In this episode of Rule Breaker Investing, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner shares some of his favorite board games and card games for this holiday season. He also shares a tool to keep track of your game stats and an IMDb for games where you can find all the game details. There are 15 different games in all, each with a short description of the game and the level of difficulty, going from single player up to eight players, depending on the game. Are you ready to game on?

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on December 2, 2020.

David Gardner: Few people may love games more than I do, and hey, some people don't even like games at all, and if that's you, I suggest you skip this week's podcast. [laughs] Come back in a week or two when we'll be playing a different kind of game that you may like as it involves the stock market -- and that is, of course, The Market Cap Game Show, a little bit later this month, that's a game we all can play. Okay.

Hey, wait! Are you still listening? Excellent. In that case, thank you for suffering a Fool gladly as I endeavor this week to share a few short lists of recent favorites from the worlds of board games and card games, all shared intentionally as early as possible this December, so you'll have time to put one of these under someone else's tree or just spice up your own life with something that is -- get this -- that is not on Zoom. It's my annual Games, Games, Games podcast, only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.

And welcome back to this week's Rule Breaker Investing, arguably a misnomer for this particular podcast. There's not a lot of investing going on in this week's podcast, but anybody who's listened to me for more than a month probably has figured out by now that I like to spend about a third of my time on investing, a third of my time on business, and a third of my time on life. And if you think about The Motley Fool's purpose statement, to make the world smarter, happier, and richer, I think you could map those to those three zones I talk about. For me, we spend a third of our time on investing, which should make us richer; on business, which should make us smarter; and on life, which will make us happier -- and if you're like me, games, especially shared with others, spark joy in you.

Now, I first started doing this in 2017, back then it was the Gift-Giving Special, and I had a bunch of fellow Fools on to talk about how they give gifts around this holiday period, and some creative thoughts. And I kind of just right in the end there, stuck in a games list in that Gift-Giving Special of 2017. Well, a year later, it was Richard Garfield, the game designer of Magic: The Gathering, one of the great all-time games, and a wonderful interview. I talked to Richard in December. And yeah, I just put in a list for recommendations for holiday games.

And then last year for the first time, I just explicitly came out of the closet on this and went Games, Games, Games -- that was the title of the podcast. [laughs] So I'm going to call this one Games, Games, Games Vol. 2. This is an annual holiday guide to some of my favorite recent games -- boardgames and card games.

Now, before we get started with the first of three, five-game lists, each to a certain theme, I want to share with you two of my favorite tools from the board-game world. Now, the first one is BoardGameGeek. So if you love The Motley Fool, and we say "investing" to you, and you come to Fool.com thinking about investing, well, the site that I do the same thing for when it comes to board games, the magnet site for me as a board gamer is clearly BoardGameGeek.com. A lot of you who are gamers already know it. Many others, who are hearing, wait! Is there a site dedicated to boardgames on the internet? Well, darn right there is -- it's been going for +20 years. I talked to the founders' early days, because they were talking about branding themselves. And so they reached out to us at The Fool, and they said, hey, you guys call yourselves Fools, has that worked for you? They were saying in the late-1990s, because we're thinking of starting a site and calling it geek, BoardGameGeek. So what do you think of that? And of course, as Fools, we said, we think that's great. I'm not saying they took our advice, but it did end up BoardGameGeek, which I'm very happy to note.

But more important is the value of that site. Every game ever made, whether it's a game you were taught as a child and can't remember the name of it or a game that's existed for thousands of years, like the game Go or a game that you played last week, every single one of them has a page on BoardGameGeek, where people are posting up pictures of the game, they're answering rules questions, they're putting in tutorial videos, all kinds of content, user-generated, around games. So it is such a helpful tool.

And in fact, I'm going to be including from BoardGameGeek, for each of the games in this year's Games, Games, Games, a couple of numbers to add value to deciding if this is the right game for you. In fact, I say a couple of numbers, but I'm going to be presenting three facts about each of the games we're covering this week.

The first is the rating. You know how the Internet Movie Database [IMDb] puts a rating on every movie, and Amazon puts a rating on every product? Well, that's exactly what you'd expect from BoardGameGeek, where every game is rated. And in my experience, if a game is at 7.0 or higher, it's probably a pretty good game, if it's below 7, you better really like the genre or know the designer; there are so many better games than those. I'll also mention, because all of these sites have their own kinds of parameters and communities, it's very rare for any game to be rated over, let's say, 8.5. You have thousands of people rating, you have to have everybody agreeing it's a 10 to be anywhere near a 9. But turns out there are many mixed tastes, and so I'm not sure I can remember seeing a game that's much higher than 8.6. So it's that sweet spot of 7.0 to 8.6.

And of course, all of the games I'll be sharing with you this week fall in that sweet zone. They're good games -- otherwise, why am I talking about them?

The second number I'm going to share with you is the weight rating. Now this bears a quick explanation. It's so helpful, especially figuring out what is a good game for you or a person that you're thinking about giving a game to as a gift. So the weight of the game is rated from 1 to 5, and it's basically how much effort does it take to teach and/or to play this game? How weighty is it? So, closer to 5, means 37-page rule books, two-hour rules explanations and a whole bunch of overhead to even get that game to the table. Whereas the opposite, if it's down near 1, it's Candyland -- by the way, one of the worst games ever made. Teaches kids that decisions don't matter because all you're doing is flipping cards and following what the card says. I'm having a little fun. I think I may have included Candyland on a past Pet Peeves podcast, but if I didn't, maybe it would be on a future one. But, yeah, Candyland is around 1.0. And the hardest, most intense game you could ever think of is probably going to be over 4.

