10 Games Worth Playing | The Motley Fool


In this podcast, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner recommends five casual games and five heavier strategy games to put under a tree or break out with your friends and family when they visit.

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This video was recorded on Dec. 7, 2022.

David Gardner: Few people may love games more than I do and hey, some people don’t even like games at all. If that’s you, well, I suggest you skip this week’s podcast. Come back later this month when we’ll be playing a different kind of game that you may like as it involves the stock market and that is of course, the market cap game show, that’s the game we all can play, we’ll be doing that in two weeks. If you don’t like games, I give you permission, take this week off. Hey, wait, you’re still listening? Excellent in that case, thank you for suffering a Fool gladly, as I endeavor this week to share two shortlists of recent favorites from the world of table top games shared intentionally as early as possible this December. You might have time to put one of these under someone else’s tree to spice up your family’s, perhaps your own life. It’s my annual games, podcast Volume 4 only on this week’s Rule Breaker Investing.

Long time listeners know that we spend a third of our time here on investing, third of our time on business, and a third of our time on life. If you think about the Motley Fool’s purpose statement to make the world smarter, happier, and richer. Well, you can map those to those three zones that I just talked about, the third of our time spent on investing makes us richer. That spent on business and our professional lives makes us smarter and the third of our time spent on life well I sure hope, has been making you happier because well, that’s a big reason I do what I do. If you’re getting richer and smarter, but not happier, that’s going to create some problems. One antidote might very well be then finding things that spark joy in you to bring out your happy and what I try to do here at least a third of the time. In this week, well, it’s my effort to spark joy for you and your family around the game table.

Now, I first started doing this in 2017 back then it was the gift-giving special. This time of year it was December 2017, I had a bunch of fellow Fools on to talk about how they give-gifts around this holiday period and some creative thoughts. I still think that probably makes a good listen five years later. But I just right at the end of that podcast, they’re stuck in a games list in that gift-giving special of 2017 and then a year later, well that December I interviewed Richard Garfield here, Richard the designer of Magic The Gathering, one of the great all-time games and a wonderful interview. At the end of that one, I just put in a list for recommendations for holiday games. Then in 2019 for the first time, I just explicitly came out of the closet on this and I went games.

That was the title of the podcast, which is why this week is called Games Volume 4. It’s my annual holiday guide to some of my favorite recent table top games that would be board games and card games. Now before we get started with the first of my two five game lists, first-time to put out a list of lighter family games and then second, harder-core strategy games. I want first though, to share with you two of my favorite tools from the board game world. The first is BoardGameGeek, which I talk about at this time every year. Now, if you love the Motley Fool, we say investing to you and you come to fool.com thinking about investing and money, well, the site that I do the same thing for when it comes to board games the magnet site for me as a board gamer is clearly boardgamegeek.com. A lot of you who are gamers already know this, but many others are hearing this for the first time. Wait, there’s a site dedicated to board games on the Internet. There is. It’s been going for 20 plus years.

In fact, I talked to the founders in those early days back in the 1990s because they reached out about branding their business and their website and so they reached out to us, I guess understandably at the Fool. They said, hey, you guys call yourselves Fools, has that worked for you? They were saying in the late 1990s because they told me we’re thinking of going with the site and calling it geek, BoardGameGeek so what do you think of that? Of course, well as Fools, we said, we think that’s great. I’m not saying they needed our advice, but it did end up BoardGameGeek, which I’m very happy to note. Now, more important, is of course the value of that site. Every game ever made, whether it’s a game you were taught as a child and can’t remember the name of it or a game that’s existed for thousands of years, like the game Go or a game that you played last week, every single one of them has a page on BoardGameGeek where people are posting up pictures of the game, they’re answering rules, questions in the forums, putting up tutorial videos, all content user generated around each game so it’s such a helpful tool.

