Monopoly Strategy: The Ultimate Guide

Monopoly strategy article cover image

How many times did you lose at this game because you didn’t have a Monopoly strategy up your sleeves? Personally, too many.

Playing Monopoly at Christmas or other big festivities is a tradition for a lot of families.
It’s that kind of game that everyone knows, more or less, so it’s quick to get you started right after the last dessert and when everyone’s belly is exploding.

In that situation, you just wanna play an “easy” game without bothering about strategies or listening to your cousin’s deep explanation of some new fancy board games he just got (in my family most of the time THAT cousin is me).

And that is why you keep losing. This is not an easy game and you shouldn’t just play it passively.

It’s true that Monopoly is a game where luck plays an important role and where a pair of dice can actually decide on where you land, but it’s also true that decision-making plays a huge role.
Monopoly is a game full of opportunities and if you just roll the die hoping to land on that particularly sweet square that stares at you since the start of the game, you’re playing it wrong.

The goal of the game is to develop a reasonably good board that’s in your favour and in this Monopoly strategy guide you will learn some of the best tips that you can apply straight away to your next game.

P.S.: I’m not a professional player. This Monopoly strategy is intended to help casual gamers increase their winning ratio with some useful tips.
If you are a professional Monopoly player that casually bumped into this article, feel free to add your personal contribution in the comments section.

#1 | Spend your money in the early game

The early game is the most important phase and where the foundation of your future wealth is built.
If you’re lucky enough to land on good properties and you buy them, you’re almost set for the rest of the game. On the other hand, poor purchase decisions could lead you to a sure loss.

The most important thing in the early game is to spend your money and buy as many properties as you can, better if they are in the same colour group.
The reason? Your goal is to keep the cash flowing and you can’t achieve it without buying properties. Simple.

There is actually another reason, low value properties can be useful in future turns when you start trading with the other players.
They may have a property that you want and vice versa.

Now, not all the properties have the same value, so it’s important to know which ones have high value and which are not worth it.

#2 | Which Monopoly properties are the best?

Before jumping into the answer, let me say that in this section I’ll be referring to certain colours, so watch out if you still play any older Monopoly editions, as the tiles can be different. I’m thinking about the Italian Monopoly I used to play ages ago, in which the colours were messed up.

Monopoly new version
Monopoly very old version

Going back to the main question, which properties are considered the best?
Short answer: Orange and Red.

Why though?

When I was a young boy I always considered the blue properties to be the most valued one, but at the time I didn’t take into consideration an important aspect of the game: probability.

First off, it’s important to know the dice roll probability:

  • the chance of rolling a 7 is 16.7%
  • the chance of rolling a 6 and 8 is 13.9%
  • the chance of rolling a 5 and 9 is 11.1%
  • the chance of rolling a 4 and 10 is 8.3%
  • the chance of rolling a 3 and 11 is 5.5%
  • the chance of rolling a 2 and 12 is 2.8%

Another important aspect to know is the probability of landing on certain properties.
Putting together the dice probabilities and the cards in the Chance deck, we can say that these are the most visited tiles:

  • In Jail
  • Illinois Avenue
  • Go
  • New York Avenue
  • B&O Railroad
  • Reading Railroad
  • Tennessee Avenue

Combining all the above information and defining an average out of each colour, the properties you should aim for are ranked as follow:

  • Orange – 2.9%
  • Red – 2.9%
  • Yellow – 2.7%
  • Green – 2.6%
  • Purple – 2.5%
  • Light blue – 2.3%
  • Blue – 2.4%
  • Brown – 2.1%
Probability of landing on property tiles

Last but not least, Railroad and Utilities. Should you buy them or not?

Always buy Railroads: if you can get 4 Railroads you will have a solid asset on your side for the entire duration of the game; they provide great cash flow (thanks to the multiplier rule applied when you own more than once) without any other cost than what you initially paid for.
Therefore, if you are lucky enough on landing on a couple of them in the early game, try to acquire them all as they are absolutely worth it.

Never buy Utilities: they don’t bring enough money to justify their cost. If you can get them at a discounted price through auctions, you could consider buying them for the purpose to have more properties that can be traded for something better in the next turns.
But as a general tip, don’t bother with them.

#3 | Develop 3 Houses as quickly as possible

When you own all the properties in a colour group, you can finally start building some houses and it’s important that you build 3 houses on each property as soon as you can.

Just by looking at any property cards, you can notice that it’s only when you build 3 houses that the rent value gets a huge boost.
You want to be in that sweet spot for as long as you can.

The earlier you build 3 houses, the longer they stay on the board and the more probabilities you have to collect rent when other players land on them.

If you don’t have enough money to build 3 houses, consider mortgaging your other properties.
You’ll have plenty of money later on if you wanna buy them back from the bank.

Another important tip related to when you own all the properties in a colour group is to never leave those properties undeveloped.

Undeveloped properties aren’t useful at all on your path to building wealth.

#4 | Create a housing shortage

The previous tip, developing 3 houses as fast as you can, not only helps you get higher rent when other people land on them, but it also works towards another goal of yours:

Create a housing shortage.

In Monopoly, there is a limited number of buildings that you can develop (32 houses and 12 hotels) and when they are all in place on the board, players with a lower count of buildings will usually face bad times.

