“That’ll be six bucks rent,” I say, laughing maniacally.
“Why are you acting like you just won? It’s only six bucks.”
“That’s the second time in a row you’ve landed on my properties. Soon I’ll be a rich man.”
“Dude, I landed on Mediterranean Avenue. That was a whopping four bucks.”
“Making a total of ten. Land on St. Charles place next and it’ll be another ten!”
“But you paid me a total of forty four dollars rent on your last trip around the board. Even if I land on St. Charles, your net loss is still twenty four bucks.”
“Phh, net loss my ass. I don’t speak your fancy business mumbo-jumbo. Now fork over that rent before I have you arrested for loitering.”
Without a doubt, Monopoly has become the most popular board game in the world. With publisher Parker Brothers claiming 750 million regular players worldwide (Source: Look it up yourself, I’m not your research monkey), one would be hard pressed to find someone in the United States who hasn’t taken at least one trip around the board. As such, stating the objectives and rules of the game would be a waste of time. But I’m going to do it anyway, just because I’m an asshole.
The objective of Monopoly is simple: beat your opponents into submission. But that’s pretty much the objective of every game, so nothing terribly new there. In Monopoly, you win the game by buying, trading and developing on property, hoping that your co-players land on your spaces, and that you can bankrupt them all and be the last (and wealthiest) person standing.
So how can one go about bankrupting one’s friends? By rolling dice and forking over money for property. If you’re fortunate enough, another player will land on this property, and they will have to pay you rent to stay there. You take this money and use it to buy more property. The players land on these new properties, and give you more money.
After a few trips around the board, you might find yourself holding the deeds to all of the properties of a certain color. This is a “monopoly”, and you now have the building rights for these spaces on the boards. Fork over some more money and start throwing houses and hotels on your properties. This elevates rent prices, earning you more money (be sure to thank your friends for allowing you to gouge them further. It was their money that bought those hotels, after all).
So why did I want to write about Monopoly? As much as I like the standard “I damn well felt like it” answer, I recently played a game against the computer and kicked it’s ass. I fought off seven other opponents, all computer generated, and bankrupted them all (of course, the computer players are pretty dumb). This reminded me of how much I enjoy this game, and wanted to re-live some fond memories of traveling clockwise around a colorful slab of cardboard in endless repetition, shafting my friends with exorbitant rent prices and getting shafted by not realizing that I was making a bad trade.
As one may guess from my opening introduction, it appears that I tend to be a particularly competitive player. For the most part this isn’t the case, and I just like to laugh maniacally. It’s really a fake competitiveness, designed to bring some humor and entertainment into the game, and I don’t particularly care who wins or loses. Although I can occasionally do a fair job of winning.
While I won’t say that I’m a skilled monopoly player (not like those crazy people in the tournaments who run probabilities and math figures), I do have some tricks up my sleeve, and I can work a trade that seems beneficial to another player at the time, but is really a screw job down the line.
That’s really my favorite part of Monopoly, the trading. Someone gets a property that you want, ask them to sell it to you, maybe fork over a property of your own in return. Simple, right? Not if you can look past the here and now.
Now, the art of the trade comes in by looking towards the future and thinking over some basic odds and probabilities. Let’s say that you own one orange property, Bill owns an orange property, and the third is still unowned. You want Bill‘s property and the unowned one. Bill knows you want these properties, but since it won‘t be an instant Monopoly, he may be willing to talk. As long as he gets the better side of the deal, that is.
Now, you may be forking over double the price for one of their properties because they think they’re giving you the royal screw job. But now you have two orange properties and need one more for the Monopoly, one which happens to be on the market. Leaving this to chance that I might land on it isn’t strictly what I would call a winning strategy, but that’s where the probabilities of dice come in.
With the standard pair of six-sided dice there are thirty six possible outcomes, and the most common sum of the two numbers is a seven (six out of thirty six, about seventeen percent). The chances of rolling anything except a seven are pretty high, being thirty out of thirty six, but the chances of rolling a two or a twelve are miniscule. So when I try to set this deal up, I wait until chance has landed me seven spaces away from the unsold property. I offer to buy my nemesis’ orange property, and will pay something “reasonable“. And by “reasonable”, I mean something that won’t leave me destitute and unable to buy anything but an expired candy bar. Something around twice the purchasing cost can be beneficial if it gets you the property. After that it’s up to the dice. The magic “seven spaces” trick has worked a few times for me, much to my opponent’s chagrin.
So maybe you don’t want anything left to chance in the trade. Maybe you just want to make what appears to be a good deal but will actually win you the game in the long run. Well the tactics are simple, and it’s pretty much based on the general strategy of the game. The general strategy is “own as much property as you can.” Your trading plan is now “never sell or trade your property”.
