Category: Articles

Free Market Monopoly

Back in 2010, Fiona Borrelli and I created a free and simple expansion for the Monopoly™ board game called “Free Market Monopoly”.

The idea behind the board game expansion was to create a more stimulating game for players looking for more financial complexity, more strategy and less chance.

My favourite board game of all time remains Diplomacy by Allan B. Calhamer / The Avalon Hill Game Co, and whilst Free Market Monopoly is no Diplomacy, it is definitely an incremental step towards the Diplomacy experience.

Furthermore, a game of Free Market Monopoly can be completed in a palatable timeframe (less than 2 days, which is my shortest ever Diplomacy game), and doesn’t require 7 people to be fully functional.

Expansion Overview

Monopoly: Free Market Expansion improves and extends the gameplay for veterans of the original Parker Brothers Monopoly board game. Having played the original rule set for many years, we identified the following areas for improvement:

  • Luck in early property acquisition creating an overly dominant player;
  • No ability for property poor players to get back into the game;
  • Difficulty in recording complex financial transactions between players;
  • Utilities and railway stations become irrelevant in end-game;
  • Gameplay is quite simplistic, often deterministic and doesn’t enable experienced players to capitalise on their experience;

The following items have been introduced into the Monopoly: Free Market Expansion

  • A welfare system for struggling players;
  • Formalised lending – bank to player and player to player;
  • Regular property tax;
  • Mining exploration rights on properties;
  • A new set of chance and community chest cards with interesting and realistic scenarios;

The expansion is FREE and can be played by simply downloading and printing off the new chance and community chest cards, and a lending ledger.

t + 10 years

10 years later, I recently fired up Free Market Monopoly and have some further thoughts on how to enrich the game which I plan to release in the coming months.

Many people reached out to me over the years with praise and feedback for the expansion, including senior staffers from various departments of treasury. It also seems to have influenced other expansions including Ultimate Monopoly (2014) which I look forward to trying out. Stay tuned.

Monopoly is a trademark of the Parker Brothers.

Armour is a Weapon

As part of Galactic Bioware‘s product development effort, I’ve had to get very deep in the issue of the handling of protected fibres such as those that comprise the well-known Kevlar (Aramid) by DuPont and less well-known, but much more interesting, Dyneema (UHMWPE) by Royal DSM which are common soft fabrics used in body armour products.

tl;dr – anything which can be used to make body armour outside of the US is extremely regulated as a weapon.

Each of the countries in our supply chain has different laws that apply to protected fibres, the ingredients for soft body armour. This makes for a complex regulatory web that impedes innovation in the civilian, defence and military sectors as a whole.

My opening position with this company is that our production should be onshore in Australia to help contribute to Australia’s efforts to rebuild a real economy based on advanced manufacturing, materials science, engineering, research and development, as opposed to, well, digging stuff out of the ground. This is particularly important for the state of Victoria, which has been the most severely economically debilitated by COVID-19.

The politics of body armour is not well known, but it is self-evident once you start to think about it. Some of the policing challenges in Australia’s modern memory start around the time of Ned Kelly and his gang which is a well-known but rare case of body armour being worn in a relatively contemporary society.

Ned Kelly’s home made body armour from c. 1880

Copyright Wikipedia
Image copyright Chensiyuan, sourced from Wikipedia
Key issues
  1. State’s desire for a monopoly on violence
  2. Principle of escalation in crime management
State monopoly on violence

The opening position of most contemporary societies (ex. USA) is that the state should have the monopoly on violence through police and the military. This means that weapons, and the protection from weapons, the argument goes, should only be available to these groups. Civilians do not need body armour in their daily lives, as the risk of harm from weapons is low.

In the State of Victoria, body armour is so defined:

“body armour” means a garment or item—
a) that is designed, intended or adapted for the purpose of protecting the body from the effects of a weapon, including a firearm; and
b) that is prescribed by the regulations to be body armour;

In New South Wales, the definitions are similar, as they are across most states in Australia.

The police in Australia have a great track record of not shooting people unless absolutely necessary, and violent crime is very low, so the question is why should anyone want body armour in the first place?

Well, low risk is not no risk. The world is becoming increasingly fragile and the availability and proliferation of weapons is definitionally higher than is reported.

Body armour (in general) also protects against innocent accidents e.g. hunter cross-fire to park rangers and hikers, bomb shrapnel, stab wounds, etc. It must be noted though that body armour is surprisingly lacking in versatility, for example, armour that is good for resisting ballistics such as bullets might be hopeless with knife slashes.

Whilst the state has monopolised violence at law, they have not in practice, and the disarmed and disarmoured civilian population currently absorbs this risk.

Principle of escalation

Escalation is best summarised by Commissioner Jim Gordon in Batman Begins:

Batman
Batman is a trademark of DC Comics, film copyright Warner Bros. Pictures

Jim Gordon: What about escalation?
Batman: Escalation?
Jim Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds.

See clip on YouTube

It is a well accepted and rarely challenged argument that the greater the availability of body armour, the more it can be used by criminals to resist arrest and potentially do more harm whilst at-large. So that if body armour is legal, then criminals will be harder to catch.

Critics of this position suggest that if criminals can obtain weapons illegally, they can also obtain body armour illegally. Therefore, making body armour illegal disadvantages law abiding citizens seeking lower overall risk of harm, and does not really impact on criminals. Body armour in the hands of law abiding citizens does not pose risk to other citizens.

In an increasingly uncertain world with the visible breaking down of many systems that were assumed to always work, some of these legal positions may need to be revisited.

As a result, when Galactic Bioware launches its first product range in late 2020, the products, while Made in Australia, will not be available for Australian consumers.

What to expect

About PhillipKingston.com

I’ve had this domain since 2006 and it has taken on various incarnations since then to support my business and non-profit interests.

In 2020, after a number of quite significant life events, it will take on a new role.

I intend to post fairly regularly on a diverse range of topics including:

  • Entrepreneurial and business learnings from my 18 years working in my own technology businesses.
  • Market failure and irrationality.
  • Quirks in public markets and resulting opportunities.
  • Private markets and venture capital gossip.
  • Behind the scenes stories from my time at Sargon, GrowthOps and Trimantium.
  • Challenges and announcements from my new business Galactic Bioware

I am also likely to post niche content in the realms of skateboarding, DOTA and survivalism. Consider yourself warned. Please read and agree to the disclaimer before reading on.