How to win at Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble: Top tips to become Christmas board games champion

One of the best parts of Christmas holidays (or worst, depending on who you ask), is the board game afternoons. You can spend hours playing games like Monopoly, Cluedo or Scrabble with your loved ones (although if they remain beloved through the entire course of the game is up in the air), and it’s a great alternative to the cheesey Christmas repeats on TV.

Just because it’s the season of goodwill doesn’t mean you have to treat your friends, family or loved ones kindly when you’re playing a board game however, and it’s completely okay to take your opponents to the cleaners. But to do so effectively, you need to understand the game inside and out. Otherwise they stand a chance at resisting your onslaught.

READ NEXT: Best board games for Christmas that you’ve never heard of

Below we’ve listed some top tips and tricks to gain the advantage in some of the most popular Christmas board games.

How to win at Monopoly

How to win at Monopoly

1. Choose your purchases wisely

Many people sweep around the board and buy everything they land on but this can be a false economy. AI has shown that Trafalgar Square, for example, is the most visited location by UK players. In fact, the top five are:

1. Trafalgar Square 
2. Vine Street 
3. Marlborough Street 
4. Bow Street 
5. Pall Mall

If you get the chance to buy these, use your money to put as many houses and hotels on these squares as possible to maximise your yield.

In the US, the top five looks like this:

1. Illinois Avenue 
2. B&O Railroad 
3. Tennessee Avenue 
4. New York Avenue 
5. Reading Railroad

2. Go for houses over hotels

Once you’ve reached three houses, typically the amount the rent increases with each additional house reaches a maximum. Champion Monopoly players additionally advise mortgaging your properties effectively. 2015 UK and Ireland champion Natalie Fitzsimons from Northern Ireland even suggests completing a set and then mortgaging everything else you own on the board. You can then use the money to place multiple houses on the completed set as this is more valuable than single houses on low-rent squares.

3. Go to jail

Towards the end of the game, ironically the safest place to be is in jail so don’t worry about saving any Get Out of Jail Free cards to the end of the game. Get rid quickly and hopefully ride out the latter stages avoiding paying rent to other people while topping up your coffers. There is some controversy over whether you can still collect rent while in jail but the official Hasbro rules say it’s fine. 

4. Avoid utilities

Another controversial tip is to avoid buying any of the utilities because they produce a relatively low yield. Save your cash for houses later on in the game.

5. Spend that money

Monopoly is about investment, and if you’re holding onto your cash you aren’t investing it in anything. Instead, spend it as quick as possible – you have to spend money to earn money etc. It’s not like you earn interest by holding onto it, but by expanding your empire you’ve got a much better chance at earning it back.

6. Mortgage for more

Monopoly champsions attest to the fact that mortgaging for more money is a viable strategy to win. If you’re trying to rapidly build an empire, but need the cash, it can often be worthwhile making it by mortgaging properties, which means you can’t charge opponents for landing on them. Then when your properties become profitable, you can unmortgage them again. It’s probably not doing this in real life, however.

7. Create a housing crisis

Another morally dubious tactic is to use up all the houses. Traditional Monopoly rules state only 32 houses can be on the board at the time (hotels don’t count for this, so buying a hotel instead of 4 houses gives opponents the opportunity to buy houses). By building multiple houses instead of hotels, you can easily reach the limit of 32 houses – stopping opponents being able to build them. This means your opponents’ properties will never be as dangerous to land on as yours, ensuring a swift victory.

How to win at Scrabble

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1. Keep your eye out for a suffix

One of the simplest ways to shed letters and get some high scores in Scrabble is to keep an eye out for suffix opportunities. Look to see what other players have played and see if you can tack some letters on the end to boost your scoring potential. The obvious include “s”, “ed” and “ing” but we also recommend holding back an “ish” – your family won’t see it coming and you’ll get the added value of the four-point H.

2. Own those two-letter words

Towards the end of the game when tiles and space is at a premium, or in fact at any point when you want to gain a lead, making full use of the myriad two-letter words will see you rise victorious. The list of accepted two-letter words can be found in some dictionaries, or online, and the most useful include the high-scoring, rare letters such as Q and Z.

3. Make the letter Q your new best friend

In addition to QI in the two-letter word list, there are a handful of words which use Q without U. These include QIN, QAT, FIQH, QAID, QADI, QOPH, WAQF, FAQIR, QORMA, and TALAQ, among others. In these examples, you can also add an S to boost your score further (or steal some points from another fiendish player who has read this article).

4. Don’t be afraid to swap your tiles

It can feel like Scrabble suicide by swapping all of your tiles and missing out on a scoring round but it can benefit you in the long run, especially if you’re left with low scoring letters or loads of consonants. Ideally, you should leave as few high-point tiles in your rack as possible.

5. Plan for the big bucks

Games can usually be made or broken by the use of the multiplier squares, so plan your game around these from the outset. Try to draw the word mess towards them, without ever putting your opponents in an easy spot to use them. It’s useful if you have a few tiles worth big points ready for when you do, to make the most of the multipliers, but don’t be afraid to put rubbish words over them if it stops your opponents using them.

How to win at Cluedo

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There are 324 combinations in Cluedo so finding shortcuts to solving the crime can reduce play time considerably.

1. Make suggestions willy nilly

Each time you enter a room, make a suggestion about the murder. You don’t actually have to know the correct room, weapon or suspect yet – instead, use the accusation to whittle down the options.

For example, if you’ve got the billiard room, Miss Scarlett and the lead piping in your hand, you know they can’t be in the envelope. Next time you enter the billiard room, accuse Miss Scarlett with the revolver. That way you can draw out the revolver and eliminate it as a weapon in one move.

2. Stay still

Following on from the above tip, when you’re in a room you hold in your hand, stay there. Of course you can leave and come back, or leave for another room you own to avoid giving the game away, but you can quickly rattle through weapons or suspects by staying put and guessing the same room each time.

3. Don’t reveal more than you need to

If you can remember which cards you’ve shown to which player, and a certain player keeps making the same guess, just keep showing them the same card. You don’t have to show a different card each time. For example, if you’ve shown a player the candlestick and they keep making a guess involving the candlestick, don’t give away more of your cards than you have to!

Images: Flickr/Pixabay/Anthony Brown

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