So, for each of the games I'll be giving the weight, to give you a sense of how easy it is to teach to others, often how long it might take to play or not, a lot of that is wrapped into the weight.

The final fact that I'll be giving you from BoardGameGeek for each of these games is the appropriate number of players for the game. Now, if you're a longtime gamer, you'll recognize sometimes you buy a game box and on the box it says, "Players: Two to Six." But while it might say, "Players: Two to Six," sometimes it's only a really good game if it's four, five or six. Maybe it's not a very good two-player game. Or sometimes, it might be a great two- or three-player game. But boy.. if you start adding four, five and six players, it takes way too long. So gamers are smart, and on BoardGameGeek, they vote what they think the best player totals are. So I'll be giving that for each of these games.

Now beyond what I'm sharing with you this week, I've just shared with you a great tool, if you didn't already know about it. Feel free to go to BoardGameGeek.com, this is a completely unpaid advertisement [laughs] from a gaming fanatic. But now you're empowered to know, there's a page for the game you're looking for. It might be a game you've just seen on Amazon, but you're wondering is that actually a good game or not, so you can go check the rating for the game, you can look for the weight of the game, which is listed on the top-half of the page for every game, and also see the number of players it's most suitable for. So, all three of those are really helpful bits of information; I'll be sharing that with you throughout this podcast.

The second and final tool I want to mention is another endorsement for somebody I don't know, in this case, who I just think has created something amazing and it's called the BG Stats app. Now, you're ready to get really geeky with me. I take the time, when I play any game, to log that I played that game. Some people do this with their diet, they're like, I ate this today, I'm going to list that, and they keep a spreadsheet of what they're eating to make sure they're eating healthily or to keep to a diet. Well, gamers, especially hardcore ones like me, also log their games. So I'll say, I played this game with my friend Rick. Rick and I played this game at his house. So you type in the location. On this date. It took this long. Yup! You could track the time that the game took, that can be helpful for the future. And of course, what the final score was. And so I log my games. If this sounds crazy to you, please don't do it, but if it sounds interesting and you're wondering what's an amazing app that just keeps getting better to help you keep track of all the games that you've played -- BG Stats. It's on the App Store. You shouldn't have much trouble finding it. In fact, the author says Board Game Stats was created because my wife and I were missing a quick-and-easy-to-use tool to track our board-game plays. Over time it developed to include statistics and more and more details, features and polish, thinking we could not be the only ones looking for this solution. The app was published to the App Store in July 2014. Apps by Eerko.

And in fact, I see that Eerko is Dutch, and he and his wife Suzan, their last name is Vissering. You can even follow them on Twitter if you like. But he does a spectacular job with this app. So the games I'm sharing with you this week are among my most played games in 2020. And I can do crazy things thanks to this app, like, tell you I have had 381 plays in the past 12 months. So if you're calculating that I'm playing more than one game a day on average, that is true. Of course, sometimes nothing for a week and then eight over a weekend. But I actually know how many games I've played. I've played with 41 different players in the last 12 months, 72 unique games in 20 locations. The list goes on. All I'm doing is logging, but the number crunching here is fantastic.

All right. So you've heard about BoardGameGeek and the Board Game Stats app; BG Stats on the App Store. Let's get started.

So I have three lists of five games each for you. And the first one was touched off in November when I received this note from Caroline, which I shared in the Mailbag. She said, "Something a little different for you, David. Can you tell me your five favorite games of any kind, board, card, dice, etc., that are just as challenging and fun with only two people? Really need something to do with my 14-year-old son as we head into the colder Fall and Winter months. Thanks so much, Caroline."

And Caroline, this first list of five games is dedicated to you. They are five two player games, that'll be followed by five casual games and five hardcore games, that's what we're going to do this edition of Games, Games, Games. So, let's get started with five two player games. And the first one I'm going to share with you, this is alphabetical, is Dominion. Now, Dominion is among my most-played games of all. In fact, I played it 56 times over the last 365 days. So, you can see we love Dominion in our family, I can say, the Gardner kids, who are now no longer kids, were raised, in many ways, on this game by Donald X. Vaccarino, a deck-building game. Now, I'm not going to be able to explain [laughs] the rules of any of these games or really, in some cases, fully, the mechanisms of them, because this is more a holiday buying list, I don't want to burden it too much. But I will say that Dominion is a deck-building game.

So, the concept is that you each start off with your own little deck of cards and you're competing against each other to rack up as many points, but what your cards do is they let you buy some more of the cards in the middle of the table that add special effects and victory points to your deck of cards, and you keep shuffling and reshuffling, adding cards to your deck over the course of the game until it ends, at which point you count up the points. That's why it's called deck building, because you're building the deck as you play.

Now, Dominion, on BoardGameGeek, is a 7.6. Its weight is 2.36, which is kind of about down the middle, I would describe this as a light- to medium-weight game. Why do we love it so much, because it has at least 14, if not more, expansions, and I basically bought them all over the course of, [laughs] it feels like, more than 15 years? And so, if you find yourself enjoying this game, you can add more new different types of cards, all of those expansions are still available, and it is nearly infinite, the replay-ability of this game. By the way, this game plays two to four players, it's considered best with three. But I assure you, Caroline, that you and your son will really enjoy Dominion, if this sounds like the kind of game you'd like to try. It plays great with two players.

