We've all heard the advice that the best gifts aren't "things" but experiences. Games, however, can be both.
In this segment of his special gift-focused Rule Breaker Investing podcast, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner drops the names of five board games he's recommending you put in your family fun portfolio. Some are fast and easy to learn; others present more complex challenges. But all will provide you with a good reason to get around a table with the people you enjoy spending time with. And what better gift is there than that?
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Dec. 13, 2017.
David Gardner: Five board games for you to think about if you're a gamer and you want to know what Dave's playing these days or what I recommend as a gift to be given.
Now before I do that, I want to briefly pepper in a couple of my own thoughts. Mainly our panels -- I wanted to hear from them -- but I have picked up one or two things about watching good gift-givers over the years, and so I'm just going to share out two ideas of my own.
One is somebody who is really good at gift-giving in my life once taught me, "Think about who you are, and what you stand for, what you do, and give something of yourself. Because if you're giving to somebody who loves you, they'll appreciate that; that you put something of yourself into that gift."
So whether you're talking about Cheryl Palting creating a sunshine jar or a special paper plate or, in my case -- sure, we're about to head there -- games. A lot of people who are around me know that I love games. I love teaching games. That's a gift that I could give, just teaching people a board game. Or games, themselves. It makes a lot of sense coming from me. So, what's something of you that would be appreciated by others that you can put in some form of package and put under somebody's tree.
And then maybe point No. 2. If you can find this thing, it's pretty magical in my experience in terms of efficiency and almost your personal brand building if you can find this thing. And what do I mean by this thing? This thing would be a go-to gift that you can give every year, and by doing so people come to expect it from you and you deliver it every time.
Let me give a quick example. We have dear friends of ours. Around our age -- early fifties -- so we've kind of grown up with them. They're from Maine, and every year we get a wreath. It's from the state of Maine. It's a beautiful, traditional, in this case Christmas wreath and they send it to us every year. They always send it just at the start of December, so it's going to be on our house all month long and sometimes into January as well. And we know to expect that from them. And if I'm them, putting myself in their shoes for a sec, isn't that kind of great? To already have your idea and just to be able to repeat it year in and year out?
Do you have something like that? I'll share one thing that I do here at the Fool with people who are connected to me. This is one I dreamed up and I can repeat every year, so for a rather mediocre gift-giver this was a good thing that I happened upon that I repeat every year. I give gift cards to teammates like Rick Engdahl, my podcast producer. Or my Rule Breakers or Stock Advisor stock-picking teams. And it's always going to be a gift card from one of my stock picks.
So I'll look at, let's say, five or six companies. A nice, motley array of different types of consumer experiences, and it's going to be a gift card for that. You can pick. You're allowed to pick from a menu, but they're always going to be from my stock picks, from stocks you'll find in the Supernova Universe. So that's just a good one that can infinitely scale for me and I can repeat every year and maybe it becomes like a Maine Christmas wreath, an expected thing. Not that we should ever expect.
OK, there are a couple of thoughts. Let's close it out with my list of five board-game ideas for this holiday season. Now, there can be a tendency for me to drone on about games, but I'm going to just limit myself because we're at the end of a special podcast and I don't want to overstay my welcome. I'm going to keep moving quickly with this list.
I do want to say that it's ordered from No. 1, which will be the most accessible of these games. The ones that everyone can play, through to No. 5, which will be the hardest-core for hardcore gamers. So if you're not a regular board gamer -- that's not a big part of your family or cultural life, strategy board games -- please don't even think about what I say for No. 4 or No. 5. But if you are a hardcore gamer, chances are you might even know one or two of these anyway. But that's where you want to listen in.
So let's kick it off, then, with No. 1 and No. 1 for me, for about $15 or so, is Codenames. Codenames came out about a year and a half ago from Vladimír Chvatil. It is a word game kind of modeled on Password, for those who know the old game show, but it's played in teams that compete against each other over the same board of cards laid out on the table. There's a spy theme. I'm not going to try to explain the rules of this game.
The good news is it only takes about five or 10 minutes to explain the rules to this game, and if you're in a family gathering full of gamers and non-gamers, it's awfully helpful to have a game like that. So if you don't already know Codenames, I highly recommend it. I think it's one that you could be playing 10 years from now. It can become a family thing.
At Motley Fool events, at Member Events, sometimes we'll promise a game at the end and we'll always throw this game down on the table because it's a great thing. You can play with friends or strangers. And I will mention that in the last few months a new edition of Codenames called Codenames Duet has come out. And if you already know Codenames, you might not know that Codenames Duet, this new version in the green box, is a cooperative two-player version. You can play with a spouse or partner cooperatively a game of Codenames. It's very well designed, like each game in the Codenames family. Anyway, there it is. No. 1 is Codenames.
No. 2 is the game 7 Wonders. Now 7 Wonders is a card-drafting game. I won't even explain what that is if you don't know what it is, but it's a very accessible card game where you're playing through three eras.
Since it's 7 Wonders, we're talking about the seven ancient Wonders of the World, so that's the theming of the game. You're going to have a hand of cards. You'll draw one out of it, keep it for yourself, and pass them to the left. Then you're going to take the hand of cards from the person to your right and pick another one to add to your hand, and keep passing them around. You're card drafting. It's a fairly simple-strategy game. It's going to take about a half hour to teach.
