How to Win at Board Games

The following is an article from the book Uncle John's Canoramic Bathroom Reader.

Playing board games like Scrabble or Risk against a skilled player can be aggravating. Here are a few devious tactics and tips that may help you win (almost) every time.


Tournament players often employ an aggressive strategy at the beginning of their matches. They purchase every property they land on. Then, after a little wheeling and dealing with other players to obtain all the properties of a single color, they start placing houses on their squares. (The cheaper ones first, because funds are typically low early in the game.)

Opinions vary on which properties are landed on the most often, but many swear it’s the orange ones. Buying as many of those as possible should be considered a priority, because the more property you own there, the more you get to collect in rent from the other players. Late in the game, it pays to stay in jail for as long as possible. That way you can collect rent on your properties while you remain safely behind bars, away from your opponents’ rent-earning properties.


(Image credit: Flickr user Andrew Malone)

When setting up your ships at the beginning of the game, it helps to place smaller vessels alongside or beneath larger ones. You should also put at least one ship on the edge of your board, since most players tend to aim for the middle. Another tip: never fire another peg within one space of a miss. This will help reduce your need to randomly guess where your opponent’s ships are hiding by at least half. There’s also the “checkerboard method,” which involves imagining the board with alternating black-and-white squares and firing only on the black ones. Then, once you score a hit, you should fire pegs adjacently until you sink your opponent’s boat.


(Image credit: 松岡明芳)

At the beginning of the game, you should probably go to college. This will help you get a better job and earn a higher salary, although doing so might not help if you don’t land on enough “Pay Day” squares later on. Auto and home insurance can come in handy, but unless you’re really unlucky, you’ll be throwing away your hard-earned play money. Instead, invest in stocks. If you land on a “Lucky Day” square, you should always gamble instead of keeping the initial jackpot— the chances of winning are around 5 to 1.


(Image credit: The NeatoShop)

You don’t need a huge vocabulary to win at Scrabble, but it does help to know a lot of the obscure, two-letter words to use late in the game where there isn’t a lot of space available for longer words. First, there’s “za.” Definition: “pizza.” “Qi” is another simple but powerful word. (It means “life force.”) And don’t be afraid to swap out all your letters if you wind up with a tray full of lousy ones. Yes, you lose a turn, but it will likely aid you in the long run. Another key tactic: play defensively. Don’t create words that will allow your opponents to capitalize on the triple-letter or triple-word squares. Oh, and there’s one more word you should memorize: “oxyphenbutazone.” It’s an anti-inflammatory drug, and, theoretically, the highest-scoring word possible in Scrabble. It could earn as many as 1,778 points.


(Image credit: Jorge Royan)

Since the late 1950s, the “Game of Global Domination” has brought out the power-hungry dictator in millions. If full-scale warfare isn’t your forte, follow these tips the next time you play, and end the game quickly. At the game’s outset, focus on taking over every territory in Australia and South America— two remote continents that are easy to defend— as quickly as possible. This will earn you some “continent bonuses” that will significantly boost the number of armies at your disposal. Then allow several turns to pass while your opponents attack each other.

Once your forces grow big enough, launch your own invasions. It goes without saying that when you attack a territory, do so with as many armies as possible. Why? Because if you win the battle with just a few armies, you probably won’t have enough left to protect the territory you invaded. Also, learn a lesson from Napoleon: don’t attempt to invade both Europe and Asia at the same time.


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Canoramic Bathroom Reader. The latest annual edition of Uncle John’s wildly successful series features fascinating history, silly science, and obscure origins, plus fads, blunders, wordplay, quotes, and a few surprises

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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For scrabble : letters are ok, but don't forget the numbers : double (or triple) a high value letter, like V =4 in VALUE, and double the word : it quadruples the letter V (4*2*2=16!). easy and efficient.
Also, glue a word to another word.
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When I was a student I used probabilities, including chance and community chest, and found out, if I remember well, that the light blue, red and green were the best. Then you had the cash needed to build houses, exit green, and the player killer factor, exit light blue. I'm hence still favoring the red. The orange and pink are quite good too because of the cheap price you can build up faster your "weapons". Ahh.. Game optimization! :)
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The best way to win at Monopoly? Soak it in lighter fluid and drop a lit match on it.

Then go find Acquire ( if you like the property collection.
or I'm the Boss ( if you like the wheeling and dealing.

Interestingly, both games were created, decades apart, by the late great Sid Sackson.

And, while Scrabble is ok, needing knowledge of arcane two-letter words to win is a drawback. What has Sid Sackson got for us? Buyword ( Plays 1-4 players in less than an hour. Almost no downtime as all players play somewhat simultaneously. The man was a genius.
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I always go with the opposite. I never ever let anyone get a monopoly if I can help it, unless by trading, we both get one. And then, it's still a risk. But if I can get at least one from each color group, and only one full monopoly, I can almost guarantee a win.
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For Battleship: Use the checkerboard method leaving three spaces between guesses until the largest ships are gone. Fill in the openings when only the small ships are left.
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