All right. The second game is called The Fox in the Forest. It's a 7.3 rated game on BoardGameGeek. The weight is 1.58. i.e., this is a pretty light game. Here's a neat design challenge, could you design a trick-taking game for just two players. A lot of us you know trick-taking card games, like Bridge or Hearts, are used to playing with several players, and you're all competing, three or four of you, to win a trick. That's what made, initially, a two-player trick-taking game seem so preposterous to me, and it's a brilliant design. So, congratulations to the designer Joshua Buergel, who basically killed it with his design. And if you find yourself really having enjoyed The Fox in the Forest, we've played it quite a lot in our family, of course, this is just two players, unlike Dominion, it only plays two players. But if you find yourself enjoying it, there is a new version called The Fox in the Forest Duet, which is a cooperative two-player trick-taking game. And if you find interest in that, just check out BoardGameGeek or Amazon, and you can read more about it. The Fox in the Forest, game No. 2, a trick-taking card game.

All right. Game No. 3, A to Z, alphabetical, is Reef. The game is rated 7.1 on BoardGameGeek. And its weight is in-between Dominion on the higher end, and The Fox in the Forest on the low end, it logs in at a 1.85. Now, I realize this is an incredibly geeky number that most people have no framework for understanding. So, I'll just say, 1.85 is a light game. It will take 10 to 15 minutes to read the rules and teach somebody else, and it's not a particularly complicated game. But it is a delightful game. It's visually beautiful. The aesthetic, it's just fun to hold the pieces in your hands, but you are building your own reef right in front of you. You're trying to score points, and it's a card game where you are trying to plan ahead a few cards where you're both going to be adding reefs, but also trying to score certain combinations. It's a very abstract game, so you're looking at patterns and colors and trying to rack up points, all wrapped up in a delightful small box.

And by the way, one of my pet peeves in gaming is when game designers or publishers make way overly large boxes that didn't need to be so big, [laughs] and you're trying to fit as many on your shelves as you can, and you don't like the publishers that make unnecessarily large boxes. It's kind of like, when you buy a bag of potato chips and notice that a third of it is just air. So, shout-out to the publisher of this one, Next Move Games, it's a beautiful package. And because it's so visually attractive, it'll look really good as somebody rips wrapping paper off of it to see what's inside.

And before we move on to game No. 4, I'll mention that Reef, like Dominion, plays two, three, or four players. And on BoardGameGeek it's listed as best with all, i.e., it scales beautifully, it's great with two, great with three, great with four. So we're sticking with two-player games for this list, so you can think of Reef as a two-player game, but that'll invite others to the table as well.

All right game No. 4 is Sagrada. The BoardGameGeek rating for Sagrada is a 7.5. The weight of Sagrada, basically right there with Reef at a 1.93, both below 2, it means they're light games. This game also plays one to four. Yup... you can play Sagrada solo; there are rules for that. Plays one to four, but it's considered best with two. In Sagrada, yup, it's based on the Sagrada Familia, the unfinished cathedral in Barcelona, which I've once been to, and it's still not done. But it's famous for its beautiful stained-glass windows. And so, in the game of Sagrada, you'll be building your own stained-glass window, but instead of using glass panels, you have a little gameboard in front of you, your personal gameboard, and you're taking translucent, different-colored dice and you are rolling them, needing to hit certain combos, as you lay them down and create your stained glass window. It's a very mathematical game, it's not a particularly complicated game, that's why it's under a 2 weight. Very replayable, we've played it quite a lot this year. Yup! I see I have played it 11 times. Sometimes I forget to log my plays, so I've played it at least 11 times in 2020. And, heck! Caroline, there's still time. I mean, you might be able to play this game, if you love it, 11 times before 2020 is out.

All right. My final two-player game now of all of these, this is the heaviest and most strategy-oriented, it's also one of the best games that came out this year. The name of the game is The Search for Planet X. It is an 8.2, so it outranks, by rating, all the games I've already just shared with you. Its weight is at 2.56. Yup, it's weightier than all these games. It plays one to four players. It plays best with two.

So, I have friends who went through law school and said, some of our case studies are kind of like this. It's a logic-based game, except that it has an outer space theme. As you may well know, many of you will know better than I, in real-life, it is true that we believe that there is an extra planet at the edge of our solar system. The movement of some of the other heavenly bodies, like, asteroids or comets, seem to be influenced by something we haven't identified yet. So, astronomers call it Planet X. Well, that's the theme for this game, you're searching for Planet X, but really, interestingly, you are using your iPhone or iPad, your iDevice, and this is a game that incorporates that in order to give you replayable data that changes every single game. So, the game is infinitely replayable, but you're using logic deduction puzzles to figure out which of the 12 sectors is this planet in? Well, for example, you'll learn that there's a dwarf planet, one of the objects in the game, in sector four. And you'll know that, because it's in sector four, there can't be this other thing in sector five, but there could be a few sectors away from another dwarf planet. It is think-y, it is not overlong, in fact the game takes an hour or less, very replayable. And I think it's going to make your 14-year-old smarter. I bet your 14-year-old is already pretty smart. But the reason I'm sharing it is because it's fun. So, The Search for Planet X, which I see I spent roughly nine hours playing in 2020. Highly recommend it.

