Many classic children's board games, like Snakes and Ladder and Candyland, are essentially pure games of chance. Is it reasonable to regard Monopoly as a game of this type? How important is player skill (as opposed to luck) in Monopoly?

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    Could you give us a few examples of dice games you want to compare against? – CLockeWork Feb 6 '14 at 13:36
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    Monopoly base game. It has as much skill as tic-tac-toe (maybe more). You are going to need to define skill. People seem to have wildly different opinions what the word means, and how to measure it. – user1873 Feb 6 '14 at 14:52
  • This is a good question that should not be closed. I have heard the question several times in my life. In one case, I proved my answer that Monopoly has skill by playing a game with fresh opponents and winning handily, using skill. In my experience, most beginners greatly underestimate the importance of and skill required in trading. I answered the question to describe this important and complex skill and what goes into acquiring and mastering it. – Joe Golton Feb 7 '14 at 16:15

You didn't lay out criteria in your question so I'm going to assume that what you're asking is: Let's say Bob diligently acquires as much skill as possible in Monopoly and practices with 50 or more games. If Bob plays several beginners (10 or fewer games - little study of the game), and no players know other players' skill level - is Bob highly likely to win?

The answer is yes. Monopoly definitely involves skill, and therefore Bob is highly likely to win that first game.

The most sophisticated and difficult skill involves working favorable trades. Though trading occurs only a few times a game, it is the primary means by which skill can cause the odds of winning to shift dramatically.

To make favorable trades, you must:

  • understand relative worth of different properties (you must know landing frequencies, development costs, etc.)
  • understand risk/reward
  • be able to quickly understand what your opponents care about, which in many cases will NOT be optimizing for greatest relative worth trades
  • be persuasive

There are also some simpler skills such as learning when it makes sense to buy a property and when to let it go up for auction, when it makes sense to start building houses (and how much money to keep in reserve), that the third house is the most valuable, etc.

Like Settlers of Catan, however, once it is clear who is the most skilled player, it is very easy for everyone to stop the most skilled player via trade embargos. I have had the experience several times of trouncing new opponents at Monopoly for a game or two and then losing more than average thereafter when my opponents refuse to trade with me. Actually - it's usually a little more gradual than that as first they just refuse to trade on my terms and start demanding more. And then they won't ever let me have a monopoly result from a trade. So then I resort to ever higher risk trades until I reach a point where nobody is willing to give me any trade I would want.

It is only when playing with fresh opponents that I have an opportunity to exert maximum skill, without fear that trading reputation will mean embargoes. That is why I carefully rephrased your question to assume lack of knowledge of the opponents. Because once it is clear who the most skilled player is in the game, it is very easy for opponents to gang up and actually cause the most skilled player to lose more often than average.

Side Note: several other answers imply that the luck of what you get has to be pretty good to even have a chance at making favorable trades. To that I say, you can make your own luck. For example, if you've studied Monopoly, you know that the two best monopolies to get in terms of risk/reward and Return on Investment are the oranges and light blues. So you may try trading for them earlier in the game. Many players are under the mistaken belief that Boardwalk is the best property. So if I obtain Boardwalk and I own one light blue, while the 2nd is owned by a different player and third by bank - I may offer Boardwalk for the light blue that is owned - and they think they are getting a steal. I now have two light blues and have created the possibility that I may get a monopoly if I get the third. So even though I had bad luck in not having 2 out of 3 of either light blue or orange, I have created a 2 out of 3 situation with one of the best two colors to increase my chances of getting lucky, or at least being able to trade for the 3rd.

