based heavily on (but not identical with) Paul's suggestions and, in addition to hopefully finally making the game such that it ends eventually, makes it more similar to an actual free market environment. The primary change is the addition of the section entitled "Overhead," though small changes have been made elsewhere. Things are getting slightly more complicated (the notary might want a calculator), but I don't think it's bad enough to interfere with playability. These new rules have not been play tested yet.

Laissez-faire is played on an Anti-Monopoly board. Additional title deeds must be made for "Home Maintenance Co." and "Petroleum Distribution Co." The Home Maintenance Co. has a purchase price of $500 and a "mortgage value" of $250. The Petroleum Distribution Co. has a purchase price of $200 and a "mortgage value" of $100. (The mortgage value is used, in Laissez-faire, not for mortgaging, but for calculating net worth.)

The Rules of Laissez-faire

Object of the Game The game may be played with any of three objectives:
  1. To be the first player to reach a net worth of $2000 (see the section "Net Worth" below). This is the recommended objective. Play time with this objective is about three hours.
  2. To be the player with the highest net worth at the end of two hours.
  3. To eliminate all other players. This can take a very long time and is subject to certain stalemate conditions (see the section "Stalemate Conditions" below). If a stalemate condition is reached, and all players not in stalemate positions have been eliminated, the stalemated players should calculate their net worths and the player with the highest net worth is the winner.
The players should agree on one of these three objectives before beginning play.

Money is distributed and pieces are placed on Start as in a normal Anti-Monopoly game. There are no competitor or monopolist roles. The competitor and monopolist cards are not used.
One player should be appointed treasurer, and another player should be appointed as notary. If possible, it may be desirable for a non-player to serve as a combined treasurer, notary, and arbiter of any contractual disputes (see the section "Contracts" below).
The players roll dice to determine who goes first (highest roll wins).

Taking a Turn
Each turn, a player must roll the dice and move the number of spaces indicated (unless staying in a house or apartment building, or in jail; these cases are explained below). Rolling doubles gives an additional turn only once, as in Anti-Monopoly (not as in traditional Monopoly).
If the player lands directly on a property, utility, or transportation company owned by the bank, he may buy it for the value listed on the board (in Anti-Monopoly, the value is also listed on the deed).
A player landing on one of the two tax spaces must pay the amount listed to the bank.
Players landing on the go to jail space go to jail (see the section "Jail" below).
Players landing on the other three corners may stay there for free. Additionally, a player landing on Anti-Monopoly Foundation may purchase the Home Maintenance Co. if it is owned by the bank, and a player landing on Start (not counting placing his piece there at the beginning of the game) may purchase Petroleum Distribution Co. if it is owned by the bank.
Players passing or landing on start receive $200 as in the traditional Monopoly rules (NOT $100 as in Anti-Monopoly).
When a player lands in a city (that is, on any space other than corner or a transportation company), he must find lodging in that city, by mutual consent with a property owner. This is the case even if the space landed on is covered by one of the cases listed above. A player may stay on his own property. A property owner may charge any rent to the player or refuse service. The bank charges the "monopolist" prices listed on the deed or twice the overhead (see the section "Overhead" below), whichever is greater, to rent properties it owns (be careful to note whether the bank has a monopoly or not). A player may not buy an unowned property just because he is staying there; he must land on it directly. Alternatively, the player may pay the transit company to transport him to the other city on that side of the board and find lodging there. The transit company owner may charge any price for his services, or refuse service. The bank charges the monopolist price (again, be careful to note how many transportation companies are owned by the bank), or twice the overhead, whichever is greater, to use its transportation companies. The player moves his token to the property he has rented. Ordinarily only one player may stay on a space at a time (but see the section "Houses and Apartments" below). This does not prevent another player from landing on that space and potentially buying it.
If a player fails to find lodging, he sleeps on a park bench and goes to jail.

In the period after landing in a city and before finding lodging there, a player whose cash on hand is less than the cost of spending one turn in jail may not make any trade which does not result in either (a) agreement to rent a property, or (b) the player having enough cash on hand to pay for spending the turn in jail.

If a player lands directly on a transit company (regardless of whether it is owned) he may move for free to either city.

