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Weekend reading: Board games to keep you busy during our Christmas break

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Good reads from around the Web.

I have relished the resurgence of board games over the past decade or so. As somebody who turned over a few Monopoly boards as a kid and eventually ran out of people who would play with me, it was a second chance to be a better sport.

But more interestingly to you, while I’m still sadly a relatively poor loser (or perhaps not a sufficiently consistent winner) the games too have evolved to be less infuriating.

Many of the classic new wave titles like granddaddy Settlers of Catan are superbly balanced. You’re never quite out of the running in Catan, and while there has to be a winner, for some reason the defeated tend to feel a little less like losers.

The equally brilliant Dominion isn’t so fabulously balanced – an early misstep or bit of bad luck can hole your chances. But the rhythm of play with this deck-building masterpiece is so engrossing you probably won’t even notice, unless you’re a card-counting genius.

Dominion even taught me to be a better investor. (Handy given that there’s a long list of drool-worthy expansions to stump up for).

Both Catan and Dominion are still available for delivery for Christmas from Amazon. I predict they will deliver far better hourly bangs for your bucks than almost any other gift out there.

Board games are so sociable, too, especially compared to video games or the telly.

More great games to get you started

Have I tempted you into playing something different this Boxing Day? Great! Here are five six seven more new-ish games I’d recommend:

Spyfall – One of you is a spy and the rest aren’t. The non-spies know where they are and what they’re doing. The spy knows nothing except he’s a spy. You all ask each other questions and try to discover the truth first. Hilarity ensues.

Codenames – This is an old-fashioned word-based social game in the clothing of a new wave offering. So again you’re spies, but really you’re getting down and dirty with some nuanced vocabulary. Great for families.

Cards Against Humanity – Not great for families. Not great for a lot of people, actually, but if you like it you’ll love it. An underground guilty pleasure for years, it seems to have gone mainstream recently. Perhaps being despicable and mean has fitted the tenor of the times? The Voting Game is a sort of friendly redux.

The Resistance – A lot of modern games pivot on deception and bluster, which is what makes them so social. I’m diabolical at them; my sister identified me as a government agent in The Resistance before the missions had even begun and on her first ever play. But I keep coming back because it’s so simple and it always delivers. Good for bigger groups.

Skull – A beautiful bluffing game, sort of like poker without the chips, stetsons, and complexity. A gateway game to entice skeptical friends into play.

Risk Legacy – The classic board game Risk reworked into a one-shot adventure where you permanently deface your board over multiple games, renaming countries and revealing new paths and closing others through successive victories and defeats. Beware that this is a game that makes people angry. Even my game-hardened friends have fallen out over a well-timed oath-breaking military betrayal with this one. (Not that the shouting stopped the victor putting a toxic waste dump outside their bitterest opponent’s eponymous capital city for all future games to come, mind you…)

Cosmic Encounter – This is more of gamer’s game, so it could be a good purchase for that D&D playing niece or nephew in your life. Wildly capricious, it’s not my favourite but I have friends who think it’s the best thing since chess.

The difficulty with board games is getting people to play them with (and, as my teenage self discovered, keeping them!)

But I’ve seen a few newbies get the habit over the years – often including their partners. These are grown-up people with great lives, kids, careers and so forth, incidentally, so don’t dismiss the idea out of hand, especially not because of some dated just-for-kids prejudice.

Dominion is far less nerdy to play than its backstory and artwork suggests, and it’s arguably at its best with only two players. Start there and build your own gaming renaissance!

As for Monevator, we’re now off until January.

Have a great Christmas, and let’s hope for a happier new year.

From the blogs

Making good use of the things that we find…

Passive investing

Active investing

Other articles

Product of the week: Getting an offset mortgage became trickier after the financial crisis, especially if you lacked a huge deposit. But now Yorkshire Building Society’s Accord brand has launched a range of five-year offset mortgages that are accessible to those with as little as 15% as a deposit or as equity in their home. ThisIsMoney says the 2.69% interest rate looks competitive for an 85% loan-to-value product.

Mainstream media money

Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view these enable you to click through to read the piece without being a paid subscriber of that site.1

Passive investing

Active investing

  • When to send an investing model into retirement? – Bloomberg
  • Bonds are riskier than you think – Morningstar [Hint: Inflation]
  • RIP bond bull market, apparently – Reuters
  • Wellcome Trust’s bet against pound yields 19% returns [Search result]FT

A word from a broker

Other stuff worth reading

  • Equity investing in retirement: The big dilemma [Search result]FT
  • Seven simple ways to cut your spending in 2017 – Guardian
  • Recycled bank accounts can misdirect money transfers – Guardian
  • Lifetime ISA exit penalty to be waived in first year [Search result]FT
  • The ins and outs of using a safety deposit box – Telegraph
  • Beware these misleading property investments – Telegraph
  • Baby boomers should work longer to stay healthy – Guardian
  • Michael Lewis on his new book on behavioural economists [Video]Charlie Rose
  • Niall Ferguson: I was wrong on Brexit – The Boston Globe
  • Keep the costs of trade in perspective – The Economist
  • The great A.I. awakening – New York Times
  • How to sleep – The Atlantic

