10 great board games for traders

October 2, 2013 11:02 AM

Games are great when they bringing people together to socialize, but they can be even better if you’re getting something out of them. Here’s a chance to sit back with some friends and put your skills as a trader to the test in a (slightly) less competitive atmosphere. Although nearly everyone owns a copy of Monopoly, we think you'll agree once you’ve seen our selections that games have come a long way since it was released in the 1930s. Here are 10 board games traders are sure to love.

After you’ve check out our selections, let us know if you’ve played any of these, or if there’s a gem that we missed.

10. Imperial 2030

Looking at the world through less-than-rose-colored glasses, Imperial 2030 has players take the role of internationally operating investors that act in the background of politics. In this game, it is not the players who take turns, but the six major industrial countries (United States, Europe, Russia, China, India and Brazil) that work to develop their industry and build armies and fleets. The countries then fight over control of neutral land and sea areas to become the most powerful nation.

The players act by giving money to the six powers, each of which have their own treasuries, and thus gain influence over that countries politics. The biggest investor in each nation gains control of that nation's government and decides what the nation will do. Control of a government can chance with each new investment, and players even may control several governments at one time. Don’t get too attached to one nation, though, because your focus isn’t on keeping one country ahead of another, but on your rate of return. Essentially, this game is about money, and not military domination.

9. Chicago Express

In Chicago Express, players take on the role of railroad executives just as four major railroads are pushing west, all trying to be the first to make it to Chicago. Gameplay is relatively simple with each player taking one of three actions on their turn, but the ramifications of those actions can run deep. On your turn, you can lay one to three trains on the board, develop a section of land (thus raising money for your company), or you can auction of more shares of a company.

The game ends when three companies run out of trains, three companies run out of stock, when houses run out or when Detroit is worth eight points. Ultimately you have to make the most money in the short timeframe of a game and make sure you don't overpay for your shares. However you need to pay enough to make sure your company has some capital to spend to build railroads. The player with the most profit at the end, wins.

8. Acquire

Acquire has been around since 1962, and in many ways is the perennial stock trading game. In it, players are strategically investing in business, while trying to maintain a majority stockholder position. As businesses grow throughout the game, they also start merging, which give the majority stockholders of the acquired business sizeable bonuses. These then can be used to reinvest into other chains. All of the investors in the newly acquired company then can cash in their stocks for current value or trade then 2-for-1 for shares of the new larger business.

Acquire combines stock trading with a spatial element with traders laying tiles on a board. Ultimately, it is a race to acquire the greatest wealth.

7. Panic on Wall Street!

Panic on Wall Street! Is a great party game for 3-11 players. In it, players take on the role of either a manager or an investor, and your goal is to outmaneuver your competitors and earn your place as a great industrialist by earning more money than any other manager (if you’re a manager) or more money than any other investor (if you’re an investor).

Each round managers and investors negotiate with each other in a noisy, two-minute free-for-all to set a purchase price for shares in the managers' companies. Investors then collect income from the shares they purchased but not until a roll of the dice brings (sometimes drastic) changes to the economy, with major consequences for the balance sheet of each player. Managers collect what they are owed from investors, pay fees for each of their companies, and buy new companies at auction.

Play is finished after five rounds of play, and the manager and investor who have accumulated the most money are each declared victors.

6. Wits & Wagers

Wits & Wagers takes the dusty trivia game archetype and breathes new life by adding a betting mechanic. Not a trivia buff? It doesn’t matter, because each players writes a guess to questions such as “In what year did the bikini swimsuit make its first appearance?” or “How many feet wide is an NFL football field? And places it face-up on the betting mat. Answers are lined out with outlier answers getting worse odds. Next comes the betting phase of the game.

Think your answer is right? Then bet all your chips on it. Think you know who does know the answer? Then bet on their answer. The closest answer without going over pays out according to the odds on the betting mat, and the player with the most chips at the end of the game, wins. You can win by making educated guesses, by playing the odds, or by knowing the interests of your friends.