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  • Despite having acquired some skill in the game, I don't like to play Monopoly because the part that involves great skill and has a large influence on the game outcome - trading - only comes up just a few times in a several hour game. – Joe Golton Feb 9 '14 at 16:36
  • Games like Settlers and Monopoly tend to reward coming in a high place ahead of winning. Naturally winning is good, coming in second is very very good. It is generally considered better to come in second every time than to come in first occasionally and lower places most times. – corsiKa Feb 11 '14 at 15:39
  • Reading through my own answer, it occurs to me that I would win more Monopoly games by pretending to have less skill than I do. For example I could say silly sounding things like "my favorite color has been blue all my life so I really like the blues . . . can I trade you . . . ." If I could make it look like I was stumbling my way to victory despite my seeming lack of skill, perhaps I could go many more games before getting embargoed. – Joe Golton Feb 13 '14 at 18:30
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    that would work with unskilled people. I think skilled people would pick up the scent of a power gamer by the multitude of other actions you'd take. I suppose you could convince skilled players that you're a bad player by taking bad actions, but if you're trying to win I'd be very careful how many bad actions you take!! – corsiKa Feb 13 '14 at 18:43
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    The only way Monopoly is a several-hour game is if you decide to make your own rules instead of following the established ones. You can play house rules in a baseball game and decide there are ten outs to an inning, but don't complain that it takes too long. </petpeeve> – user7672 May 23 '14 at 18:57

In terms of skill versus luck level, I would put Monopoly on a similar plane to poker. That makes it more a matter of skill than the average dice game.

That is, between two comparably skilled players, luck will decide the winner.

It is possible for a skillful but unlucky player to beat a lucky, but unskillful player. But the skillful player would probably have to bluff a lot in order to win.

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    It is difficult to bluff games with perfect information, which Monopoly is. – corsiKa Feb 6 '14 at 22:55
  • @corsiKa: A skillful player I once knew tried to bluff someone that two utilities were worth as much as two maroons (which would have given him a monopoly). Which he might have to do to win, if the lesser skilled player got one or more monopolies, plus "stoppers" to all others. – Tom Au Feb 6 '14 at 23:02
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    That is not a bluff. That is a lie. A bluff involves taking game actions that you would take if you had certain resources but you don't. If you're playing 5 card stud poker, and you have TJQK of spades showing, and you tell your opponent there's a 1/52 chance you have a straight flush, that is not a bluff. That's just a lie. It's verifiable false. – corsiKa Feb 6 '14 at 23:32
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    @corsiKa: In your poker example, you don't tell your opponent whether or not you have a straight flush card in the "hole." You just bet as if you do, and let your opponent draw his own conclusions. As for Monopoly, $150 for utilities is about the same as maroons, and the utilities' UNIMPROVED rent is better. The bluffer just leaves out the part about houses. – Tom Au Feb 6 '14 at 23:50
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    @TomAu Perfect Information means the information is available. It does not mean that all players have seen and understood it. I can flip a coin and tell you it landed on heads even if it landed on tails, but you still have Perfect Information and could tell me I am lying. – Rainbolt Feb 7 '14 at 15:23

In my experience, Monopoly has more to do with luck than with skill. I define skill as the ability to make correct decisions. A decision is correct if it maximizes the odds of you winning.

It is possible to play Monopoly poorly (unlike, say, the card game War which is a game of pure luck and no decisions). For example, never buying anything and just collecting your $200 for each circuit will (against normal play) result in you eventually losing more money on each circuit than you earn. Therefore, some degree of skill is required by the game.

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Usually you roll, you land somewhere, and you pay rent; no decision making. If the property is unowned, you have to decide if you want to buy it, but 99% of the time, buying it is the right thing to do. So there are two real sets of decisions; what trades do I make, and when and where do I buy houses.

Those few decisions have drastic impact on how the game unfolds, so sure, people who are more skilled at choosing wise trades and when to buy houses (for instance, is the extra $$ to be made from hotels more important the tying up the limited supply of houses?) will do better.

But those decisions are highly constrained by where the dice take them on all their previous turns. And like Joe said, that's a pretty bad ratio of useful decision-making to play time.

For sure, people who play with the house rule of putting money on Free Parking are skewing things away from skillful play even further.

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