Book of the week: Retirement Investing Today is not a man who hangs around. This UK blogger achieved financial independence – and ‘two comma’ net worth – in less time than it takes the average person to get their feet comfy under the desk of their lifelong career. Now he’s knocked out a book explaining how he did it: From Zero to Financial Independence in Less than 10 Years. Priced at £7.99 there’s still time to get the paperback version for a Christmas present.

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every week!

  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []
{ 23 comments… add one }
  • 1 Gregory December 17, 2016, 5:33 pm

    I hope we will read the Monevator book and the new Kroijer’s book in 2017.

  • 2 Faustus December 17, 2016, 5:49 pm

    Great post and a good selection of games – a number of which I’ve not come across before. So much more enjoyable at Christmas than sitting around the TV or being engrossed in laptops/smartphones/tablets/etc. My brother’s family enjoyed Catan and Carcassone – I’ve seen Dominion recommended elsewhere, so perhaps the time has come to give it a go this year.

    Happy Christmas to the Monevator household and thank you for all your efforts, links and advice over the past year helping us to become (hopefully) better investors!

  • 3 Peter December 17, 2016, 8:41 pm

    Happy Christmas! I’m a Carcassone fan rather than Settlers of Catan, though we can’t play the former with my brother (an ex-Bridge player) as he wins every single game.

    Another two we’ve really enjoyed: Dixit (new to us this year, and a great game for non-strategists) and Ex Libris, which is similar but for more literary audiences.

  • 4 The Investor December 17, 2016, 9:59 pm

    Thanks guys. Carcassone is indeed a classic. Ex Libris is new to me!

    Off to look it up. 🙂

  • 5 SG December 17, 2016, 10:11 pm

    As a board game fan who definitely takes much more from your site than i contribute i feel its time to give back:
    “Really nasty horseracing”
    Far and away the only board game i’ve ever enjoyed “playing” more than i enjoy winning or losing.
    Merry Christmas. Thanks for the site. X

  • 6 charlie December 18, 2016, 12:22 am

    Anyone else enjoy The Starfarers of Catan?

  • 7 britinkiwi December 18, 2016, 12:26 am

    Board games have really got awesome over the past few years – apart from old favourites like Cosmic Encounter there are lots of games out there -some a little like D&D with a cooperative player group and an evil overlord player – like Descent or Imperial Assault – or just a single player trying to outwit the rest (eg Letters from Whitechapel) Then there are straight competition ones like Scythe. Even a simple card game like Love Letters is enjoyable. For myself I’m looking forward to the Kickstarter reboot of Nuclear War being delivered shortly……

    Many many thanks for your wisdom and dedication to this blog and thanks to your co-contributors and many fans on the discussion pages! Keep it up!

  • 8 subbuteo December 18, 2016, 5:51 am

    Modern board games are so much better to play that Monopoly. Carcasonne and Catan are standards in our house. We try and have a board game session once a week. Lots of fun, good for our pre-teen and teens – sociable, teaches them to think and gets them away from a screen!

    Games we play:
    Ticket to Ride; an awesome game; tense and nerve-wracking.
    Pandemic; cooperative game to save mankind.
    Sheriff of Nottingham; very good fun, hilarious with the right people.
    Camel Up; great to play with younger children.
    Concept is a mind-bender, like charades / Pictionary but with without actions or drawing!

    We are going to give The Castles of Mad King Ludwig and Pandemic Legacy a go this Christmas.

  • 9 Gregory December 18, 2016, 10:53 am

    Many thanks for the Aswath Damodaran ‘s article! By the way Musing on Markets is one of the favourite blogs of Larry Swedroe. He is right.

  • 10 Moneysaver December 19, 2016, 1:34 am

    This article has reminded of an old board game I used to play about 30 years ago. A stock market trading game called Strike it Rich. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2896/strike-it-rich
    Anyone heard of it?

    I’ll have to try and dig it out over the holidays. I may learn something from it!

  • 11 Steve21020 December 19, 2016, 8:33 am

    Thanks so much for all these ideas. I just wish I’d known about all these games before our kids left home. All I remember are games from over 20 years ago: Monopoly, Cluedo and Masterpiece. The last one was great. You buy and bid on famous paintings but you don’t know the real value till you get it. Very funny watching a young child trying hard not to grin as they flog a forged Rembrandt to Grandma for half a million!

  • 12 Lad's Dad December 19, 2016, 9:04 am

    Thanks all at Monevator for another year of witty, educational, reflective insight and musings. There’s nothing else out there close to this website for supporting us mere mortals to grow our knowledge in investing.

