Top 5 Economy Based Board Games that Make You Think
My husband and I have a fairly large collection of board games that we play in our leisure time. A good number of these games have an economic element that teach you to think carefully about how to invest your resources and best your opponents. Here is a list of my favorite economy based board games.
First of all the following games belong to a big group of board games called Eurogames. This means that there is less conflict between players, less luck, and more strategy involved. The antithesis to Eurogames is what board game players fondly call "Ameritrash", which are games that involve a lot of rules, dice rolling, and all out bloody fights between players. Those who like to play a bit slower and think a bit more would enjoy the following games immensely.
The premise of Agricola is that you are a farmer in a little shack and you have to build up your farm with your family. You start with yourself and one other family member and then you have exactly 14 turns to make your farm as plentiful as possible with the basic available resources of wood, clay, reed, and stone. Eventually you can also increase your family size by having babies, and also grow food and livestock. This game is extremely interesting in that you have to formulate a slightly different strategy with every game you play since you are dealt a hand of possible occupations and improvements to your farm. You also have to balance the food production of your farm with the improvement of your farm because your family members have to be fed every few turns. Every game of Agricola is different, and you could also play a one player variant where you try to beat a high score.
I like Puerto Rico a lot because there is almost no luck involved. Everything you do depend on what other players do. Every player is a plantation owner that tries to build up the most valuable plantation in Puerto Rico while shipping goods from the plantation back to Spain for points. There are a set of occupations that the players can take every turn, and each occupation gives a certain bonus. Every player is then given an equal opportunity to do the actions of the occupation chosen. There is also a pile of money that can be saved to upgrade the plantation. You also have to manage your workers to get the best production results. My general strategy in this game is to save up a lot of money to buy the best buildings because they give the most bonus, but it also takes some work to build up a viable income stream.
Power Grid is a bit like Monopoly with power plants, but there is a much smaller element of luck. Every player is given 50 units of currency to start with, and then there is an auction for power plants. Each power plant has a different minimum bid and they use different resources to produce different amounts of power. Players also have to spend their money to buy resources and houses. The houses are placed on a map so there are also connection costs between the homes. Once all the purchasing is complete players can use the resources they bought to power the houses they bought. Each home that is powered generates more money. This game is great for illustrating the laws of supply and demand because the prices of the desirable power plants go up as players bid, and the prices of resources also go up as they are depleted. In the end of the game the player who powers the most houses wins, and in case of a tie the person with the most money wins.
I played Caylus a bit less than the others games on this list, but it is quite fun with more than two people. The basic premise is that you are a serf to a king, and you try to win the king's favors by helping him build a castle. In the meantime you try to collect resources and money for points. You use your resources to build buildings in the kingdom and whenever another player uses a building you own you get a point. You also get points for building castle pieces and favors. Similar to Agricola, you have a limited number of workers to take certain actions, but you have to pay gold to take each action. So in the entire game you need to balance the amount of gold you earn with the amount of actions you take because if you use too many actions it is possible that you cannot do much the next turn. There is also a mechanic by which other players can screw up your plans by moving a marker that dictates where the actions end so you have to be wary of where you place your workers.
Le Havre is probably the hardest one to master out of these five because there are a lot more types of resources to manage. You also have a lot of choices of actions to take with each turn so it is difficult to make a decision. It can be described as a combination of Puerto Rico and Agricola since it involves shipping goods, feeding workers, and also purchasing improvement buildings. Anyone can use the improvement buildings but some buildings require players to pay a cost to the building's owner. This is also a game where the person with the most points win in the end, but you have to manage your money and resources carefully along the way to produce the best results. This game could also be played single player.
Every year there are new board games being published so I am sure that I will be able to add to this list in the future. I like these resource and money management themed games the best because they make you think of how to optimize an outcome with what little resources you have. Although these games are quite simple compared to the real world, I think you could definitely apply the basic principles in them to optimize and better your lives. These games are also great for teaching older children the basics of money and resource management.
Are you a fan of any of these board games? What's your favorite economy based game?
Disclosure: This post contains my Amazon affiliate links to the games. You could also get these games from your local game store and other reputable online retailers. The games in my list are fairly reasonably priced and most are below $50 unlike the recently mentioned Cashflow board game which is in my opinion a money making scheme by the inventors.