As the festive season unfolds – or is almost out the door even, several mathematicians have weighed in on what you should probably do to win your next games of Monopoly, Battleships, and Risk. The family gathered around the board game table, competitive spirits high and distant relatives none the wiser about the best strategies, these tips may help you sort out your predicament of losing to that one cousin or sibling.
Know Where to Build and Who to Play As
The first piece of advice comes from Professor Marcus du Sautoy who teaches at Oxford University, and suggests that any time you play Cluedo, you should always pick Mrs Peacock as she has the advantage of being very close to all the rooms and making it easier to bounce back if you suddenly need to head another way.
Then comes Monopoly, where the orange properties seem to be quite the little trick to play on your opponents, owing to their proximity to the Jail square and how often people end up behind metaphorical bars. Statistically, Jail is twice as likely to be occupied as any other square on the board, and while most people would be happy getting out and breathing that “free air,” a cunning player would go full carpe diem and seize not just the day but the real estate next to the Jail.
This is further confirmed by mathematical probability which suggests that six, seven, and eight are very likely to roll on your way out. Ouch! Alright, what about somewhat more militaristic games, then? Well, Risk is gotten down to bangs by Professor du Sautoy as well, who cites a colleague, Professor Barry Smyth, who suggests that in the game, you need to control North America to give yourself the highest chance of winning.
Why? Because North America churns out a fair amount of soldiers while at the same time having only three roads to block. Yes, Europe may seem quite formidable with its army production, but it can also be invaded in eight directions, which stretches its resources so thin that a well-timed attack makes it easier to advance.
Of Battleships and Word Games
How about Battleships? Well, you should actually stack all your ships in a single square. What if the enemy hits? Don’t worry, mathematically, you are going to be winning a lot more with this strategy than your opponents, although it becomes a touch anti-climactic when everyone else realizes that this is the way to go.
Not least, there are some fun pieces of advice that translate into worthwhile strategies for word games, such as Wordle. For example, in Wordle, Professor Smyth, who is a computer scientist at the University College Dublin, argues that focusing on guessing the letters rather than the words is the best way to go.
Then, you have Scrabble which admittedly doesn’t rely so much on word knowledge as statistics – knowing a lot of two-letter words is actually one of the best ways to come out on top.