Unless you’re playing a timed game (where after a certain amount of time everyone stops, counts their total worth and declares a winner), the only way you’re going to win is to collect rents. The more property you own, the more possible rents you stand to get for each trip around the board. So if you’re playing until everyone is bankrupt, one would be wise to never, ever sell a single scrap of land you own. Only give out cash for their land. Buy a property off of Timmy, make a few passes on Go to get some more money, collect a few rents, and then buy a property off of Alice. You can own a total of fourteen properties (not including railroads or utilities) without getting a monopoly. That leaves eight remaining properties for the other players, and the odds are in your favor. Own a railroad or two, maybe a utility, and you own the majority of the board. Then it’s only a matter of time.
I’ve actually become slightly infamous for buying property off of people straight out of the gates. Julio has the first roll and lands on Oriental Avenue, concordantly buying the fine property for one hundred bucks. Before anyone else can touch the dice, I’ll offer him one hundred ten for it.
The only way I will ever trade any of my properties is if it gets me a Monopoly. If I tried to get a Monopoly off of cash, a savvy opponent will charge me every last dollar I have so I won‘t be able to build a house right away. By throwing in a property or two that’s doing me little good, I can get a Monopoly and start building houses. They land on these expensive properties, I’ll give a “rent forgiveness” if they give me back the property I previously traded.
Now for my favorite stratagem, although it’s not so much a stratagem as it is a dirty trick. The buy-out.
So you have a good, rousing game of Monopoly going with three or more players (preferably more, and this will never work with just two players). Make a few trips around the board until most of the property is bought up. Then you approach the player who has the least amount of properties, and offer to buy one. Give them a slight profit, and as long as you aren’t getting a Monopoly, chances are that they will be pretty reasonable. Make a few more trips around the square, and buy another one of their properties. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Soon the player will look at their pile of money and state their belief that they are the richest player on the board. This is when you break the bad news to them.
“Yeah, Kimmy, I think you are the richest. But now you have no property left.”
As the realization hits that they are doomed to pay rent after rent, never collecting anything in return, they quickly turn to the other players in the game, begging to sell them something, anything. If everyone in the game is the same sort of jackass that I am, no one will sell poor Kimmy anything, leaving her destined to sell her backside on Baltic Avenue, become addicted to meth and tell her therapist of how she could have been a real estate mogul.
One final piece of advice before ending this article- do your damndest to become the “slum lord”. Those cheap-ass purple and light blue properties on the bottom of the board? Those are your best friends.
“But Johnny,” you say, “those properties have the lowest rents in the game! How can I expect to win by collecting pithy four and six dollar rents when I have to fork over fifty whenever I land on Boardwalk?”
Two reasons. These properties are the cheapest to buy, and, more importantly, they are the cheapest to build on. Vermont Avenue runs $100 bucks to purchase, earns you a six dollar rent, and a twelve dollar rent if you have the light blue monopoly. But let’s say you have said monopoly- you can build houses for fifty bucks each, and after four houses, the hotel costs an extra fifty. That’s two hundred and fifty bucks for one hotel per property, but since you have to build evenly, all three properties can have hotels for $750 bucks. Get the purple monopoly as well, and for $1,250 dollars you have five hotels on a row that consists of ten spaces. Somewhere around fifty percent odds that someone will land on at least one of these. Snag the Reading Railroad, and you have all six profitable properties on the bottom row.
Now when you have a hotel on Vermont, you get $550 in rent. Probably not going to bankrupt anyone, but you’ve built the cheapest hotels, and if you collect three rents on this property, you’ve already made a profit on the five hotels. Furthermore, there’s the chance that one player can have some really crappy luck with the dice and hit three of your hotel properties. Let’s say they hit Baltic, Vermont and Connecticut Avenues, and in their three turns you’ve made $1600.
Now let’s say you’ve gotten Park Place and Boardwalk, the dark blue monopoly, the real money makers. Houses cost two hundred each, and to get two hotels, you spend about two thousand dollars. Now if someone lands on Boardwalk with a hotel, they’ve lost a lot of cash. But you’ve spent seven hundred and fifty dollars more for just two hotels than you would have for five cheap ones, and have less hotels for people to land on.
And do you remember that “rent forgiveness” thing I was talking about earlier? When someone lands on your expensive property and you let that exorbitant rent go for a little favor? I’m not referring to a sexual favor, but rather new property for you. Someone lands on Oriental Avenue, they have to cough up six hundred clams. They have to mortgage to get the entire amount, but before they can get the money from the bank, just say “hey Phil, you don’t have to pay that six hundred bucks. Just give me St. Charles place instead.”
St. Charles costs $140 to buy off of the board, so you’re giving Phil on heck of a deal. But you’re on your way to getting the light purple monopoly, where houses cost $100 each, and the hotel rent is better than the slums.
So now I’ve given away all of my Monopoly tricks and schemes. And I’m willing to bet that a lot of readers knew at least a few of these, if not all of them, but I enjoyed the hell out of writing this article. Now I just have to hope that I don’t play Monopoly against someone who has read this…