Which Monopoly property groups are the best to own?
Antony Brown is a games analyst and inventor who writes regularly on board games. This article reveals which property groups are the best to own and why. Although the analysis has been conducted for the UK version of Monopoly, the principles and results apply to the US edition too.
If “chance favours the prepared mind,” as scientist Alexander Fleming once said, then for games with a large element of luck like Monopoly being prepared may make all the difference to winning or losing. Knowing how the game play of Monopoly favours certain property groups allows you to make better decisions such as which properties to buy, to trade, to develop first or to mortgage to raise cash.
In his book The Monopoly Omnibus, Gyles Brandreth lists (in order) the most desirable property groups as: Light Blue, Orange, Purple, Red, Yellow, Dark Blue, Green and Brown. He bases his assessment on three criteria: (1) the probability of the properties being landed on; (2) the cost of the properties; and (3) the cost of development. I suggest that (2) and (3) are merely different aspects of the cost of ownership, and should be merged together, and that expected average income from the proprty group needs to be the third criterion.
Which property groups are more likely to be landed on? Brandreth suggests that the Orange and Light Blue groups are most likely to be landed upon, having five entries in his Top Ten. The book was first published in 1985 and the jaunty jumper-wearing celebrity appeared to eschew the potential of the computer to analyse the game. He said: “To err is human but to really foul things up needs a computer.” Well, that ain't necessarily so, as Gershwin once said. By using a computer to simulate over a million games of Monopoly, I revealed in Monopoly's Best Properties how likely it its that individual property sites will be landed on. And it is not the same as Brandreth's list (on page 109 of The Monopoly Omnibus).
We can use the computer results to calculate the average probability of landing on a site in property group. It is obvious that a two-site property group (i.e. Brown and Dark Blue groups) will, all things being equal, have less chance of being landed on than a three-site property group.
Next, we need to assess the cost of owning each of the property groups - this includes the price of buying the group and developing it. But which development cost? A house on each site, several houses or hotels? For those who want to win there is an obvious choice: follow the The Three House Rule. It states that for optimum investment aim for three houses on each site as fast as you can. Brandreth explains that “the biggest increase in rental always occurs when you erect the third house on a property. This is true for every colour group.” So we will take the cost of ownership as buying all the properties in a group and placing three houses on each.
Finally, we need to know how much rental income each property group will bring in with three houses on it. This is easily found on the deed cards. Because we do not know which site in our property group will be landed on we will use the average income of the properties in a group.
Now for the clever bit. We can work out a Desirability Index (or score) for each property group using the following formula.
Group Desirability = average visit probability x average expected income / ownership cost
The table below shows the results, which will be very similar for the US version. The differences in the composition of the Chance and Commmunity Chest decks between the US and the UK versions do affect the probabilities but these largely affect the railroads and not so much the property groups.
|Group||Visit Probability||Expected Income||Ownership Cost||Desirability|
In calculating the scores all the data was standardized - for example, for ownership cost, we work out the costs for each group and divide by the lowest cost. The lowest cost is the Brown group - so the cost of developing this group will be divided by itself, giving a score of 1.0. The other groups will be greater than 1.0. We also standardise the data for probability and income.
So what does all this mean? Look at the Brown Group: it is the least likely group to be landed on, it generates the least expected income but at least is the least costly to own. According to our formula, Orange is nearly 3.5 times more profitable to own than Brown. Remember, the formula considers every major factor - that is probability of being landed on, the cost of ownership and the expected income (with three houses on each site) and it shows us that Orange is the best property group to own - and by some margin.
According to our analysis it appears that Brandreth may have over-estimated the desirability of the Light Blue group but this is not to say it cannot be central to a winning strategy, especially during the early phases of the game. But when you know the relative desirability of each group you have important knowledge. Take the following scenario.
A player offers you a Brown property and a Light Blue property in return for the Red one you hold. This would enable your opponent to complete the Red Group. You already own the other Brown property and one other Light Blue. So, the player is offering you the completion of the Brown Group (desiribility of 1.00) plus a low value property in return for the completion of the Red Group (desirability index of 2.94). Not a good deal. If your opponent also owns the other Light Blue property then you should insist this is included in the deal because it will allow you to complete both the Brown and Light Blue groups (desirability of index 1.00 + 1.92 = 2.92), a far more equitable outcome. Obviously, the actual negotiation will depend on the state of play, particularly relative levels of cash, because it matters a great deal how quickly your opponent can develop the Red Group compared to you developing your two groups, and the respective property portfolios.
These numbers are a guide, nothing more. There are so many factors that determine the outcome in Monopoly, most of all luck. As Brandreth points out: “You can ignore every one of these strategies, disregard all this sound advice - and still win the game. If you're lucky!” But if you want to increase the odds of your winning a game then think orange... and red... and yellow... this is starting to sound like that song from Jospeh and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat! But not Light Blue and...
But what does Brandreth know, anyhow? He wasn't a Monopoly World Champion, was he? No, only a European Champion! The strategies and information he provides in his book are essential reading for the Monopoly fan. I only have a quibble over his exalted opinion of the Light Blues - and his bizarre taste in jumpers!
What do you think? If you have any sage advice on how to win Monopoly please let me know as I will publish responses in a future article.
This article, the Desirabilty Index table and the ‘Jail Bird’ rule are copyright Retroactive-Vintage-Games.com. The Monopoly trademark and its logo, the distinctive design of the game board, each distinctive element of the board including the four corner squares, and the playing pieces are trademarks of Hasbro, Inc.