There’s no quicker way to infuriate your friends and family than to win, consistently, the same board game.
Just ask Derek Hales. He runs consumer review site ModernCastle, and when he’s not at work, he’s figuring out how to break the board games he plays with his friends and family every other week. Hales knows how lonely it can be to win all the time.
“My wife and I host a board game night twice per month,” Hales tells Urbo. The Hales’ game of choice is often the railroad-building contest Ticket to Ride.
“Most people think the objective of Ticket to Ride is to build the longest series of train lines around the map,” Hales explains. “However, this isn’t how you actually win. You win by having the most points.”
Rest assured that Hales knows how to get the most points.
“My strategy (which I’ll admit is wildly enraging to my family and friends) is to take as few train line cards as possible,” he says. “Instead of trying to complete long train lines, you focus on blocking choke points around the map. This prevents your opponents from completing their train lines (especially the long ones) and causes them to take negative points at the end of the game.”
That’s cold. But say your friends don’t play Ticket to Ride. Say they’re into something a bit more classic.
Enter Monopoly. Even more than Ticket to Ride and other more contemporary board games, Monopoly is the ideal test of friendship.
If you can win without the undying enmity of your opponents, they’re probably pretty good friends. If you lose and don’t immediately delete the victor’s contact info from your phone, it is meant to be.
That’s why we plan to play a game of Monopoly right before we propose. We will win, and if our significant other can’t handle that, we probably shouldn’t get married. We’re not being cocky, either; there is a way to win at Monopoly every time you play, no matter what. And like Hales’ Ticket to Ride strategy, this method will also be wildly enraging to your fellow players.
This method isn’t even a huge secret, but you found it before your opponents, you lucky duck, so now is the time to plan that big board game night…and to find out who your real friends are.
The Elfer Technique exploits a simple rule of Monopoly.
This method, by the way, is named after Reddit user, Elfer, who leaked the strategy for everyone to see. A full, intact Monopoly set has 32 houses and 12 hotels, no more, no less. If all 32 houses are built, no one can build houses, unless they’re sold or converted to hotels. It’s simple supply and demand.
Before you protest, no, it is not legal to use bits of paper or pennies or anything else to represent houses. There are 32 houses in the game, and that’s that.
So, Elfer suggests, if you can buy up all the houses, you can prevent your opponents from gaining any real power. Elfer explains how to use this rule to achieve guaranteed victory in eight easy steps:
Step 1: Start buying any property you can get your hands on.
Most Monopoly players wait until they’re on high-dollar properties to start buying. The Elfer Technique encourages just the opposite. The value of the properties doesn’t matter; you just want to be sure to get the first monopoly.
Remember another traditional rule of Monopoly that people tend not to incorporate, if they even know about it: When a player lands on a property and chooses not to buy it, the other players start a bidding war for that square.
This rule ensures the game doesn’t go on for 150 years, so be sure to follow it.
This little-known “bidding war” rule is just one example of how many of us have been playing the “Landlord’s Game” wrong our whole lives.
It turns out that a lot of Monopoly rules we think are rules are, in fact, not actually rules.
For instance, have you heard that landing directly on “Go” pays double? Or that you have to go all the way around the board once before you can start buying properties? These are not rules, folks, and they could interfere with the Elfer Technique—so the real first step might be to read the official rules to everyone at the table.
Step 2: Use trades to get the game’s first monopoly.
Players will probably line up to trade with you, because you can offer anything they want to get your monopoly started. Let the trade give you both a monopoly.
Pay an exorbitant price. It doesn’t matter; you’ll still win in the end. Just remember to go for the three-property groups—three places to build are better than two.
Paradoxically, cheaper properties are actually better for the Elfer Technique, because it costs less to build houses on them. This strategy is all about houses. It’s all houses, all the time. Remember that and you will always win.
Step 3: Start building houses.
The sooner you can build three houses per property, the better. Your rent income should fund all this construction. If you still come up short, don’t hesitate to mortgage other properties to build at least three houses per eligible square.
Resist the temptation to upgrade your houses to hotels, even if you can afford it. The whole goal of the Elfer Technique is to cause a housing shortage. Hotels are counter-productive.
Step 4: Go for another monopoly.
More monopolies means more space for building houses. Trade or buy to get your second monopoly by the time mid-game starts.
Meanwhile, go ahead and build more houses on your existing monopoly. Four houses are better than three.
Step 5: Houses, houses, houses.
Once you have two monopolies, the goal will be to build three houses on each of property. After that, make sure every square gets four houses. Once again, do not build hotels. Never, ever build a hotel. Hotels are your enemies.
Think about it like this: If you have six spaces to build, with four houses each, you’ve got 24 of the 32 available houses in the game. That should starve the market enough that your opponents will be unable to develop their lands. Now, all you have to do is ride the game out and see if your friends are worth keeping or if your relationship was a charade this entire time.
Step 6: Protect your assets.
In the game of Monopoly, as in life itself, the secret to security is a giant stack of cash. Build your nest egg until you can pay any opponent’s rent. After all, you’ll still be traveling around the board, and you’ll probably land on someone else’s space at some point.
If you end up in jail, celebrate. You can sit there and avoid rents while everyone else lands on your properties, weeping, gnashing their teeth, and possibly throwing stuff.
Step 7: Only accept cash for rent.
Earlier in the game, it might have been helpful to take a property in lieu of cash when an opponent lands on your developed square. That time is over.
When you insist on cash payments, you’ll get to watch the other players sell their houses and mortgage their lands to pay you, the monopoly holder. This thing is very nearly in the bag.
Step 8: Build more monopolies until everyone else gives up.
To speed up the inevitable end of this game, go for another monopoly. Then another. Eventually, you’ll have the bulk of the entire world’s resources. (The world of the game, that is.)
Just like that, you’ve won. But just remember: Winning at Monopoly is a double-edged sword. A Monopoly win could mean the loss of a friendship, so play carefully. And if this is all too stressful for something that’s supposed to be fun, you could always opt for a game of Ticket to Ride, instead.
Remember the Hales Strategy if you sit down for a game of railroad-building, though.
“By the end of the game, if you haven’t completed all your train line cards, you take negative points for each of those lines,” Hales says, still outlining his method for 100 percent success at the newer board game. “By blocking choke points, you can fully control the map and cause your opponents to be stuck with multiple high-value negative-point train-line cards in their hand at the end of the game.”
So how effective is the Hales Technique at Ticket to Ride, anyway?
“This strategy has worked perfectly every time I’ve used it,” he says. “But be warned! Your friends and family might get a little upset!”
That seems to be the common theme running from an established classic like Monopoly to a newer upstart like Ticket to Ride. Crack the game and ensure victory. Ensure victory and get ready to be a target.
Maybe it’d be worth it to throw a game or two every now and then, just to keep your friends and family coming back. You can always win again when you get the urge. Now, shhh! Don’t tell anyone these board-game-winning secrets.