Do you have a burning rules question? Great, just ask and get it answered right there on the forums and in fact, as I have in years past, I’m actually going to be including in this games episode three key bits of information from BoardGameGeek to add value to your decision about what is the right game for you. Three facts, key data. Let’s go over them right now upfront. The first is the rating, how the Internet movie database, imdb.com puts a rating on every movie. Amazon puts a rating on every product, well, that’s exactly what you’d expect from BoardGameGeek, where every game is rated and in my experience, if a game is at 7.0 out of 10 or higher, it’s probably a pretty good game. If it’s below seven, well, you better really like the genre or maybe you know the designer personally, because there are probably many better games than those.

I’ll also mention because each of these ratings and review sites has unique parameters about how to think about their ratings. It’s very rare for any game on BoardGameGeek to be rated over, let’s say 8.5. I mean, you have thousands of people rating, you have to have everybody agreeing that it’s a 10 to be anywhere near a nine. But it turns out there are many mixed tastes and so rarely, if ever will you see a game much higher than 8.5. It’s that sweet spot that I look for on BoardGameGeek games ranked between 7.0 and roughly 8.5 and of course, all the games I’ll be sharing with you this year do fall in that sweet zone. I mean, they’re good to great games, otherwise, why are we talking about them? The second number I’m going to share with you is the weight rating, and that bears a quick explanation. It’s so helpful, especially figuring out what is a good game for you or a person that you’re thinking about giving a game to as a gift.

The weight of the game is going to be rated from 1-5. It’s basically how much effort does it take to teach and or to play this game? How weighty is it? Closer to five means 37 page rule books, two hours rules explanations, a whole bunch of overhead. Probably even to get that game to the table and you’d want to have opponents who are deeply into hardcore strategy games. That’s a game with a weight near five, whereas the opposite, well, if it’s down near one, it’s Candy Land. By the way, one of the worst games ever made teaches kids decisions don’t matter because all you’re doing is flipping cards and flirting with the card says, though, I would like to point out that a fellow Fool, this is a bit of a digression. A rule breaker investing listener has fixed Candy Land is previously told on this podcast instead of just drawing one card, you have your child draw two cards and decide which card to play, that’s the way to restore choice and meaning to one of the worst games ever made.

Anyway, Candy Land is around a weight of 1.0. The hardest most intense game you could probably ever think of is going to be above four and the very light games down near one. For each of the games this week, I’ll be giving the weight to give you a sense of how easy it is to teach to others often how long it might take to play or not. A lot of that is wrapped into the weight. Now, other final fact I’ll be giving you from BoardGameGeek for each of these games is the appropriate number of players for the game. If you’re a longtime gamer, you’ll recognize sometimes you buy game box and on the box it says players 2-6. But while it might say players 2-6, sometimes it’s only really a good game if it’s 4, 5, or 6, maybe it’s not a very good two-player game. Or sometimes it might be a great two or a three-player game. But boy, if you start adding 4, 5, and 6 players, it just takes way too long. Gamers are smart and on BoardGameGeek, they vote what they think the best player totals are. I’ll be giving that for each of these games too. Again, to summarize, I’ll provide the rating for each game.

How good is it really? The weight of the game, is it weighty, requiring deep rules reading and only players who really want that experience, or is it the opposite? What is the optimal player count? But I did say that there were two tools I wanted to share with you up front. The first was BoardGameGeek, and now the second, and it’s another free endorsement for something awesome in the gaming world. In this case, someone who’s created an amazing tool and that is the BG Stats app. You’re ready to get really geeky with me? I’d take the time when I play any game to log that I played that game. Some people do this. I don’t know what their diet. They’re like, I ate this today, I’m going to list that. They keep a spreadsheet of what they’re eating to make sure they’re eating healthily or to keep to a diet. Well, gamers, especially hardcore ones like me, also log their games. I’ll say I played this game with my friend, Rick.