And I should mention that some of the games that make my list this year have appeared in past years, but I also like to highlight the brand-new ones, The Search for Planet X is one such.

All right. And while I tried to make sure that all of the games I'm sharing with you this week are easy and available, often just on Amazon, if you like, I regret to say that my excitement about The Search for Planet X appears justified, because I see it is sold out and not [laughs] on Amazon. I will mention to you, the publisher is RenegadeGameStudios.com, and if you go to their website you'll see that they are shipping, but they're having to reprint the game, so you'll have the game shipped to you in January, i.e., a month away past the holiday season. Unless you're one of those people who likes to keep your tree set up into February.

Well, Caroline, I hope that was helpful, five, two-player games. Caroline and everybody else, if you have a spouse, partner, child that you want to spend regular time playing games with, all five of those can fill up years of enjoyment for you both.

All right. Well, now we're going to move on to five casual games. Now, these are all going to be lighter games, some of them very light. If you're somebody who likes games, OK, like a good word game with family in the days leading up to Christmas, you're not so much of a gamer, but you enjoy light card games or you would just like to give an easy-to-understand game to a friend or a family member, well, that's what the casual set is for.

And before I start this list, I want to mention a past entrant on my game series of yore was the game Codenames. Now, many of you know Codenames, maybe you heard it for the first time in this podcast or maybe you've discovered it since. We have played Codenames at Motley Fool events, teaching our members how to play Codenames. And I wanted to describe one of my favorite moments of 2020, which is that, for our company, The Motley Fool, Inc., we had our annual corporate offsite this Fall, but unfortunately, and of course understandably, nobody went offsite, we were all in our dens. But our wonderful People Team decided that we could all play a game together as part of the multiday event. And so, they chose Codenames, because darn it! Codenames.game, which is the internet URL, has Codenames playable over the internet virtually by anybody. And it is a spectacular interface.

So, before I go on to my five casual games, I won't be listing Codenames this year, but you should know it's now freely playable on the internet Codenames.game. And you can open up a Zoom window, and you can see the faces of the people playing. And I was playing with my team that was Australia based, I was the only Yankee on our all Aussie team as we made it to the finals, but unfortunately lost by one point in this year's Motley Fool Codenames tournament. So, there's a big plug for a game, like many others, that exist in physical form, but has also now been translated onto the internet or into the App Store.

All Right. On to five casual games. Yup! I like the number five, 5-Stock Sampler is how I roll with this podcast. And wanted to have 5-Games Samplers once a year, which is what we're doing this week. So, our first casual game, alphabetically, another great 2020 release, or maybe right at the end of 2019. It's already won some awards this year, and it's called The Crew, as in the crew of astronauts, of which you are one. And it's a cooperative card game, it's a cooperative trick-taking card game, kind of like The Fox in the Forest Duet that I mentioned earlier, but it's all space themed.

Now, for whatever crazy reason, the theme is about going to the edge of our solar system to find planet X, so it uses the same narrative backstory as The Search for Planet X, but the game starts so simply. It's about trick-taking, you know, where you put a card down, I put a card down and whoever has the highest card in the right suit wins the trick and gets to lead to the next trick, that's what a trick-taking card game is. This is a cooperative trick-taking card game that starts simply, but it has 50 individual mini scenarios, each of which adds a little new rule or complication as you go forward. And there's a few sentences a backstory for your 50 missions as you go from earth out to the edge of our solar system and you hop back over the course of, I'd say, maybe 10 to 15 hours of group play. It is very replayable.

Any one of the hands, each of which is a mission, takes maybe 5 or 10 minutes, and it is a wonderful experience. This is an 8.0 on BoardGameGeek. The weight of this game is a 2.00; right on the nose. It's playable by two to five players. It is I think best with four, which is pretty much how we played it. It's a little harder with four than with three, in my experience, but this is a fantastic family experience. If you are card gamers, or if you want to teach kids about cards and trick-taking games, The Crew is a wonderful way to do it. Again, you're all working together trying to take the right trick at the right time, otherwise you fail the mission. If you fail the mission, you just note that you did and replay it, and you try to have the lowest number of played games possible; that's kind of your final score for The Crew. So, huge ups for this game, should be easily purchasable, unlike that other planet X game on Amazon.

Game No. 2 is Decrypto. This is a game that probably needed Codenames to exist before Decrypto could show up. In the same way that I think Sir Isaac Newton delivered the famous line, if I saw farther, it's because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. Well, the same is true, I think, of Decrypto, many games are derivative of others.

So, Decrypto has you playing with your partner or partners, trying to guess the right words in sort of a Password-like game, where you give a password and you try to get your teammates to guess the word. I'm not going to explain more about that, many of you will already know Decrypto, because I think I may have mentioned it in 2018, that's the year it came out, I'm pretty sure I would have highlighted it in that year's holiday game buying guide. But suffice it to say, it's a 7.8 on BoardGameGeek. The weight of this game is a 1.81. This plays a larger number of players, in contrast to the games we've talked about thus far, it's good for four to eight players. It's probably best with four or six; an even number, which is helpful for that game, although not required. So, if you have a larger family group, in this physically distant smaller holiday for all of us, but a larger group, Decrypto is really fantastic. And again, like all of these games, very replayable.