When a player rents out his property or offers transportation or utitlity service, he must pay "overhead" costs.
For properties, overhead is paid in order to make building repairs, etc., and is equal to half of the competitor rent, rounded down. If one or more houses or an apartment building is on the property, then an additional overhead equal to 10% of the cost of purchasing one house for that property must also be paid. Overhead is not altered by having a monopoly. This cost is controlled by local labor and materials markets (relatively stable factors outside the game). Overhead for properties is paid to the owner of Home Maintenance Co. These prices fluctuate as follows: if the bank owns the Home Maintenance Co., then each time the player who went first passes Start (not including the beginning of the game) he rolls one die. If a player owns the Home Maintenance Co., that player rolls one die each time he passes Start. The notary keeps track of a "Property Overhead Multiplier" (POM). Initially, the POM is 1. If the die roll is even, the POM is increased by 0.1. If it is odd, the POM is decreased by 0.1. The POM may not be less than 0.1 (further odd rolls do not change the POM), but there is no maximum. After calculating the overhead as described above, players must multiply it by the POM and pay that amount, rounded down. So, for instance, if a player rented out Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington with house(s) and the POM was 1.2, he would pay (28/2+15)*1.2=$34.8 rounded down to $34 in overhead. If the POM was .9, he would pay (14+15)*.9=$26.1, rounded down to $26 in overhead.
For utility services, overhead is determined by international petroleum markets (wildly fluctuating factors outside the game). At the beginning of the game, the player to go first rolls both dice (before his role for his turn). The overhead for the utilities is set as the product of the values shown on the two dice (the overhead will thus be between $1 and $36, with an expectation value of $12.25, if my calculations are correct). Rolling is done separately for gas and electric, and should be tracked by the notary. The player to go first rolls to set the overhead for each utility owned by the bank each time he passes go. When a utility is acquired by a player, whether from the bank or from another player, the current overhead remains in effect. However, that player now rolls to determine the new overhead cost each time he passes go.
For transportation services, overhead primarily accounts for fuel costs, which are determined by international markets. The transportation companies purchase their fuel wholesale, and so pay overhead directly to the Petroleum Distribution Co., in the following amounts:

  1. The Railroad Company pays overhead cost for the Electric Company, as defined above.

  2. The Bus Company pays 1.5 times the Electric Company overhead, rounded down.

  3. The Airline pays twice the Gas Company overhead

  4. The Trucking Company pays three times the Gas Company overhead

A player goes to jail by either sleeping on a park bench or landing on the go to jail space. In order to get out of jail, a player must pay a "booking fee" equal to the house price on the side of the board from which he went to jail (listed on the deeds to the properties on that side of the board; the go to jail space counts as part of the $150 side), plus a "room and board" fee equal to 1/10 the house price times the number of turns spent in jail. Players may not buy out of jail on the same turn they go to jail, so they have always spent one turn in jail (thus if the player is on the $150 side of the board or the go to jail space and pays out at the first opportunity, he will pay $165). Players do not get out of jail by rolling doubles. A player in jail may collect rent and conduct other business in jail with one exception: a player who is in jail may not sell property for less than face value unless such sale results in the payment of the jail fee.

Being Eliminated
A player is eliminated if he goes to jail and does not pay his way out by the end of the third turn. If a player is eliminated, all properties and cash still held by that player revert to the bank.

Houses and Apartments
Players may buy houses from the bank for their properties on their turns for the price listed on the deed. A player does not need a monopoly to buy houses. A property may have up to two houses on it. If the house price is paid a third time, the player gets an apartment building. A player may not sell houses or apartment buildings. Houses may be demolished for 1/5 what it cost to build them.
If a property has one house on it, the player staying on it may, on his next turn, after rolling the dice, elect to stay on that property rather than moving. He must pay the utility company which is closest in the forward direction (the utility company owner may charge any price he wishes; the bank charges twice the overhead if it owns one utility, or three times the overhead if it owns both), and he must pay rent to the owner of the property again. The owner of the property may charge a lower rent than on the previous turn, but may not charge a higher rent or refuse service, unless he was specifically given the power to do so by agreement with the tenant before the property was originally rented on the previous turn. (Note: this is not rent control; rather, the government has defined a "default" lease, which the renter and the landlord may modify if they so choose.) Since the player stays rather than moving, he does not pass start if his roll would take him past start had he moved.
If a property has two houses on it, two players may stay there, and each player may remain there, as described above.
If a property has an apartment building on it, an unlimited number of players may stay there, as described above.