5. Airlines Europe

In Airlines Europe, commercial airlines are just beginning to spread across Europe, and players are investors hoping to profit from the emerging opportunity. In the game, 10 airlines are competing to have the largest network of connected airports across Europe, and thus the highest value. Players determine which airlines become most valuable, though, because they are the ones that must invest in each company to buy the routes and increase the value.

At its heart, Airlines Europe is a stock game, with players earning points for the stock they hold in each airline companies when one of the randomly determined scorings takes place. On a player's turn, that player can take one of four actions: Expand an airline and claim a stock, play stock onto the board and receive dividends, invest in a special airline called Air ABACUS or get a certain amount of money from the bank. A player scores only for stock in play, but the value of an airline is determined by the value of the route licenses that airline owns – thus, you're torn in terms of what to play when.

4. Crude

In Crude, players take on the role of energy company CEOs attempting to expand their companies into multi-national mega-corporations. To do this, the game simulates the market forces and elements of the oil and gasoline markets at all levels of production, including oil drilling, oil pumping, oil and gasoline buying and selling in the domestic and foreign markets, refining and finally, gasoline selling to the consumer, all while simulating changing market environments.

In addition to the theme of the game, another aspect traders will enjoy is the strategy decisions. Just as a trader can be a scalper and go for lots of small profits or be a trend-follower and look for the big payouts, Crude gives players a choice of how to play the game. Do you line up all your assets and go for the big score, or do you spread out to get lots of little wins?

3. Last Will

You wouldn’t be trading if you didn’t want to make money, but what’s the use in that if you never spend it? Here’s a chance to spend it like there’s no tomorrow, and prove you really don’t know the value of a buck.

In Last Will, your rich uncle states that all of his millions will go to the nephew who can enjoy the money the most. To determine who that is, each player is given a large amount of money, and whoever can spend it first will inherit the rest of the fortune.  How will you spend it: Host extravagant parties on a private boat? Buy old properties for the price of new ones and sell them as ruins? How about taking your prize-winning polo horse out to eat at the most expensive restaurants?

However you do it, you have to spend to become rich. If you’re the first to run through the money on hand, you’ll receive the rest of his inheritance — oh, and win the game.

2. Settlers of Catan

Arguably the Settlers of Catan board game sparked the board game revolution when it was released in the United States in 1995, and has since become a mainstay in many people’s collections right alongside Monopoly. It has become popular with multiple groups also, including Silicone Valley execs and venture capitalists. In this game, players represent groups that are establishing colonies on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities and roads. To do this, though, they must spend resources they collect throughout the course of the game. These resources are gathered either via random dice rolls at the start of each player’s turn, or through players negotiating trades among one another.

This aspect of trading is where the meat of this game lies. Because the game is played on a modular board that can change every game and the random dice rolls, some resources can be abundant in one game but rare in others — as such their value can vary dramatically. This is the aspect traders will love as they vie against their opponents to always be on the better side of a trade. Usually, the winner is the person who was able to make the best trades throughout the course of the game.

1. Power Grid

In Power Grid, players take on the role of energy company CEOs who are trying to expand their network of power plants across the country. Players do that by outbidding one another for the most efficient power plants, purchasing different fuels from an ever-changing market and buying licenses to power different cities.

It sounds easy, but this is a game that rewards sound money management. If you don’t plan your moves accordingly, or just blow all your money on one aspect of the game, you’ll quickly find yourself without the funds needed to stay competitive. Traders especially will appreciate the auction phase of this game where players are bidding to get the best power plants available, all while balancing their funds for other aspects of the game. This is a game where every dollar matters.

 

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Game theory: 8 games for traders

About the Author

Michael McFarlin joined Futures in 2010 after graduating summa cum laude from Trinity International University, where he majored in English/Communication. With the launch of the new web platform, Michael serves as web editor for the site and will continue to work on the magazine, where he focuses on the Markets and Trading 101 features. He also served as a member of the Wisconsin National Guard from 2007 to 2010. mmcfarlin@futuresmag.com