In fact, I would say, any one of the 15 games that I'm sharing with you this year, you could play week-in and week-out and get a lot of joy throughout the year 2021, any one of these is worthy.

All right. Casual game No. 3. This starts to strain the concept of casualness, because some people find this game quite complicated. I would say this is a game appropriate for gamers. So, if you think of yourself as a gamer, if you're the kind of person who likes to read rules, you like to buy the box and you're getting the rules out just to read them and understand how it's happening, and you look forward to teaching it to others, then you might just love Innovation, which is one of my most-played games since it came out in 2010, by the brilliant game designer, Carl Chudyk.

I'm simply going to read a portion of the description of the game on BoardGameGeek to quickly convey to you how this game works. This game by Carl Chudyk is a journey through innovations from the stone age through modern times. Each player builds a civilization based on various technologies, ideas, and cultural advancements, all represented by cards. Each of these cards has a unique power, which will allow further advancement, point scoring, or even attacking other civilizations. Be careful though, as other civilizations may be able to benefit from your ideas as well. To win, you must score achievements, which you can attain by amassing points or by meeting certain criteria with the innovations you've built. Plan your civilization well and outmaneuver your opponents, and with some luck you will achieve victory. And there is some, certainly, luck of the draw in this game.

Why do I love innovation? Well, first of all, I'm a Rule Breaker, I hope you are too, I love innovation, I love that there's a great card game based on innovation. And I've always loved games, and books, that can go through the full sweep of the human narrative throughout history. So, you do start with the age 1 deck, which is the stone age, and you end up with the age 10 deck, which is chronologically where we are, or ahead of where we are today. It's a card game where you're building up a tableau in front of you. It is very interactive and it is sometimes nasty. If you're somebody who doesn't like that type of game, you might not like Innovation. There's also some crazy chaos that can happen near the end, some people love that, I'm sort of one of them, but other people think, I just spent an hour-and-a-half playing a game and you did some silly thing in the last minute that won it for you, I feel like I wasted 90 minutes. [laughs] So, that's not how I feel the reason that Innovation is here, it's because it's one of my all-time favorite most-played games. Game No. 3 on the casual list.

Now the boardgame rating on BoardGameGeek for Innovation is 7.2. This is, by the way, a very small box. It's basically just a big deck of cards with some rules. The weight of this game is 2.74. For those keeping score at home. It is, and rightly so I would say, the most complicated of all the games that I've already listed for you. The eight that I've now shared with you, the previous high was 2.56 for The Search for Planet X, this is 2.74. There's so much variety and complexity. Every one of the cards is a different innovation over time. And by the way, if you find yourself loving the game, as I do, there are four expansions. They add things like the cities of our civilizations over thousands of years or the artifacts that we created or famous people, all of which are different expansions that add a huge amount of replayability to the game.

So, yeah, Innovation is certainly a family favorite. Although, not every member of my family would agree; at least one or two my kids would say, dad, you love that one, but overrated. Different strokes, different folks. I will mention, this game is for two, three or four players, but it's considered best with two.

All right. Game No. 4 on my list of five casuals, and this one is a holdover, the only one on this list from last year. Yup! We continued playing Just One a lot all Summer long, until we finally got a perfect score as a family, and we almost retired it at this point, even though it's one of those great word games that's infinitely replayable. By the way, you notice me keep talking about the replayability of games; that's something that matters to me a lot. If you're going to spend $19.82, which is what it looks like Amazon is charging for Just One, you want to get your money's worth. The more you play a game, the more economical your purchase. Some people these days look at new boardgames especially, more complicated ones with amazing components, often kick-started, and they're starting to see a $100 price tag on a game and they blanch at that. And I can certainly understand that mentality. Unless you're a serious gamer like me, who might play that game 100 times, at which point you spend about a $1/session, you've had a great time with family and friends. And to me, that's a better way to spend $100 then on five different movie tickets, enjoyed briefly for a couple of hours; once people get back to cinemas. But I sure do appreciate how economical the entertainment in a good boardgame is, especially when played over-and-over through the years. So, replayability counts for a lot with me.

Now, I don't expect if you didn't buy Just One after last year's show that you'll remember what I said about it back then, but this one is very easy to explain. So, picture a deck of cards, each of which has a word, you draw one -- let's say, you're the main player this round -- you draw one, but you're the only one who doesn't know what the word is on the card, you face it out to all the other players, who are going to do their best to give you a clue to help you know what is the word on your card. But here's the catch, the clues that they give you cannot duplicate each other. If two clue-givers give me the same clue, they have to erase theirs and theirs aren't counted, I never get to see their clues. So, that means the clue-givers have to think about what is a unique, differentiated clue that would be "just one" of its kind, not duplicative with anybody else's. So, it has people thinking really creatively about what a good clue is for this or that word. And again, of course, very replayable.

Quick stats, by the way, on Just One, a 7.6 on BoardGameGeek. And get this weight, 1.06, [laughs] that is as light a game as exists in the world today outside, of course, of Candyland, which might even be more complicated, because Candyland, you flip up the card and it shows you want pink box, so that means you move to the next pink box on the board, but sometimes it shows you two pink boxes, which means you jump ahead twice, and that's about as complicated as Just One gets itself. [laughs]

I should mention as well, Just One is great with large numbers, in fact, it's best with six or seven. The game box says, it plays four to seven, but best to have all the players in. So, you're going to enjoy this with a larger group gathering. And again, it'll take about a minute to teach. Even people who don't like games will be playing and enjoying Just One.

