How To Cheat At Board Games

How To Cheat At Board Games

It’s a time honoured tradition that the banker always steals from the bank in Monopoly. Most cheating in board games isn’t anywhere near as brazen. At least, not if you want it to work. Being tricky is tricky. Cheat too often or too heavily and nobody will play with you. Cheat a little and your opponents may not even notice.

Cheating pic via Shutterstock

The easiest way to cheat at board games is to be bad at them. Getting rules wrong happens all the time in the board gaming world. When the players are the ones required to keep track of things, it’s all too easy to forget one or two rules. Why not use this to your advantage? Maybe you can’t take an action because you don’t have the right pieces. Maybe you “forgot” that a meeple was meant to come off the board. Don’t worry, do it anyhow. Be confident and if you get caught, well, you just forgot how things work, didn’t you?

In Splendor, you buy gems from the market using poker chips. A discount is given for gems you already have. Don’t have enough diamonds to afford the gem you want? Act like the point value printed near the gems is the discount you should get, not the gems themselves. It’s an easy beginner mistake to make. Beginner mistakes are great. Your opponents are much more forgiving if they catch you making a beginner’s mistake than if they catch you outright cheating.

Fudging the rules doesn’t always work. Other players can pay attention to the rules and quickly remind you of penalties you’ve missed or actions you can’t take. This is when you need to embrace fuzzy maths. Basic addition is key to a number of games and most people loathe to do more than they have to. Games like Power Grid involve quite a lot of quick addition. Resources in Power Grid cost less the more of that resource is available. As such, the price goes up as you buy more of the resource. Fuzzy maths can get you a small discount when buying a lot of a resource at a time. You may not be able to convince your friends that 2+2=5 but 2×4+3×5+2×6 could equal 32. Similarly you can do this during end of game scoring for a few happy little bonus points.

Fuzzy maths isn’t the only way to get a discount. You don’t have to pay the right amount to the bank. Nobody is going to count how much you’ve paid every time that you toss a handful of tokens back into the bank. Sleight of hand if much easier to pull off than you may think. It doesn’t take an ace hidden up your sleeve and practicing elaborate hand movements. All it takes is a little inattentiveness from your opponents and some misdirection on your end.

Grabbing an extra coin or two whenever you legitimately take money from the bank is just as easy. Similarly, hiding a second card under the one you’re playing lets you reveal it later as if it had been legally in play all along. Earlier editions of Munchkin explicitly allowed for this style of cheating. Just because the rules have since been revised – or you aren’t even playing Munchkin – shouldn’t stop you.

More elaborate sleight of hand can be employed too. Trick shuffles are an incredibly useful tool for cheaters. With just a little practice, you can learn to put the cards you want on the bottom of a deck. Then when you’re dealing, you can deal from the bottom to yourself and from the top to everyone else. Starting out with the perfect hand of cards is always handy.

Successful cheats don’t get greedy. Keep it simple and work for small advantages. If all else fails, flip the table and declare yourself the winner.

Lifehacker’s Evil Week highlights the dark side of life hacking. How you use that knowledge is up to you.


  • In chess tournaments there’s a rule called ‘touch move’.
    An old gentleman who was my opponent reached out and grabbed a pawn then realized it was a calamity.
    Unfazed, he absent-mindedly stirred his coffee with it, wiped it off and put it back on the board 🙂

  • I cheated without realising it last weekend – I went to reveal skill cards in bsg and then realised I hadnt shuffled. I picked it up and shuffled. Then revealed 3 bad cards. I said “Thats interesting” without thinking about it. Throwing the cylon under the bus.
    *I’m awful*

  • Ragequit! or at least act like it. The opponent if they think they are winning will be upset that your quitting and try to convince you to play, they wont notice the opportunities your taking to cheat (moving pieces, stealing currency, sleight of hand, sneaky peaks).

    • Hah. That only works if your opponent insists on not accepting your concession (ie is a dick and wants to stomp you into the ground). I be all ‘Thanks for the win dude’.

  • Being a “Settlers of Catan” master, you don’t stand a chance with cheating because I follow the game and I know exactly what type of resources and cards you might have.
    And besides, it is not wise to cheat because there is not any fun in that.

    • Exactly! I will ALWAYS call you out on the rules, and almost always keep my eye on the resource pile as cards enter and exit. I insist on managing the resource pile so that I know it’s above board. I don’t understand why you would want to cheat- I have far more fun manipulating people to make bad trades with me! 😀

      • Aha, but the guy that insists on managing the resource pile is always the least trustworthy fellow

  • I had one genius tactic for cheating in president or arse or whatever other people call it . (The point is to try and get rid of all your cards first but you can only put cards down that are higher then the previous card and of the same amount ie single double triple quadruple). I only used it when I didn’t really want to play… This makes it alright. Anyway I would insist on clearing the playing deck so that the discard pile would be right in front of me. Then holding my cards low I would just discard my difficult to get rid of cards and boom easy wins. People were always surprised I could go from the bottom to the top in 1 round.

  • While playing Risk I always throw a few soldiers on a land near me while reinforcing one far from me while stretching over the map. I also always throw two dies when defending even if I have one soldier (you’re supposed to use one then). If the oponent notices I just say oops and either just rethrow one and let him keep his throw (if it sucks) or demand we both throw again (if he threw well). But the card trick is a good idea…. I’ll have to hide some reinforcement cards for the next time we play.

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