For the last couple of weeks I have been on a winter break from college, which for me means traveling all over the Midwest trying to see all the family members that I rarely get the chance to see throughout the year. Not only did I get to spend time with my family that I haven’t seen in a while, but I also got the chance to play some games with them. And when you are looking for a game that the whole family can sit around the table and play, few games are more reliable than Monopoly. Sure, it might end up permanently tearing the family apart, but at least everyone knows how to play!
Monopoly has been around for over 80 years, and is one of the rare games that has not only survived all that time but thrived. Very few games have the same kind of brand recognition as Monopoly, and over the years it has become a household name. Heck, it even has an annual promotion with McDonalds! Because of this level of recognition, there are very few people who haven’t played this game (or one of it’s thousands of variations and knock-offs) at least once.
When playing with my family, one of the most interesting things that I noticed was that everybody had their own unique strategies and preferences.One of the most interesting things about these different strategies is how much value each player puts on the different board spaces. Certain spaces, such as the utilities, are often considered worthless while others, such as Boardwalk and Park Place, are highly coveted. But how accurate are these judgements? And, more importantly, what are the actual best spaces and monopolies on the board?
To Be The Very Best, Like No One Ever Was
Before we go any further, we should try to figure our what being the best square in monopoly actually means. For the most part, Monopoly has two goals. First goal – have enough money to survive landing on your opponent’s squares. Second goal – build up your properties enough so that your opponent’s cannot survive landing on your squares.
While these two goals may seem like they always fit together, this is not actually the case. Often in games of Monopoly players will end up spending far too much money trying to build up their own properties, without saving enough to survive their opponent’s squares and simply hoping that they will get lucky. On the other hand, there are other players who try to conserve their money too much, and end up crippling their income capabilities.
As far as simple survival, the corner squares are by far the best at simply keeping players alive. These four squares – Go, Jail, Free Parking, and Go To Jail, never have any negative consequences for the player and in some cases actually provide the player with free income. However, these squares are public spaces, and for the purposes of this article I am going to focus on properties that can be purchased.
In terms of conserving money, the most straightforward approach is to simply not buy any properties, but this is a recipe for disaster. However, another approach could be to try and get as much board coverage as possible without necessarily improving your properties. By getting a lot of coverage over the board you can minimize your chances of landing on an enemy square, and give yourself a chance to survive as long as possible. Unfortunately, this strategy has very low income potential and without some way to generate passive income you will eventually run out of money. You also have a very low chance of actually knocking out any other players from the game.
If you are simply looking for the square with the highest income potential, Boardwalk is the obvious choice. With a hotel it has the highest rent in the game, costing a back-breaking 2000 dollars to land on. That amount is enough to take out almost any player in one foul swoop. It’s partner Park Place is no slouch either, with a very respectable 1500 dollar maximum rent.
These properties have the potential to absolutely devastate any opponent who lands on them, and this potential can be very tempting for players. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of money to actually reach this potential. In order to build a hotel on Boardwalk you must first purchase the entire Monopoly -a $750 dollar face value, although it will likely cost you a lot more if you aren’t lucky enough to actually land on both spaces on your own. Then, you must build at least 4 houses on Park Place, as well as the actual hotel. Because each house costs you 200 dollars, this is a minimum of $2550 to achieve that maximum income potential.
This leads to a question of costs and benefits – yes, somebody landing on Boardwalk will devestate them, but it also leaves you $550 short of breaking even on your investment, and you will probably have to have some other source of income to finance your improvements on these squares. If it is landed on twice, however, you are now $1450 in the black. In order to decide if this is a good investment, we need to figure out how often somebody is actually going to land on your Monopoly, and how quickly you can make your money back.
What Are the Odds?
This brings us to another very important point to keep in mind when trying to find the “best” square in Monopoly – the odds of actually landing on that square. If somebody lands on your property nearly every turn, it is a far better investment than if nobody ever lands on it in the entire game.
At first this seems like a pretty simple question – the Monopoly board has 40 different squares, so the odds of landing on any square should be 1 in 40, or 2.5%. Unfortunately, it is not nearly this simple. There are several ways to move around the board without rolling the dice – Chance and Community Chest cards, the “Go To Jail” square, or rolling doubles 3 times in a row can all send you around the board to somewhere completely unexpected, and makes figuring out the odds much more difficult.
The easiest way to figure out the odds would be to run a computer simulation that models pieces moving around the board, and where they end up after various die rolls. After running this simulation several millions or billions of times, it would give us some pretty accurate numbers for how likely you are to end up on any particular space. Fortunately, somebody has already done this! In this article by Truman Collins, the author lays out the probabilities that they found for each square, as well as several other useful pieces of data that we will be using to reach our conclusions.