And my final casual game this year, yup! It's another word game just like Decrypto and Just One, although it has Dominion-like aspects, and that's a game called Letterpress. Now, I'll mention Letterpress is a 7.2 on BoardGameGeek. It's a 1.50 weight, so a very light game. The game box says it plays for one to six players, yup! This has a solo mode as well; and I would say it plays all of those ably.

Now, of all the games I'm sharing with you this week, this is the one that's least well known. In fact, when I am on Amazon and I search within the Toys and Games section, you type in "Letterpress" it doesn't show up. You have to be searching All on Amazon, like, coming to the Amazon homepage, make sure you're on All, type in "Letterpress" you should find it. It only has about 50 people having rated it so far on BoardGameGeek, so this is clearly a smaller box publisher, but I think it's a pretty brilliant little game in a box.

To explain it briefly, it's kind of like Dominion, in that you are deckbuilding. You start with a small deck of cards and then you're adding more as you go, but each card has a letter on it. And ultimately, you're just trying to spell one big long word at the end with the letters that you've acquired over the course of this competitive game. There's more to it than that. It is a clever game of words, which is the subtitle on the small box by designer Robin David, and we really have enjoyed Letterpress in 2020.

All right. Are you still with me? We've done five two-player games, we've done five casual games. Here's my final 5-Game Sampler, and this is five harder core games, five hardcore games, five gamer games, if you will. And if you're still listening, and I guess if you're hearing me right now, you are, you're interested and you're probably a hardcore gamer yourself. And so for this reason, even though each of these is so interesting to talk about, and I could talk for an hour about any one of these games, I'm going to give them short shrift, because for my hardcore gamers, you probably already know how to find out more information about this game, go to the BoardGameGeek page, you might already know some of these games, so I'm not going to belabor them, even though each of these is a wonderful game and a wonderful story to tell on its own.

But to keep moving here, as we close this week's podcast with five hardcore games, alphabetically presented. Game No. 1, and it is a holdover from last year, it's called Architects of the West Kingdom. Now, there's a backstory for this game, it's about the Carolingian Empire. Of course, it starts with Charlemagne, circa 850 AD. There's a little bit of history in this boardgame, but mainly it's still a game where you're just trying to grab victory points at game's end, and you're constructing various buildings and you're advancing work on the archbishop's cathedral throughout the game, you're making some moral decision, so there's a virtue track. And I mentioned it last year, because I really enjoyed the design by designer Shem Phillips of Garphill Games. But in the meantime, he's come out with two more, to make a full set of a trilogy. So, in the same way that The Lord of the Rings, many people considered, I think, Tolkien himself did as just one long book, but it tends to get published as The Fellowship of the Ring, and then The Two Towers, and then The Return of the King. Well, that's also true of these three distinct games called Architects of the West Kingdom. And then I've just read the rules and look forward to playing to the second, which is, Paladins of the West Kingdom, and just out late this year, Viscounts of the West Kingdom. And there's even a fourth box that's like a metagame box that gives you a campaign across all three of those games, if you want to have a metagame going on outside of Architects, Paladins, and Viscounts. So, it's an amazing achievement, I think, for a game designer. These are really good playable games, any one of them, but Architects is the lightest and first. And so, that's why I'm double-underlining it again.

We just spent our annual tradition of Thanksgaming. Yup! That's what we call Thanksgiving in our family. If you remember Mental Tips, Tricks and Lifehacks, a few weeks back I talked about creating your own holidays, we talked about that again on the mailbag last week. Well, this would be a great example for our family, Thanksgaming is what happens every year. And I just had a few great sessions of Architects of the West Kingdom for our family Thanksgaming, so I'm thinking about it fondly again here in 2019, but also flagging the full trilogy.

Now, Architects, by the way, is a 7.8 rated game on BoardGameGeek. Its weight is 2.76. Yup! Weightier, more hardcore oriented. It plays from one to five, all of them ably, but it is one of those games considered best with four.

All right. Game No. 2, alphabetically, get ready to get really geeky with me, but you already are, right, because we're hardcore gamers. The name of this game is Baseball Highlights: 2045. Now, of all five of these games, this is probably the least well-known. Let me briefly explain why this one has caught my fancy for years now, but took on special meaning when there was no baseball for half of the season earlier this year, so instead, I just started playing Baseball Highlights.

So, this is another deck builder. We talked about Dominion, where you are bringing in various cards to build your kingdom, you're buying them as you play. We also talked about Letterpress, we just talked about it, you're buying letters to deck-build with letters to build a big word to score points at the end. Well, in Baseball Highlights, you're putting together a team of baseball players. And the reason it's Baseball Highlights: 2045 is because it's set 25 years from now, and there are some funny ways baseball has changed. We'll see if it actually happens in real life, but they've decided to shorten the games to just six innings, and there are now robots and cyborgs in our society and every baseball player is either a natural, which should be you and me, the real-deal flesh, or a cyborg or a robot. And it's mainly having silly fun with these concepts, but what you really have here is a wonderful replayable baseball simulation as a deckbuilding game. So, if you're a baseball fan and a gamer, and you really have to be both, I think, you're going to enjoy Baseball Highlights: 2045.