Rick and I played this game at his house. You type in the location on this date. It took this long. You could track the time that the game took that can be helpful for the future, and of course what the final score was. So I log my games. Now, if this sounds crazy to you, please don’t do it. But if it sounds interesting and you’re wondering what’s an amazing app that just keeps getting better to help you keep track of all the games that you’ve played, well that’s BG Stats. Of course, BG standing for board game, but BG Stats, you’ll find it on the App Store. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding. In fact, the author says Board Games Stats was created because “My wife and I were missing a quick and easy to use tool to track our board game plays over time it developed to include statistics and more and more details, features and polish thinking we could not be the only ones looking for this solution.” The app was published to the App Store, I see now in July of 2014 apps by Eerko, the name of the developer.

In fact, I see that Eerko is Dutch and here’s his wife Suzanne. Their last name is Vissering. You can even follow them on Twitter if you’d like, but he does a spectacular job with this app. The games I’m sharing with you this week are among my most played games in 2022. I can do crazy things thanks to this app, like tell you I’ve had 260 plays of games so far this year. That’s pretty disappointing. Then I played 319 games at the same point last year. If you’re calculating either way that I’m playing roughly one game a day on average. Well, that is true. Of course, sometimes nothing for a week and then eight over a weekend. But I actually know how many games I’ve played. I played with 34 different other players in the last 12 months, 69 unique games in 14 locations. The list goes on. All I’m doing is logging, by the way, but the number crunching from the app is just fantastic. You’ve heard about BoardGameGeek and the BG Stats app.

Let’s get started. We’re starting with casual games, and I always do these alphabetically and the first game actually starts with a number, so I’m leading off with 7 Wonders Duel. Just the number 7 Wonders. A lot of you may know 7 Wonders. The famous drafting card game, a lighter card game, 7 Wonders first appeared in 2010. Five years after that came this game, 7 Wonders Duel. Now, you might be thinking, wait, hey, check it, it’s 2022, why are we talking about a game that came out in 2015? Well, I hadn’t previously mentioned this game on any of my last several games podcasts and it continues to be a game that rewards me playing it year-in and year-out. It’s casual games, so I wanted to lead off with it this year, 7 Wonders Duel. Now, what is the BoardGameGeek rating for this game? Out of 10, 8.1. This is a pretty great game.

What is the weight of this game? Well, of the five games I’ll be presenting in the casual list, this is the weightiest, the most gamers game of these five and the weight of 7 Wonders Duel is listed as 2.2, again out of five. Finally, this is a two-player game only. That’s what it says on the box and that’s what it plays best with. Like the game that’s spawned 7 Wonders Duel is a card game and it is a civilization-based card games. You have this sense over three ages, you’re acquiring cards, they’re improving your military or your scientific development, and the title of the game 7 Wonders hailing back, of course, to the seven wonders of the ancient world, which are prominently featured in this game. You’re also constructing wonders. But overall, we’re talking about a 30 minute card game, and with 7 Wonders Duel, it’s just for two players. If you’re familiar with 7 Wonders, it became famous as a drafting game.

You pick up a hand of cards, you take your favorite one and pass them to your opponent to the left, you take the hand from your opponent to the right, you take one of those cards, keep going around, you draft out a bunch of cards that you played to your Tableau in front of you, then key off of each other, you’re trying to construct the most valuable civilization over the course of time. You can earn a military victory, you can earn a science victory. Again, that’s the game of 7 Wonders. This game though is just for two players. Instead of passing hands back-and-forth, you deal a bunch of cards into a Tableau on the table between you and you draft from there. Over the course of the game, you’re collecting sets of cards, for example, the blue cards are civic improvements, the red cards are military, the yellow cards are untraded commerce.

One of you might start specializing in one or the other. Part of what makes this game great is it’s different every time. How the cards get dealt out to the Tableau and in fact, toward the end, which ones are actually included or not changes every game, as do the wonders that are available for you and your opponent to build. This is a wonderful couples game. If you have a spouse or partner who enjoys games, or a sibling or your neighbor, it’s just a delightful two-player game. Of my five casual games this year, this is the only one that’s just a two-player game. If that’s a particular interests to use 7 Wonders Duel comes highly recommended. Before I move on to my next, I do want to mention this game and the one that follows it. These are not exactly very, very light games. These are a little bit more appropriate for people who appreciate new game mechanisms, who don’t mind reading instead of words on the card.