Players may form any contract with any other player, provided that the contract does not require either player to do anything not otherwise permitted by the rules, and that the contracts do not involve anything outside the scope of the game. This includes exchanging ownership or property. The contracts should be recorded by the notary. Contracts may be attached to a property, in which case the property cannot be sold without passing those obligations along, or to a player, in which case obligations are not passed on to a new owner. Players must abide by the terms of contracts unless specifically released by the other party or parties involved.
Players may not mortgage properties to the bank or otherwise borrow money from it, but players may create mortgage contracts with other players.

Ending the Game
If the game is being played with objective 1, a player may declare that he has reached a net worth of $2000 at any time (provided that it is true), but is not obligated to do so. At this point, the other players may concede, and the player making the declaration wins. If the other players choose not to concede, players must proceed one more time around the board. A player who reaches the "Start" space takes his token off the board without collecting $200. He then continues negotiating and collecting rent until all players have removed their tokens. All players then calculate net worth as described below.
If the game is being played with objective 2, the play should continue, after time has run out, until each player has had the same number of turns (i.e., it should end immediately before the turn of the player who went first).
If the game is being played with objective 3, it ends immediately when either the second to last player is eliminated, or a stalemate is declared by a player (the stalemate must involve all players who have not been eliminated).

Net Worth
Net worth is the sum of the following:

  1. Cash on hand.

  2. Mortgage values of properties, utilities, and transportation companies.

  3. The values (positive or negative) of all contracts which have predictable and straightforward values.

  4. One half the purchase price of each house or apartment.

The following are examples of item 3:
  • If player A contracts with player B that B receives 25% of A's income from Locust Street, Philadelphia, which A owns, the contract's value is -$23 (25% of the mortgage value of the property, rounded to the nearest dollar) to A, and +$23 to B.

  • If player A owns all of San Francisco, and player B owns all of New York, and player C owns U.S. Trucking Company, and A contracts with B agreeing that A will refuse service to players landing in New York and B will refuse service to players landing in New York, the net value of the contract to A and B is $0, but the value to C is -$100, since it effectively renders U.S. Trucking Company worthless (a player landing in New York cannot be transported to San Francisco and rent a property there).

Stalemate Conditions
When playing with objective 3, there is at least one known stalemate condition: If a player owns a property with a house and also the relevant utility company, he may stay in that house and not move, at no cost to himself. If two players do this, a stalemate has ben reached. There may be other stalemate conditions as well.

Optional Rules
The following are some untested suggestions for additional rules:

  • Moving Houses. A player may move a house by paying 1/2 the house cost on the target property to the bank. (Players may buy houses from one another for this purpose).

  • Buying Jail. A player who lands on the jail space (rather than going to jail) may purchase a perpetual, fully assignable lease on the jail from the government for $750. That is, the player becomes a government contractor operating the prison system for profit. (Note: the justice of this system is questionable to say the least.) The lessee may not adjust the booking fee. He may adjust the room and board, but is not permitted to price discriminate (by the terms of his lease from the government); that is, the fee must be constant either as a flat value or a percentage of the booking fee and can be adjusted only at the beginning of the lessee's turn. When a player pays out of jail, the lessee collects half of the booking fee and all of the room and board; the other half of the booking fee is paid to the bank. The player must pay room and board as the sum of the costs on each of the turns he spent in jail.

Note that it is also possible to create new rules mid-game by forming a contract between all the players.

An Alternate Game: Zero-Sum Laissez-faire
Make the following adjustments to the above:

  1. There is no banker.

  2. At the beginning of the game, players take turns choosing title cards until all properties and companies are owned. The player who rolled highest and will begin the play goes first. After this, the player whose currently owned properties and companies have the lowest total value chooses a property. If there is a tie, the player among those tied who is the nearest to the left of the player who went last gets the next turn.

  3. All taxes and jail fees are placed in the center of the board (not in the bank).

  4. Players passing start do not collect any money from the bank. Instead, they collect all of the money from the center of the board.

  5. Only cash-on-hand counts in calculating net worth: properties and contracts do not.

If you try this game and like it (or don't like it), or have any suggestions for improvements, please comment below!

Note: the Creative Commons License which applies to this blog as a whole also applies to this game.

Posted by Kenny at March 10, 2007 1:32 PM
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Laissez-faire (The Game)
Excerpt: I received for Christmas this year a copy of the game Anti-Monopoly. The game has an interesting premise. Half of the players are "monopolists" who play according to rules similar to the original Monopoly, and...
Tracked: March 10, 2007 4:42 PM

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