You put your team together, sign on free agents, you play against your opponent, and you're playing a little game of baseball with a legit final score over-and-over in a World Series format, Baseball Highlights: 2045.

Baseball Highlights on BoardGameGeek is a 7.6. There are a number of expansions to add more players and a few more rule types to the game, if you want to go deeper. The weight is 2.22. Yup! A pretty light game. Playable, typically, in about an hour or less. Considered, certainly, best with two; since you have two teams playing each other in the baseball field, yours and your friends. But you could also have four players all build their teams and then have a round-robin format, if you will.

All right. Game No. 3. We move down to the letter E for Everdell. Everdell is an 8.1 on BoardGameGeek. Very highly rated by thousands of people. Its weight is 2.81; so, on the weightier end. This game, once again, has a solo mode, so it plays from one to four players. Fans have rated it as best with three, but again it plays one, two, three, and four, depending on your style and play group. Everdell is a wonderful whimsical blend. And I'll mention whimsical, for a quick sec, the art in this game is gorgeous and really draws you in, as you'll see. Hey, just go to BoardGameGeek, and you can see pictures of what it looks like on a table or, of course, Amazon has pictures too. But it blends together two fun mechanics for gamers and harder core gamers. One is, tableau-building, where you're building out like the game Innovation I mentioned earlier, you're putting cards down in front of you that stay there and continue to have persistent effects throughout the game until they get removed or superseded by something else.

So, in Everdell, you're going to be the leader of a group of critters and you're bringing together -- it's like you're establishing your own little city with them. So, you are tableau-building with cards out in front of you, but that's blended together with worker placement, which I'll briefly explain. Most hardcore gamers will already know, but some of you might not be hardcore, but you're still listening to me. So, you should know that a very popular feature, a new dynamic that came into games about 20 years ago, made famous by some great games, Agricola, one of my all-time favorites, is very much a worker placement game. Anyway, there will be a gameboard and a number of different choices you have on that board, let's see different types of resources, like, you might want wood this turn, but your friend wants wood as well, and he goes first, so he puts his worker and grabs the wood on his turn, which means you can't, on your turn, because the wood is now gone, so you may be place yours over and get some stone or infinite other possibilities, like, draw new cards or score in some interesting ways.

So, worker placement games are about a choice of how you want to use your resources. And sometimes, in so doing, you will be denying others the same resources, creating some compelling strategic choices. So, again, Everdell blends beautiful art and whimsy with a pretty cool tableau-building game and worker placement.

All right. Game No. 4, probably my favorite game. When people say, David, what's your favorite game in the last five years? Most of the time, maybe mood might change it a little bit here-and-there, but most of the time I've been saying, and I'll say again right here, Terraforming Mars. This is an absolutely brilliant thematic game. It really does feel like, over the course of about an hour or two, that you are Terraforming Mars. You sort of learn about how humanity one day will hope, along with Elon Musk, to make Mars habitable. Speaking of business, each of you is sort of a corporation with your own goals and your own unique powers, and you're creating one project after another, each of which contributes in some small way to terraforming Mars. You're certainly competing with the other corporations on the board, but at the heart of this game is a huge deck, over 150 cards, every one of which is unique and has its own little ruleset and value. And you're trying to decide which ones you want to draft or buy, let alone paying for them, being able to afford to pay them, in a certain sequence, that would benefit you. There are a lot of other aspects to this game. There are unique milestones and goals you're trying to achieve in the middle of the game and at the end of the game.

I can't go on any longer about this otherwise I'll spend another hour on this podcast talking about it. But what I want to highlight is that Terraforming Mars has had, I think, five expansions, each of which, I think, further enriches the game. And yes, the act of playing with all five expansions is not only practicable, but it's preferable, for our family group anyway, but it means you're playing about a three-hour game. And you would never want anybody that you're teaching this game to, to have to learn any of the expansions, [laughs] you definitely want to have experience with the base game, which you could play and enjoy for the rest of your life on its own. But as you add in these additional expansions, the strategic depth and replayability is extreme.

So, Terraforming Mars, from the theming of the game, to the components, to the rules, the simplicity. Here's another thing I love about it, no one's turn takes too long. You take one or two actions and then the next person goes around, you just keep cycling around the table over the course of a few hours. So, it's dynamic, you're never sitting there with downtime. Downtime is something that a lot of game designers have gotten really good at avoiding over the last decade. So, I think a lot of us had bad memories sitting there waiting for your cousin to take his or her turn in Monopoly and it was going to be your turn three turns from now, you could almost walk away for 10 minutes and come back there. Some games like that. Well, designers are very sensitive to that these days, creating more dynamic play space for modern boardgames that really try to limit downtime. This game does it beautifully.

Appropriately, Terraforming Mars' rating on BoardGameGeek is an 8.4. That is among the very highest rated games of all, coming in from +61,000 different gamers; that is an incredible testament to this design. I see right now that it's listed on the BoardGameGeek site as the fourth greatest game of all time. And I can say as somebody who's been playing it since it first came out in 2016, it has gotten a lot of my hours and a lot of enjoyment with many people, harder core gamers all, who love, as I do, Terraforming Mars. The weight of the game is a 3.24. Yup! that's a bigger number. And the player count for this one, well, it's one to five players; considered best with three. Unless you want to play a really long game, you might not want to have five players at the table, unless all five of them really know this game and no one suffers from analysis paralysis.