It’s important that you have built enough real estate for when the housing shortage will eventually hit the board. At that point just wait until someone will be forced to sell any of their properties and take the chance to develop furthermore your monopoly.

#5 | Create a Monopoly and stop others from achieving it

The goal of the game is to bankrupt your opponents and you’re more likely to achieve it when you have a monopoly and the other players don’t.

Always buy a property if it gets you closer to a monopoly.

If you own already a property of a certain colour and you get the chance to buy a second one in that colour group, go for it.
Most of the time it doesn’t make any sense to leave any free spaces on the board for other players to buy.

You should also consider buying any properties that could stop other players to achieve a monopoly.
Imagine a player that already owns 2 tiles in a certain colour group seeing you stop him from achieving a monopoly by purchasing the last one of the lot. From your opponent’s perspective that property is valued 10 times more than the price you paid for it and can be used for future trades or could be exchanged for a huge amount of money.

And he will hate you of course.

#6 | Make the most out of any trade

First of all, you should study your opponents in order to understand their preferences in terms of properties location.

I’ve been playing for years with the idea that the blue tiles were the most valuable properties to own and I would have accepted almost anything in exchange for those.

If you’re playing with someone that is a beginner in Monopoly or has less experience than you, it’s likely that they might value a property wrongly and you could take the opportunity to get a better trade.

Another important tip is to never trade a property that guarantees a monopoly to someone without getting yourself a monopoly, or even better two.
For example, I’d be willing to trade a Blue property card in exchange for two lesser cards that could get me a monopoly on 2 colour groups.

#7 | Know when it’s time to stay in Jail and when it’s not

Jail time is always seen as a bad thing, but in this Monopoly strategy I’ll explain you how to choose when it’s better to run freely or when it’s more convenient to stay behind the bars.

In the early game is important to avoid being in Jail at all costs. If you end up there, pay the fee and keep rolling the dice.
The main reason is that you want to be outside fighting for every unowned land on the board.

Remember tip #1? You can’t buy properties if you waste your time in jail.

In mid-game, the situation changes. I define mid-game when the first monopoly is achieved; from that moment until the end of the game the average price of rents is much higher, so you should adjust your strategy according.

Keep in mind that your properties will keep collecting the rent while you’re in prison, so if you have any monopoly on the board and your opponents too, it’s probably not too bad staying away from the troubles for some turns.

The jail will become your cold refuge and your bank account will thank you.

#8 | Carefully evaluate which property you can mortgage

Taking a mortgage allows you to gain useful capital to reinvest in developing more houses or to acquire better tiles that could lead you to another monopoly.

When you have to mortgage any of your properties it is recommended to choose carefully which one it’s better to mortgage before wasting money.

  • Always prioritize the mortgage of properties for which you only have a single card. Never mortgage any property from a colour group where you possess two or more properties.
  • Never mortgage any properties for which there is higher probability for other players to land on them. For example never mortgage any orange or red properties.

#9 | Start auctioning when others don’t have money

Avoid auctioning off properties during the early part of the game, since most players can easily outbid you.
Wait for better timing, when only a few properties are left.

Most players at this point of the game only have a few dollars left and whatever they make off rent is not usually enough for a bid.

If you manage to land on one of the few remaining properties, you could consider putting it up for auction.
If you plan this correctly, you might get the property for less than its listed price.

You can also leverage this opportunity to push your opponents to the brink of bankruptcy. If one of your opponents needs the property you just landed on to complete their set, try to increase the bid price. Just keep in mind when it’s better to stop offering money as you could end up screwed by your own evil plan.

The auction mechanic is sometimes completely bypassed by house rules because it would make the game longer and not all the players like this way to interact with each other.
If it’s your first time playing with auctions, I’d suggest you proceed cautiously.

#10 | Study your opponents and build relations with them

A huge part of this Monopoly winning strategy is the interaction between you and your opponents.

It’s important to establish good relations with other players for a few reasons:

First of all, you want to be seen as a good partner when they’re looking out for a Trade and vice versa. If you are a D-Bag nobody will ever want to interact with you, and winning the game will become much harder.

You don’t absolutely want that all the players will corner you, so try to keep yourself under the radar and don’t celebrate in your opponents’ face any time you purchase an undervalued property.

Studying your opponents will help you to make better trades or purchases, knowing what properties they are after.
It’s fundamental to know your competitors, and most of the time it’s an underestimated side of the game.

Even though the goal of the game is to crush your opponents, you still need some sort of cooperation with them to win so try your best to not screw this up.

#11 | Bonus tip

My bonus tip is this: HAVE FUN!

Playing Monopoly can be stressful and a bit infuriating at times. Rolling dice sucks and you could easily feel out of the game pretty soon if you can’t keep up in the early game.

In the last few years, I have personally switched over other kinds of games without regrets. In Christmas 2019 we played Tokaido, Smash Up and Clue with my relatives. Had tons of fun.

In Christmas 2020… well we all know what happened, but that didn’t stop me and my girlfriend to play some cool two-player board games, such as my favourite 7 Wonders Duel and her favourite Carcassonne.

If you want to try something different, I have put together a list of games suited for beginners or more casual players, it might be useful for you too.

Anyway, if you follow this Monopoly strategy I guarantee that your next game will be definitely better. Can’t say you’ll win, but it’ll be more likely to happen than playing without any guidelines.