Sometimes iconography that might be keyed to a certain way to score or a certain key word in the game. So 7 Wonders Duel of these five casual games is the least appealing to purely casual gamers. This one’s a little bit more of a gamer’s game, 7 Wonders Duel. By the way, I should mention all 10 games I’m featuring this week, I made a point of typing into amazon.com to ensure that they are available and widely distributed. It would be really frustrating for me to get you excited about a game this week and then you click in and find it’s not available for another three months or even worse, let’s say that it’s only a kick-starter game. I have a particular conscious bias this week to giving you games that you can click and buy and know they’ll be there within the next week or two. Casual game number 2, we go down to the letter G, it’s the Guild of Merchant Explorers.

Now this is a hilariously generic name. In my experience, even people who played this game five or 10 times, if you ask them really quickly to say the name of the game, they have a hard time coming back up with the phrase, the Guild of Merchant Explorers, but that is the name of game number 2 and a spectacular 2022 release from Alderac Games. The Guild of Merchant Explorers gets a Board Game Geek rating of 7.8. The weight of this game is 2.1 right near 2.2 or 7 Wonders Due, 2.1. This game plays 1-4 players. It’s considered best with two or three players. So what’s happening in the Guild of Merchant Explorers? Well, each of us has an identical map in front of us on the table. It looks lightly like, I don’t know, a medieval map that merchant explorers might be exploring, were they part of a Guild? So you as a merchant explorer will be dropping cubes down on the little hexis, the empty hexis of your map.

That’s showing that you’ve explored that so your goal is to crawl across your map with as many little cubes and your color as possible. But what brings those cubes onto the map, it’s like Bingo. One player flips up a card and calls out a particular terrain type. All of the players see that on that card and all the players, let’s just say it’s a couple of mountains or three sea spaces, or two desert spaces. Each of you would then take up two little cubes and put them on desert spaces. Again, you’re starting with identical maps, but how you start playing across your map will be different every time. So all of us is exploring and trying to score points in different ways. One of the things i don’t do on games, games podcasts is explain the rules to games. Sometimes it can be tempting to do so, but keeping it big picture here.

One of the really neat innovations in this game is, again, it’s like Bingo except with naps, but a couple of the cards that are pulled out over the course of the game as directives to what to do next. Create unique features where you and all your friends will be diving into a separate little deck of cards and you’ll pull out from that a unique way for you to explore on your map. That will recur a couple of times over the course of this multi round games. So we’re all exploring the sea and the desert, and the mountains and we’re building cities and a couple of other things I want to explain here. But we also have a unique strategy that starts to emerge over the course of the game. Of course, from one game to the next, it’s different every time. So Bingo over a hexagonal grid and exploration strategy game, casual light, again takes an hour or less. Best with two to three players looking to create networks, building routes and scoring victory points over and across their maps. Bonus, there are four different maps in the box.

So all of us might play map 1. You should play map 1, the simplest one for your first game. But we could in future games play on map 2 or 3 or 4. Each of them have their own fancy name and a little bit more complication. So the game has progression for those who want a richer and more advanced experienced. The Guild of Merchant Explorers, I’d like to say it in the distinctive way, that way I myself remember the title of this generically named game. Onto casual game number 3, this one comes from Reiner Knizia. A previous interviewee on this podcast, one of my favorite game designers and a friend of more than a couple decades at this point. So shout out to Reiner if you’re hearing me. This week, Reiner’s game My City came out in 2020. It is a legacy game. I’ll explain that in a sec, but somewhat similar to the Guild of Merchant Explorers. My City has you Bingo calling once again with polyomino shaped pieces that we’re going to be playing to our respective boards, like the maps from Guild of Merchant Explorers, trying to rack up points as well as you build your city.

