Despite its venerable history, the board game Monopoly is as popular as ever and continues to inspire new variations on the classic theme.

Despite its venerable history, the board game Monopoly is as popular as ever and continues to inspire new variations on the classic theme. Thus last year its 70th anniversary was celebrated with the introduction of a skateboard, mobile phone and roller blades as new playing pieces, presumably chosen to be emblematic of modern life. In addition, international variations have also popped up, together with regional varieties within countries.  

Here in the UK one can purchase county versions, versions based on football teams, and larger city versions. Even some smaller towns get the nod, including, rather bizarrely, Wigan, although it is not clear whether the board is shaped like one of the pies with which the town’s inhabitants are rumoured to be so enamoured. 

In light of this there is surely some merit in introducing scientific variations, and indeed impromptu digressions on the Monopoly theme have been pursued before now in order to introduce, for example, chemical concepts of the elements to the younger generation of budding chemists. This needs to be taken a stage further, however, to allow some of the harsh truths of research chemistry to be hammered home to 
those thinking of embarking upon an academic career.  

In the original game, spaces on the board are occupied by hotels ranked by rental price; perhaps in our new version we could have journals arranged in order of increasing impact factor. Land on one occupied by an opponent and you pay up for plagiarism.  

The winner is the first person to make FRS. Of course in the limited edition vice-chancellor’s Monopoly the positions on the board list departments within the individual university and the winner is the first one who succeeds in building a business school in place of chemistry. 

As with the original, there would be the element of chance introduced by ’community chest’ and ’chance’ cards. These would include: 

’The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has bounced your proposal - go back 10 spaces.’ 

’Your department has introduced a space charge - pay ?200.’ 

’Your crystal structure turned out to be something unexpected and you reckon you can blag it into ChemComm  - go forward three spaces.’ 

’You’ve finally got round to checking the Cambridge structural Database and it turns out it’s been done before. In 1926. Go back five.’ 

’Full Economic Costing introduced - miss one turn while you try to get your head around it.’ 

’Your department’s Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) grade has dropped - get out now.’ 

’Your grant application for a new NMR machine was successful - go straight to Jeol.’ 

’Your grad student is pregnant - go back three spaces.’ 

’You’re the father - go back 10.’ 

’Advance to Nature.’ 

Nature  has been on the phone. Some of your graphs look awfully similar. Drop out of the game.’ 

Come to think of it, Monopoly is surely not the only classic game that could be rebranded. How about Chemical Cluedo? Backstabbing and nefarious practices are common enough practices in chemistry departments at the best of times and so there should be no problem adapting it.  

Denouements would thus include ’Colonel Mustard in the teaching lab with an ion exchange column,’ ’Professor Plum in the glove box with a Tesla coil,’ and ’Rev Green in the lift with half a litre of phenolphthalein’. That kind of thing. I think it could work. 

And as for computer games? Well, Rome: total war  requires the player to build up an empire using cunning, advanced - and often brutal - military tactics, and all manner of skulduggery. RAE: total war  would require ... well, much the same really. 

Paul Kelly