    Re board games: a bit too junior in our house for the suggestions, but can highly recommend Pop Up Pirates for keeping the little ones amused!

    Have a great Christmas all!

  • 13 weenie December 19, 2016, 12:27 pm

    Thanks for highlighting some very interesting board games – I’d love to play them but sadly, no one around to play with (cue violins haha!) I played the usual Monopoly, Cluedo etc when I was a kid, moved onto Trivial Pursuit in my teens. In my twenties, it was Pictionary, although I dabbled in Magic: The Gathering for a while.

    I’m hoping to get one of my friends into games and bought her the Exploding Kittens game https://www.amazon.co.uk/Exploding-Kittens-NSFW-Explicit-Content/dp/B010TU7LP2/ref=sr_1_2?s=kids&ie=UTF8&qid=1482144822&sr=1-2&keywords=exploding+kittens

  • 14 William III December 19, 2016, 2:03 pm

    Tim Harford recently recommended the boardgame Agricola in an FT column on puzzles. I blindly ordered a copy straight away and it is really amazing. This will fill up a good few hours next week.

  • 15 L December 19, 2016, 2:15 pm

    Thanks for posting that article about AI – truly fascinating! It makes me think (more than ever) that investing hard for an earlier than expected exit from the world of work is the only sensible choice.

    Merry Christmas to all the contributors.

  • 16 Spacebadger December 20, 2016, 10:37 am

    Hardcore DnD for me… been playing since 1976 and still meet up with “old” friends 3-4 times a year for a weekend session (just migrating, painfully to DnD 5). But thanks for sparking the memory, I remember playing war of the ring, star fleet battles and cosmic encounters. Maybe its time to initiate the young badgers.
    Keep up the good work in 2017

  • 17 Mr optimistic December 20, 2016, 1:25 pm

    Thanks for the site and have a good Christmas.

  • 18 The Rhino December 20, 2016, 1:48 pm

    Board games? You boys need to get out more?

    Heres to a tumultuous 2016 in which our wildest flights of fancy all came true. Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year..

  • 19 The Investor December 21, 2016, 1:38 pm

    @all — Thanks for the comments and seasonal wishes. 🙂 A few more specific replies…

    @SG — That looks pretty dangerous, going on some of hte Amazon reviews. I *may* check it out…

    @charlie — Seen it, never played it. Would be easily persuaded if a friend bought it.

    @britinkiwi — Yes, Love Letter is great. All these games work because they’re so sociable, really. Also they go very well with wine/beer. They’re wasted on the young!

    @subbuteo — For some reason I have never got on with Ticket to Ride. Pandemic Legacy could be interesting!

    @Gregory — Thanks for all your link ideas over the year.

    @Moneysaver — Hmm, never heard of that. We have considered creating a Monevator board game now and then.

    @Steve21020 — You’re welcome. Something like Resistance or Spyfall could work well when the family reconvenes at holidays. Virtually no rules to learn.

    @L @MrOptimistic @Lad’s Dad — You’re welcome!

    @weenie — If you got on okay with Magic and you’re short of friends, try Dominion. Only need one other player, and it’s brilliant! I was slightly disappointed by Exploding Kittens. Needs several players, too.

    @William III — Agricola is excellent but what a wodge of rules. I’ve managed to finish maybe four games ever, as I always play it with new people and then take a year off… Brilliantly balanced though. You really feel the precarious nature of peasant life.

    @Spacebadger — Keep flying the flag! I was toying with digging out my Star Wars or Paranoia RPGs the other day and taking them out for a spin. Role-playing is sadly a bit more of a stretch for many, even for board-game friendly adults.

    @The Rhino — We know something you don’t know! See my comment to @britinkiwi above. 🙂

  • 20 The Rhino December 21, 2016, 1:43 pm

    @TI – haha you most probably do. I, for my sins, will almost certainly be forced to play a game of RISK with the inlaws. The board was purchased in the 70’s and its been trotted out for its annual dust-off ever since so I’m told..

    I once had the audacity to win in the late noughties, and have never been forgiven for it..

  • 21 SemiPassive December 22, 2016, 9:57 am

    Thanks for the bit on RIT’s book in particular, just finished reading it on kindle, it is an excellent, honest and no-fluff guide.
    I will have more of a delve into his blog.

  • 22 FrugalFox December 24, 2016, 9:29 am

    I’ve ordered the wife 221b Baker Street detective game for Christmas. I think we might go to the pub and play it on Christmas day.
    I’ve never played it but it has some good reviews on Amazon.

  • 23 SouthtoNorth December 29, 2016, 5:20 pm

    Hi all. Probably the wrong forum for this, but does anyone know what has happened to simple living in Suffolk? Site is down and even cache is gone.

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