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Sharpen Your Intellect With Strategy Board Games

April Fool's! We're not turning our backs on investing -- though we did fool some of you.

Our decision to turn a blind eye to the volatility of the stock market over the next six months will allow me to spend more time than ever on another passion of mine: strategy board games.

Strategy board games are a lot like investing. They require superior strategy to win, and they are games at heart played by people. I've always approached investing and business -- and, indeed, Life! -- as a game, meaning that I (a) take risks, (b) have fun, (c) learn from my mistakes, and (d) play to win. Playing strategy board games is a tremendous way to hone your thinking while having fun, from our earliest roots in games like Risk or Acquire or backgammon, to some of the new -- and vastly superior -- games of the modern day.

So many bad games have been designed, sold, and played that many of us have been turned off from board gaming altogether. Don't let this happen to you. Buy better games! A good strategy board game provides its players with what I'll call "a series of interesting and consequential decisions." The decisions, first off, are interesting: The subject matter should interest you, and good game design has you often wanting to do three things but only allowing you a single action. Further, these decisions are consequential: Which choice you make will ultimately lead directly to winning or losing in meaningful and educational ways. By contrast, bad games give you infrequent, boring, and inconsequential decisions to make. Does that sound like Candy Land to you? Or how about games where you roll dice (luck) to move around a board (few, or no, decisions)? I will not be spending my newfound time these next six months playing Monopoly.

The best Internet site for finding and following great strategy board games is BoardGameGeek (a Foolish name unto itself), at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/. It's what I'll call the "CAPS of board gaming," in that it allows its community to rate and rank all the games under the sun. Some of the highest ranked games in recent years are ones you may never have heard of: Puerto Rico, Twilight Struggle, and Tigris & Euphrates. I have played all three and recommend them highly. Because strategy gaming is a niche, you won't find these titles at Toys "R" Us today, but at Internet sites like http://www.funagain.com/ and http://www.thoughthammer.com/ you can order them quite easily.

Kay Redfield Jamison in her book Exuberance: The Passion for Life makes a great argument for games. She writes: "We play because we have an exuberance of spirits and energy, but we are also exuberant because we play." Further down, she writes, "Play exists, in significant measure, to promote plasticity and to teach an animal to take advantage of opportunity" (italics mine). The connection between better investing and strategy gameplay are self-evident to me and have definitely made me a better investor.

And I'm about to get a whole lot better these next six months.

Chief Rule Breaker David Gardner approaches strategy board games with the same passion he gives to investing. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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