From this information, we can see some very interesting results. The first thing that jumps out to me is that Jail is by far the most frequently landed on space. This makes sense as there are so many ways to get to jail – you can land on it, you can land on the “Go To Jail” space, you can get a Chance or a Community Chest card, or you can roll 3 doubles in a row. All of this adds up to between a 6.2 and 11.6% chance of ending your turn on the Jail space. The reason for this huge discrepancy is based on your current strategy – do you pay to get out of jail immediately or try to stay in as long as possible – but either way, it is clearly the most visited space on the board.
The space that you are least likely to end your turn on (besides “Go To Jail, or Chance and Community Chest spaces which send you somewhere else on the board) is Mediteranean Avenue. This space is directly after the Go space, which means that it is impossible to land on from Go (as you cannot roll a 1). Ironically, St. Charles Place (the space directly after Jail) does not have this problem, probably due to the existence of a Chance card that sends players directly to St. Charles Place.
Using this information, we can finally figure out whether Boardwalk really is that good of an investment. To begin with we can see that the odds of finishing a turn on Boardwalk is somewhere between 2.62 and 2.48%, which puts it in the middle of the pack as far as probability of landing on it goes. Boardwalk actually has a rather unfortunate position (being directly before GO), but the existence of a “Go to Boardwalk” Chance card helps improve its… well… chances.
Based on the numbers, Boardwalk is actually a relatively good investment on it’s own. It takes about 25 rolls to earn back your investment with a hotel (which is 9th out of all properties with hotels) , and after that it has the highest average per-roll earnings of any property in the game. However, what brings it down is its partner, Park Place. In order to get the full value out of Boardwalk you must also heavily invest in Park Place, which is not nearly as good of an investment. Park Place takes about 45 rolls to pay off it’s hotel – the longest of any property in the game – and once you do, there are 5 other spaces with a higher per-roll income. So even though Boardwalk may be one of the best investments in the game, the Monopoly as a whole is not.
To Buy or Not to Buy
If Boardwalk isn’t the greatest investment in the game, then what is? First, let’s just look at the colored properties. Besides Boardwalk, the two properties with the best per-turn income are Illinois and Pennsylvania Avenues, which both provide nearly the same amount of income per turn. Of these two, Illinois Avenue is the better choice because it requires much fewer rolls to recoup your initial investment, and it is also much cheaper to fully upgrade than Pennsylvania (it costs at least $2630 to put a hotel on Illinois Ave., as opposed to $3520 for Pennsylvania Ave). This means that Illinois Avenue provides a much better bang for your buck than Pennsylvania Ave.
But even this is not the best investment in the entire game. In order to determine that, I am going to look at how much income you can expect from the fully upgraded properties, and compare them to the the total cost of upgrading. I will also be ranking entire Monopolies, not just individual properties. After making these calculations, the results for best investment on a property are as follows.
(Note: Scores are relative to the Orange Monopoly )
- New York Avenue, Tennessee Avenue, and St. James Place – 100
- Connecticut, Vermont, and Oriental Avenues – 87.92
- Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky Avenues – 77.05
- Virginia and States Avenues, St. Charles Place – 74.88
- Boardwalk and Park Place – 74.88
- Railroads – 74.40
- Marvin Gardens, Ventnor and Atlantic Avenues – 73.67
- Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Pacific Avenues – 63.29
- Mediterranean and Baltic Avenues – 58.45
- Utilities – 30.68
As you can see, the Orange monopoly is by far the most efficient investment of in the game. It’s excellent position makes the orange properties the most common spaces to land on after getting out of jail, and being at the end of the row they are relatively efficient to upgrade while still providing steady income potential.
There are also a number of other interesting things that can be gathered from these rankings. Firstly, each side of the board has two monopolies, and each monopolies at the beginning of the side tended to be less efficient than monopolies at the end of the side (with the exception of the red monopoly, which actually scored slightly better than the yellow one). The primary reason for this is that the cost of building houses remains the same for these properties as the later ones, but you tend to get less of a pay increase for building them.
Finally, as we all suspected, the utilities ranked dead last. They are by far the worst investments in the game, and have extremely low earning potentials even for their relatively low prices.
Until Next Week!
That is all I have for this week! I hope you enjoyed this article about Monopoly strategy! If you did, check out the rest of the blog and subscribe on Facebook, Twitter, or here on WordPress so you will always know when I post a new article. If you didn’t, let me know what I can do better in the comments down below. If you want see more Monopoly articles, or more strategy articles in general, let me know in the comments or on social media. And join me next week, where I will be talking about a type of game I have not yet touched on so far – the Game Show!