I don't play three hour games of Monopoly. My average game lasts about a half hour -- that's all it takes to either win or lose massively. And I prefer it that way.
A few years back, when I tore my ACL, my friends would come over and play quite a few board games. One that came up a lot was Monopoly. The only problem: My friend Adam and I both play an ultra-aggressive, cutthroat style that's quite different than the Monopoly everyone grows up playing with their families. We essentially play Monopoly like real estate moguls in the mid-2000s -- get our hands on as much property as possible, borrow against most of them to build like crazy on a few, either make a fortune or promptly declare bankruptcy.
As a very competitive person I almost didn't want to write this list because I figured it might give my friends too much insight they could use to beat me in the future. But that's crazy, right? Right?
Anyway, here are my 11 strategies for dominating Monopoly by turning it from a marathon into a blitzkrieg sprint to the finish. Please use it freely to infuriate and dominate your family and friends who thought they were just settling down for a nice, long, relaxing night of smiles and camaraderie.
Try the old "Let's put $500 in Free Parking" suggestion.
Push to make Free Parking as lucrative as possible. When you're deciding on the house rules before the game, the key things you want to push are: As much money in Free Parking as possible (at a minimum it should be all taxes/penalties), and $400 for landing exactly on Go.
You want plenty of opportunities to get quick, large windfalls because you'll either get that cash yourself and be able to build quicker... or, because of your hardcore strategy, you'll take that money from other players and then use it to crush them further. There's no such thing as massive inflation in Monopoly, because the housing prices don't go up when you flood the market with cash. Monopoly economics don't equal real world economics. And you can take my word for it because my last name is Greenspan.
Buy as much property as you can early on, even Baltic or Mediterranean. Your two goals early are (1) get a Monopoly as quickly as possible and (2) own at least one property from every color group to have full control over every possible Monopoly. Monopoly games, much like cable TV providers, rely on crushing people's souls with monopolies. So if you have a Monopoly and can block every single other Monopoly, your chance of losing quickly approaches zero (unless someone owns railroads and you have horrible, horrible rolling luck).
Even if you have Baltic and Mediterranean, you will very gradually bleed the other person dry... but it will be a long, slow, boring death. Like, if you decided to kill someone by planting a tree in their yard, waiting until it grew taller than their house, then chopping it down so it lands on them. That's victory via Baltic.
Do not buy the utilities. Electric Company and Water Works are basically useless and just like setting money on fire early. Like the railroads, they don't lead to a Monopoly; but at least the railroads have a chance to take a few hundred dollars from someone on all four sides of the board. Plus people actually want the railroads in trades and look at them on nearly the same level as real properties -- the utilities are on the same level as throwing in a Get Out of Jail Free card or an offer to be the person who gets up to go to the kitchen.
There are only two utilities, and they only have a one-in-36 chance of bringing you $120 if someone lands there. More likely it will be $70 -- or $28 if you only own one. That amount of money can't win a game; you're better off investing the $300 it would cost to buy them into a real property or a hotel.
Make us proud, Wentworth Miller.
Get out of jail as quickly as possible until a Monopoly has been made.You don't have time to be in jail when everyone's making the initial land rush. It's fine to be in jail after you've built some houses through a flurry of questionable mortgages and ill-gotten tax gains. (Officially, you can still collect money while you're in jail.)
If you must buy railroads (I do not), plan to use them as trade bait. I don't really like the railroads. Early on, I hate dumping $200 each on them. Other people disagree and look at them as a way to grab a decent amount of money early in the game. Either way, they become far less significant once there are Monopolies with houses/hotels collecting much, much bigger sums. That's the point where you can use them as trade bait -- or, to put it another way, as a sack of magic beans. A lot of people are suckers for railroads -- maybe you can trade the railroads straight up for a property that gives you a Monopoly.
Never make a trade until one player has a Monopoly (and never make a trade that gives someone a Monopoly without you getting one in return). There are two phases of the game: Before someone has a Monopoly and after the first Monopoly is made. Don't make a trade in the first phase unless someone is giving you a Monopoly without you giving them one back in return. Your goal is to be the first and only person on the board with a Monopoly. And then to taunt people about it. Don't forget the taunting.
If you must trade look to get two Monopolies for one in a trade. If a few players have Monopolies and you must make a trade, try to figure out a way to get two Monopolies by offering one. Example: If you can get two lesser Monopolies for one of the Greens or Boardwalk/Park Place, do it. Especially if you're playing with a finite number of houses and hotels, since it'll be cheaper for you to hoard them on your less-expensive land. Of course, like many of the other trading strategies on this list, this will only work until your opponents figure out your strategy and stop trading with you. Unless you're playing with little kids -- you can keep on crushing them for years before they figure out how to stop you.
It. Ate. Everything.
Once you have a Monopoly, mortgage EVERYTHING. Now that you have a Monopoly, you win the game by punishing people for landing on it. And as people in real life will tell you, mortgages are awesome. So mortgage everything you've got (except the two or three properties in your Monopoly) and build as many houses/hotels as possible as quickly as possible. Your mortgaged properties are still blocking other people from getting Monopolies, meanwhile you're using the cash from them to build on your good properties. And, really, there's no reason to ever unmortgage them -- collecting anywhere from $4 to $50 isn't going to make a difference when the properties in your Monopoly are collecting hundreds or thousands.
Do keep a few hundred bucks on hand though. It's disappointing when you're fully mortgaged, have houses on all your properties... then you get elected Chairman of the Board or you land on, like, Marvin Gardens and you have to sell back a house. Try to keep your bank supply around $300 or so, which is enough to weather anything except someone else's housed-up Monopoly. Not being able to come up with $45 in Monopoly money is arguably more embarrassing and shows less financial acumen than not being able to come up with $45 in real life.
Example of the three-house jump.
Get to three houses per property as quickly as possible. If you look at the pay schedule on any property, you see that one house doesn't get you that much money. Two houses is a decent bump, but still not a killer. But once you make the jump to three houses there's a massive price difference. Your goal for every Monopoly is to get three houses on your two or three properties because that's the best value for your money. No reason to make that push to four houses or a hotel right away; as long as you're at three, you're doing fine. Then once people land on them a few times you'll have enough to buy hotels.
Know when to concede or to convince your opponent to concede.You're looking to win (or, less frequently, lose) very quickly. So, if one person has any Monopoly and blocks on every other Monopoly, concede. Even if one person has a weak Monopoly and blocks on every other Monopoly, concede. If you're playing with multiple people and there's no way to make any trades where everyone's happy, call it a game. And if you have a Monopoly and a full board of blocks, convince your opponent or opponents to concede.
Yes, if one person concedes their properties go back in the mix. And the other players could buy those and keep the game going. But that's no fun as a group. So concede collectively and start again. With this style you can play two or three games in the time it would normally take to play one.
And sure, after playing this style, it may be hard to convince people to quit because they're suspicious of you. Just remind them: Anti-trust is never good for Monopoly. Then say "HI-YO!"
This post was originally published on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:00:00 AM under the category Games.