If you enjoy thinking about business and economics but wish there were more to it than what you experience in your job and in your investments, you're in luck. There's a wide world of games out there, many of which revolve around business concepts.
When people think of games, many think only about video. Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) release of Halo 3 is just the latest salvo in its console competition with Sony (NYSE: SNE ) and Nintendo, while game makers like Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI ) and Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) duke it out trying to make the next blockbuster hit.
But board games continue to come out as well, including some great business-related games. These games are well-suited for adults, but they can also serve as an excellent way to get your kids interested in business. (One investment-oriented game explicitly targeting youngsters is "Look Out Wall Street!")
At his Apples Project website, Mark Jackson has listed the best-rated games in many categories. (They're geared for adults, but young people can enjoy them, too.) Here are some of his best economic games:
- Acquire: This is a decades-old classic, where players build companies by playing tiles on a board strategically, and buying shares of stock in them. Mergers then happen, making some players richer and others poorer.
- Stephenson's Rocket: This game also features tile-laying, but with a railroad theme. Players expand rail lines and invest in stock. As with many of these terrific games, there are tough choices to be made, no luck, and lots of tension.
- Shark: This has been compared to Acquire, but is considered more free-wheeling. That may be because, unlike the games above, it includes the rolling of some dice, which adds an element of surprise.
Jonathan Degann at the Journal of Boardgame Design has also weighed in with a list of business-oriented games. He introduced them by noting, "I like the idea of building things that make money, and reinvesting the proceeds to build even larger things that make even more money. I prefer the challenge of competition to that of conquest -- and so I prefer my escapades to come from playing a business game rather than an empire building game."
Here are some more games to learn about:
- Chinatown: This game involves no stock or investment, but instead is all about trading. Players spend the game negotiating with each other to procure parts of city blocks. Getting good at this game may very well help you in your business dealings, as you learn how to get what you want while compromising.
- Power Grid: This game is all about building power plants and connecting cities to them. There's much more to it, though, as this BoardGameGeek description shows. Juggling plant construction with acquiring various types of raw materials forces the player to balance growth with efficiency.
- Bootleggers: This game, less complex than Power Grid, will take you back to the 1920s, where you're in the illegal alcohol business dealing with such business issues as distribution and bribery.
- I'm the Boss: This is another deal-making game, where players work both with and against each other in order to come out on top. With the right group of people, such as those who enjoy cut-throat negotiations, this game is a lot of fun.
- Puerto Rico: This is one of the most highly rated modern board games, where players are essentially running an economy as they grow crops such as coffee and tobacco and then store, sell, and ship them.
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