New Market Economy Needs New 'Monopoly'

The Russian version of the game Monopoly has always been a favorite among my family and friends. Even my baby daughter loves it -- but only because she thinks it's fun to throw the pieces around.

In the old days of Soviet socialism, we used to bring the game out for Russian friends who delved eagerly into the vicious game of capitalism, buying hotels and cutting deals around our table into the wee hours of the morning.

Monopoly is still fun, but the version we have now is a relic of the past. The ruble denominations -- the highest is 500 -- are laughable, as are the Community Chest cards that state things like Vam dostalis' 45 rublei ot prodazhi aktsii or "You have earned 45 rubles from the sale of shares." And our friends, who once found the game's concepts so alien, now laugh at its innocent view of the rough Russian capitalist jungle.

So, in order to keep up with the times, we have come up with a few suggested changes for Parker Brothers. The venerable game maker should recognize, after all, that Monopoly is a metaphor for Russian business today and that a new, improved version could garner some brisk sales.

First, we'd tell Parker Brothers to add three zeros -- better make that six -- to the play money, or, for the high rollers, use real bills.

Second, we'd change some of the streets. Sure, Arbat is okay as the equivalent of Boardwalk, the most expensive property on the board, but why does Ulitsa Gor'kogo -- oops, Tverskaya -- cost only 220 rubles?

Why would a hotel there cost only 1,050 rubles? And, to pay tribute to the game's origin of Atlantic City, why not add a casino or two? Moscow certain has plenty to choose from.

As for the utilities, we would leave "Water Works" right where it is, at 150 rubles. This may be the New Russia, but the hot water still goes off in the summer.

The Russian version, like the American game, has the besplatnaya stoyanka or free parking corner. For New Russian Monopoly? We don't think so.

We would definitely rewrite the Community Chest cards, getting rid of totally unrealistic things like Bankovskaya oshibka v vashu pol'zu or "Bank mistake in your favor." We'd substitute instead U MMM -- nyet problem! or "MMM has no problems" -- the investment fund's ironic slogan).

Likewise, Vozvrat podokhodnogo naloga or "Tax refund" has to go. Add instead: Novy nalog na dobavlennuyu stoimost or "New VAT," increase implied. We would update the treasured "Get out of jail free" cards to "Pay a small fine, get out of jail."

If you don't pay? Don't pass go, don't get 200,000,000 rubles.