If you haven't played a board game lately, you might want to reconsider. A board game renaissance is afoot, and mostly because makers have thrown lots of activity into small packages. No more waiting your turn as someone else rolls a die and moves his or her piece. Today's games keep you in the action. Now it's easy for families of all ages to have fun learning about money and spend quality time together.
Here are five games that should make your short list if you're interested in financial topics.
Topic: Basic Math
Game: Monopoly Junior
Teaching children consumer math is simple with Monopoly Junior. This game differs from Monopoly, which can take hours. Instead, players take a fun trip around the board, visiting places kids enjoy like the pet store and the playground. Players purchase attractions, make change and visit each other's properties. My twins' first "aha" moment about numbers and recognizing the difference in currency occurred while playing this game.
Monopoly Junior is a Hasbro product available at most toy stores and online. It's recommended for age 5 and up (though we played it when my kids had just turned 4) and costs roughly $15. The amusement park version my family enjoyed is out of print but can still be found on eBay for under $10.
Commodities exchanges used to be known for screaming and yelling, and Pit simulates all the action. You trade staples like corn, wheat and sugar, trying to corner the market. The rules are easy: Deal out all the cards, and place a bell in the center of the table. Trade with other players until you fill your hand with all of one commodity, and ring the bell. Will you learn a ton playing Pit? Absolutely not. But because the whole family's having fun, it could be a good time to those financial discussions with the teenagers.
Pit is made by Winning Moves and is available at most toy stores and online. It's recommended for ages 7 and up (younger children will become frustrated). The cards cost around $9, but expect to pay $18 or more for the deluxe version, which includes the trading bell.
Topic: Real Estate
Game: For Sale
How about some fun buying and selling property without all the hassle? For Sale is an easy card game about real estate. Players spend the first half of the game acquiring properties and the second half trying to sell those properties to other players for the most profit. No heavy strategy here. Older children will grasp "buy low, sell high," and adults can springboard this lightweight idea into heavier concepts.
For Sale is made by hobby company Gryphon Games and Comics and is available at local game stores and online. It's recommended for ages 8 and up. You can expect to pay around $27.
Game: I'm The Boss!
People who don't believe that making money is as much about "who you know as what you know" are in for a rude awakening when playing I'm The Boss! Players control characters in the game whom they manipulate to strike profitable deals with opponents. Players use a hand of influence cards to negotiate, but learning how to put yourself in the middle of deals is the primary lesson. Don't want your opponent's character in on the deal? Play a card to send him on vacation and allow his relative to step in (whom you control). Cut out of a deal? Play your "I'm the Boss!" card to put yourself right in the center. You'll find out which of your family members can sweet talk their way into as many deals as possible. Lots of high stakes negotiations teach players that being loud isn't always the best way to make friends.
I'm the Boss!, made by hobby game company Face to Face Games, is available at local game stores or online. It's recommended for ages 12 and up, and costs $40 or more. (To spend less, a card game version is available for about $25.)
Topic: Mergers and Acquisitions
Want to buy stocks and merge companies? Your best bet is Acquire. The board and pieces are reminiscent of Scrabble. Every tile has a specific spot where it fits. If two tiles end up side-by-side, a company is formed. The player who laid the tile gets a founder bonus and then buys more shares. Prices rise as companies grow. When two companies merge, payouts go to the largest shareholders, but everyone in the acquired company receives something. The player with the most money at the end of the game wins.
Made by the same designer who created I'm the Boss!, it's a simple, yet strategic look at how a company grows and its stock follows. Acquire is fun partly because there's an insider trading element. You hold a tile that will help merge two companies, but until you can swing yourself into a position where it benefits you, you aren't going to play that piece. Multiply that feeling by the number of players, and you have a tense, but remarkable short game. Different from Monopoly, which can bore you for hours, Acquire usually runs less than 90 minutes and often less than an hour.
Acquire is made by Wizards of the Coast and is available at most toy stores and online. It's recommended for ages 12 and up, and costs around $24.
Hopefully these add to your holiday enjoyment or make buying gifts for that money geek in your life a little easier. My family has spent hours enjoying these games, and I'm sure you'll enjoy them with your friends and family, too.