It does work with non-gamers but there are some more serious concepts, so we're already getting into more of the gamer focus that I have for this list with 7 Wonders, but certainly a very accessible card game. Sort of a crossover game, too. For a lot of people who might know Parcheesi, or they might know Apples to Apples, or Ticket to Ride. If you know that one, this is kind of one step above that and acquaints them with a little bit more strategy, but not too much heaviness with the rules. 7 Wonders, which has been out for some years, now. Always a good one. It plays up to seven people.
No. 3 is Quest for El Dorado. Now, this is a very recent release and it's from one of my favorite game designers, Reiner Knizia. A friend of the Fool. Somebody that we've gotten to know over the past 10 years or so. Reiner has come out with a deck-building game. This is one where you are buying cards and adding it to your unique deck. Then you shuffle the deck and draw a hand of cards from your personal deck that you've been buying cards for throughout the game. And you're racing to be the first to find El Dorado.
And there are different ways to set up the courses each time on the game table, so it has good replayability. It's kind of an intro to deck builders. Now, if you don't know what a deck builder is, I'm not going to spend the time, now, to discuss that, but I will point you to one other board-game podcast I've done for Rule Breaker Investing. You can click back to June 22, 2016, which is entitled "5 Board Games That Will Make You a Better Investor." By the way, all five of those could make good gifts this holiday season. You can go back and listen to that where I talk, in particular, about Dominion, which is sort of the formative, initial deck builder.
Quest for El Dorado. Built on the shoulders of a game like Dominion, but one that has just been nominated for Game of the Year in Germany, the Spiel des Jahres. Congratulations to Reiner Knizia for getting on that list once again this year with the new game Quest for El Dorado.
Now we're entering geekier waters. No. 4 is Pandemic Legacy: Season Two. Now this is, again, a game that I've discussed before. In fact, on that same podcast of June 22, 2016, I talked about the game of Pandemic Legacy. Very briefly, Legacy games change as you play them.
Now what do I mean by that? Let's pretend that there was a game called Scrabble Legacy. There isn't, actually, although maybe it's an idea for somebody out there. But if you were ever playing Scrabble Legacy, you'd play a game of Scrabble with your family. A lot of us know Scrabble. Some of us even love Scrabble. I certainly like Scrabble.
So you play a game of Scrabble. At the end, whoever wins is able to do something to change the following game of Scrabble. This is silly, but let's just pretend that my friend, Rick Engdahl, the producer of Rule Breaker Investing, beats me in Scrabble and afterwards his reward is he's allowed to eliminate all of the vowels of one vowel type from our Scrabble board.
So, Rick, the devil that he is, selects E, the most common vowel. So the second game of Scrabble that we'll play together, there are no E's. Now again, this is not a game that exists. I'm not sure Scrabble Legacy would be a good game and I'm not sure you'd want to pull the vowels from the game and why would you pick the E, Rick?
But you understand that Legacy games, which is a new innovation within board games, change from one session to the next. You get to write your name on the game board in a game like Risk Legacy, which is a game. It's Risk as a Legacy format. When you win, there's an unnamed continent. You get to write your name on it with a Sharpie on the board, and the next time you play, everybody has to refer to that continent by the name that you gave it. Maybe your own given name. Everybody has to use your name to describe the continent.
That's what's happening with Legacy games, and Pandemic Legacy was a huge hit in 2016. Well, Season Two, a new version of that, is back. And this time everybody starts out in the oceans. Picture a game board like Risk. All the players are starting in the ocean. They don't know what's on land. They know a few cities on the coast, and that's how Pandemic Legacy: Season Two -- highly rated, highly reviewed -- starts. That one is just out this fall. In particular, if you're a geeky gamer like my group or my family is, you may have already finished Pandemic Legacy: Season One, which we did. Maybe you didn't know Season Two is out. Well, it is, and it could make a great gift for the geeky gamer in your life.
And now that finally brings me to No. 5, the most complex of all these games, and probably my favorite game release of the last 18 months. It's a game called Terraforming Mars. And one of the great things about this strategy game, each of us plays as a corporation that is out there on Planet Mars beginning to terraform it.
One of the great things about terraforming Mars is how thematic it is, because you are learning how Mars one day will be terraformed. For example, there are three key things that have to happen to terraform Mars. One is we need to raise the temperature. We need to turn it from a really cold planet to a much warmer planet through greenhouse gas release is one theory. A second thing we need to do is we need to get some water down on that planet. How do you get water on Mars and start to grow oceans? And the third thing you need to do is raise the oxygen level. It starts at 0%. We'll need to get it to 14% in order to terraform Mars.
Once those three things happen, which are all done somewhat cooperatively by each of us players, the game ends, but now we're going to count a score and see who did the best job. Who contributed the most value to terraforming Mars? It's a combination of a game with both cards and a board. The cards -- there's over 100 of them -- each one is unique. It has a little story about what you're doing, with a cost. You're going to be buying those cards. And then it has a board. You're going to be looking at Mars in front of you. Playing your cards in order to start putting down tiles on the board and building out your corporate presence on Mars.
I could go much longer into this one. It deserves it. I'm giving it short shrift, here, at the end of our gift-giving special, but I want you to know I love this game, and yes, it has a little expansion or two. They're starting to pop up, as well.
Well, each of these games, to close, is in stock at Amazon and other gaming sites, so none of them is a hard find or will take too long to ship. If you're inspired by any of these games at different levels of gamer geekiness, I hope you'll take a look. Many other games out there, too. It's a wonderful way to give a gift.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. David Gardner owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.