How to beat everyone at board games this Christmas

If you always go bankrupt within the hour, Jason Bunn could help. Sarah Freeman meets the UK's only Monopoly champion.

The way you play Monopoly says a lot about the person you are.

The laid-back are as happy to end up with Old Kent Road as Regent Street, the altruistic will donate properties to the opposition just so they can have a full set, and the over-ambitious will become fixated with opening a hotel on Park Lane and Mayfair, prepared to sell their soul to place a couple of little green houses on the band of navy blue.

Such obsession, says Jason Bunn, has been the downfall of many a good player and, as the UK's only World Monopoly Champion, he's a good man to have around during the festive season, a time when the seeds of many family rifts have been sown.

"Monopoly has a bad reputation of being overly long and the cause of many arguments, but if it's played properly I don't think there's any better board game," says the taxi driver, retrieving a set based on Sheffield landmarks from the back bedroom of his his home in Meanwood, Leeds, which is piled high with special editions. "There's no real secret to winning and, of course, luck plays its part, but there are a few simple things to be aware of.

"Once you have a set you should buy as many houses as possible. The sets only have a limited number of properties and if you can create a shortage and prevent opponents building on their sites so much the better.

"When it comes to buying, orange is the most favourable set of properties. Statistically, they are more likely to be landed on, because they're the ones people hit when they come out of jail so you get a better return on your investment."

Sadly, it turns out the makers of Jason's brand new Sheffield board, the latest in a series of special editions, have managed to include a set of Community Chest and Chance cards written in Latvian, but for a man who played every day for a year in preparation for the Monopoly finals it's a minor obstacle.

"Buy everything you land on, even if it's mortgaged," says Jason, dealing out the bank notes.

Even if it's Fenchurch Street Station or, worse, the water company?

"Absolutely, I won the finals with the help of the stations. They're no good on their own, but it's all about trying to create bargaining power and in the early stages you don't know who's going to end up with what, so you need to have the biggest portfolio possible.

"The negotiations are key, it's a fundamental part of the game and if people aren't prepared to do deals, then the best advice is don't play with them."

After more than 30 years of serious dedication to Monopoly, Jason could probably persuade even someone on the verge of bankruptcy to hand over their remaining assets and, understandably, his family are wary of challenging him to a game.

There's a definite hint of a smile when he admits that most times he emerges victorious, but he insists that nine times out of 10 family arguments are avoided.

"I'm sure one of the reasons Monopoly is so popular is that the instructions have been handed down through the generations. People get put off playing a game if they have to spend an hour reading a thick instruction booklet before they even start."

But with no one paying attention to the original Waddington rules, variations have crept in which can cause traditionalists like Jason no end of irritation.

"The free parking jackpot is probably the most common misconception," he says. "Nowhere in the rules does it say that players collect money for landing on that particular space and all it does is make the game go on longer. Some people don't believe me when I say a game should take no more than an hour and a half, but honestly, if you stick to the basic game, it's true."

Also an avid collector, Jason admits browsing eBay for Monopoly memorabilia has become something of a guilty pleasure. As he and his

top hat begin buying up everything in sight, he has one piece of advice.

"When the game's nearing its end, if you have the opportunity to sit behind bars for a while, grab it with both hands," he says. "Unlike in real life, in Monopoly, jail is sometimes a good thing."

HOW TO WIN AT... SCRABBLE

Consider balance as you look at the letters on your rack. It might be smart to form a word eliminating double letters in your rack even if it's not the highest-scoring move you have available.

Don't fear the Q. This tile (as well as the somewhat less-frightening X, Z and J) offers some high-scoring potential. Even if you don't have a U to go along with it, there are 16 legal words you can spell with the Q (such as qanat, an underground system of tunnels in the Middle East, and qindar, a monetary unit of Albania).

If you get stuck with a lot of vowels, think about iodine – and the dozens of other vowel-rich words available.

If you have a lot of consonants, there are legal words without vowels – myrrh, rhythm and tsktsk.

Avoid giving other players easy access to bonus point squares.

HOW TO WIN AT... RISK

Know what rules you're using. There are various editions and versions of Risk, so be sure that you're not playing one game while everyone else is playing another.

Australia is a good continent to control at the beginning of the game, since it's easy to hold

Don't bother conquering an entire continent unless you think you can hold it for at least a full turn.

If you're defending a country, and you have an option of how many dice to roll, always roll as many as possible. This increases yourHOW TO WIN AT... SCRABBLE

Consider balance as you look at the letters on your rack. It might be smart to form a word eliminating double letters in your rack even if it's not the highest-scoring move you have available.

Don't fear the Q. This tile (as well as the somewhat less-frightening X, Z and J) offers some high-scoring potential.

Even if you don't have a U to go along with it, there are 16 legal words you can spell with the Q (such as qanat, an underground system of tunnels in the Middle East, and qindar, a monetary unit of Albania).

If you get stuck with a lot of vowels, think about iodine – and the dozens of other vowel-rich words available.

If you have a lot of consonants, there are legal words without vowels – myrrh, rhythm and tsktsk.

Avoid giving other players easy access to bonus point squares.

HOW TO WIN AT... RISK

Know what rules you're using. There are various editions and versions of Risk, so be sure that you're not playing one game while everyone else is playing another.

Australia is a good continent to control

at the beginning of the game, since it's easy to hold

Don't bother conquering an entire continent unless you think you can hold it for at least a full turn.

If you're defending a country, and you have an option of how many dice to roll, always roll as many as possible. This increases your chances of a successful defence.