All right. And game No. 5 for the harder core gamer. Admittedly, this is more of a medium game, this is certainly lighter than Terraforming Mars, by far, and that's Wingspan. Now, this is a game I first mentioned on last year's Games, Games, Games episode, because it had just come out in 2019. And it won many awards for its female designer, Elizabeth Hargrave. Wingspan is an 8.1 on BoardGameGeek. It's one of the top 25 games of all time. It's listed as the No. 1 family game of all time at this point. 38,000 people have rated it. The weight of this game is 2.41, so almost an order of magnitude simpler than Terraforming Mars, but again, still in my experience, a gamer's game. It can bring some people into enjoying some more strategic games, people who only enjoy lighter games, that's why people call it a gateway game. It can be like a gateway drug, a gateway game into harder core stuff, all good here, of course, the connotation of gateway game for me.

This game also, like a bunch of the others, has a solo mode, and that seems useful. I've certainly soloed some of my games in 2020. We're in various stages of lockdown, solo games can be really helpful. So, it does play well solo. It's considered best with three. And while it says, one to five players on the box, most people think, kind of, like Terraforming Mars, maybe not play it with five players, but you could.

Well, since I think I'm mainly just speaking to hardcore gamers at this stage of the podcast, I don't think I have to explain that much about Wingspan, I bet you know of the game. But if anybody wants to, just go to BoardGameGeek and read a lot more about it. The reason I'm highlighting it now is because two wonderful expansions, which have really enriched the game for me, came out in the year 2020. Now, Wingspan is, of course, a bird themed game. Each of you is trying to create your own aviary, and attracting as many valuable exotic birds as possible. They're being scored with points. And in a lot of ways, it's an economic simulation under the hood.

But Wingspan came out with its first expansion, the European bird expansion, at the start of this year, which really enriched the game for us, and it added some more variety to the goals and changed the game up, and changed some of your strategies up. And then, in the mail, in fact, for me right now, and you probably could order this too, from Stonemaier Games, the Oceania expansion. So, we're adding birds from Australia and New Zealand, and some new rules and effects there as well. So, I think both of these are really going to enrich your experience of Wingspan. But if you're a toe-dipper and this sounds like something new for you, I wouldn't suggest you need to go out and get any expansion, please enjoy the base game with family and friends.

You know, I think back fondly to having the publisher of this game, Jamey Stegmaier, on a past edition of Rule Breaker Investing. Yup! I've had game designers and game publishers, how could I not, over the course of our +5 years together on this podcast, and what a delightful person Jamey is, and a wonderful contributor to the board-gaming world. He is the publisher, although not the designer, of Wingspan. It's wonderful to see female designers starting to make their mark increasingly in this industry.

Well, there are so many other games I could've included on these three lists. I think especially about hardcore games that I've enjoyed this year, Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. Anybody who's ever not played Gloomhaven and considers himself a very hardcore gamer, I would suggest you sink hours and hours into a wonderful game. And it came out with the simplified version in 2020, called Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, highly recommended.

We've also enjoyed games like Spirit Island, it came out with a great expansion very recently as well. That's a cooperative deep strategy game, a very high weight number on Spirit Island. There are so many great games out there. But for any holiday buyer's guide, you have to say "no" to some things, otherwise the list, and the podcast, would just be too long.

Let me say one thing in closing, I love games, and a recent podcast where I talked about losing to win, one of my big themes in life, really important, I love games and yet, even though I own hundreds of them, people think probably that I'm really good at them, but I'm not a particularly good gamer, I regularly get beaten by people of all ages. I'll teach a new game to somebody, I played it for years, and they'll beat me in the first game that we play together. So, winning and losing is not such a big thing to me. I also love cooperative games. Earlier I mentioned The Crew, the casual card game, where you and your friends or family are astronauts working together to take tricks together, that's a cooperative game. Other games like Pandemic, speaking of pandemic. Wonderful legacy games, which we've talked about in past games episodes, are all out there.

But the three games I love most, which in their own ways involve a lot of losing too, but I'm trying to get better at them every day, and I hope you are too, through this podcast and through The Motley Fool, the games of investing, business, and life. I've always thought of investing as an amazing game and I love keeping score, and we've done that together with all the 5-Stock Samplers over the course of years now, business. I'm so pleased and delighted, I would say "blessed" to have been an entrepreneur, to be an entrepreneur, somebody who's created a business. And I love investing in other people's businesses, and that's what we do as investors, but the game of business will always be infinitely interesting to me.

And darn it! Life. Life, when thought of as a game, where you can keep score. And the big secret is, it's a co-op, it's not a dog eat dog competitive game, unless you want to play it that way, really, what happens in business every day, buyers shake hands with sellers, and transact with each other. We're all helping each other in a cooperative game of life.

Now, if you ever played The Game of Life, which I think is Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers, that's not such a good game, if you know, with the little cards and the pinky blue ponds and a big spinning wheel; that's not a good game. But the game of LIFE, the one I love talking about in this podcast, is.

So, those are the three games I love most, and I hope I'm helping you get better at each of them.

Well, I guess it's not too early to say it, is it? Happy Holidays! Fool on! And Game on!

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.