To celebrate the week before Christmas (and give you a few great last minute gift ideas), The Simple Dollar is reviewing five board games that not only are a blast to play, but teach valuable financial lessons as well. All of these games should be easily found at a department store or a gaming specialty shop (check your local yellow pages). The first game in this series was The Game of Life.
For many of us, Monopoly is the game that pops in our heads when the phrase “board game” is mentioned. Rainy afternoons and marathon games of Monopoly were rites of passage when I was growing up – my cousins and I played a five player game that ended up running for 34 hours because we wound up in a deadlock and no one would trade lest the other one win.
How the game works You move around the board in a loop, buying unowned properties and charging rent to other players who land on your properties. Each completed lap around the board earns you a small income. Event cards (Chance and Community Chest) alter the game a bit, but the real charm is in the player interactions: can you convince Uncle Walt to trade you Illinois Avenue for Reading Railroad, completing both of your sets?
So what does this game teach players about personal finance?
Investments pay off If you spend your money on a property, over time that property will generate income for you, enabling you to buy more property. In other words, investments earn income.
Investments have different kinds of value Many players are initially drawn to Boardwalk and Park Place because of the fantastically high rents that they bring in, but as you play more, you discover that other properties (such as Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky) are landed on much more often. Which is more valuable: a space rarely landed on with a huge rent, or a space with a lower rent that’s landed on regularly? Players learn to compare values and how to invest for themselves.
Random events Not only do the dice determine your route, but the Chance and Community Chest cards interject a good deal of randomness into the game. These cards often represent completely random events that can devastate you or save you, teaching players that if they get themselves into desperately overdrawn situations, they can lose everything at the drop of a hat. The game almost requires an emergency fund, and it shows clearly why it’s important.
Negotiation A big part of Monopoly is the art of negotiation. Can you talk your sister into trading Pennsylvania Avenue to you in exchange for the electric company and water works? A big part of the deal is how you sell it.
Infinite variety There are countless “house rules” for Monopoly that changes the flavor – and the skills needed. As the rules of the game change, so must your gameplay. For example, the free parking variant makes die rolling more important, whereas the bank lending rule enables players to go into debt without mortgaging. Different rules mean different strategies.