But I mentioned it’s a legacy game which is a relatively new innovation in the world of games and a delight in My City. Legacy games are games where what happens in one session like you and I just played this game, we played My City together. You won, I lost. The following game session whenever we next play My City together will be affected by what we did in the previous game. Maybe since I lost, I’ll get an extra piece or maybe get to start with plus 3 points over the course of many sessions, the game keeps growing and changing based on what’s happening all the way through. That’s in a sense why we call these legacy games because the game builds up a legacy and the legacy of your past will affect the play into the future. Now, in the case of My City, the game consists of 24 episodes. That’s what Reiner calls them, basically 24 play sessions. If you’re thinking, wow, that’s a lot of times to play a game, each of these games takes 15 and 30 minutes. So you really in a couple of hours could probably play 6-8 sessions and rapidly advance through this legacy game.

I should mention that part of it being a legacy game, you will occasionally put stickers on your board. You will change the nature of the game as you’re playing and you might be wondering, well, wow, for putting stickers on these boards and some other legacy games have you writing a word like you get to name the continent after yourself if you win a game. This thing you might be wondering, is the game playable by the end of the legacy? The answer is, in the case of My City, yes, you will end up with a final version of the game that is replayable from that point forward. I have to admit, after we’d play 24 episodes of My City, we haven’t since returned to it, but we certainly could have. Part of my problem is there was always another game to play. Some new shiny bubble appearing in cardboard delivered outside my front door. So I often don’t stick with games much past, especially that legacy portion. When I talk about legacy games, of course here we’re talking about My City which has those 24 legacy sessions, but there are other legacy games.

In fact, the first legacy game ever was Risk was turned into a legacy game. So if you played Risk before, well, whatever happened that first game change the nature of the second game with Risk legacy. In fact, the innovator and designer behind the legacy concept is Rob Daviau, another past interview on Rule Breaker Investing. So legacy games Pandemic Legacy has been a big hit for those who know the co-operative game Pandemic, which I’ve talked about in the past on this series, that is a very popular set of legacy games. So I really like legacy games. One of the requirements though, is you’re going to want to keep playing with the same group of people. Now, My City is rated at 7.7 on BoardGameGeek. So yes, it is a well liked and admired game. The weight of this game is 2.0 slightly less weighty than the previous two games we talked about. On the box it says you can play with 2-4 but really this game is probably best with four. Yes, you could just play it with a spouse or partner all the way through.

But I think the more the merrier like Bingo itself, but 2, 3 or 4 will enjoy My City. But I’m telling you that you’re going to want to have those same two or three or four players consistently play all the way through the game. If you end up falling in love with My City as we did in playing it all the way through, My Island, a sequel I think is coming out next year, which I am looking forward to. So this is a tile laying game. I mentioned polyomino. That’s a phrase given to tiles that take different shapes and you’re going to be fitting them together like Tetris, but they have different colors and different functions because we’re building a city here. So you’ve got like the commercial buildings and the residential buildings as you construct your city, hoping to score more points with your city that you’re building than the one that I’m building. But even if you win this one, maybe I’ll get you back powered by, I don’t know, maybe an extra component or rule or two in the next play session. My City. Casual game number 4.

Well, let’s go to the letter S. The card game, Scout. Now this game first came out in 2019, but got reprinted and made more widely available last year and we have played this game a lot this year. We’re card players in my family, we enjoy a good card game. This game plays 3-5e players. The box, by the way, lists 2-5 but most gamers would really prefer to have 3, 4, 5. It’s considered best with four. I’m very happy to play Scout with 3, 4, or 5 players. This is a ladder-climbing games similar to Rummy. You’re trying to get rid of your hand. One of the cool aspects of scout, one of its primary innovations is that every car bears a number. It’s not a traditional deck of cards, so you’ll have an eight in your hand, but if you flip that card upside down, it’ll be a two. Every card has two sides to it. As you pick up your hand of cards that’s been delt to you, you’re trying to get rid of your hand before I get rid of mine. You make the initial decision at the start of the game that you can either flip your hand one way or do a 180 and play it from the other side.

Another key innovation in the game of Scout is you do not rearrange the cards. The sequence of cards from left to right across your hand, whether you want to play it this way or upside down, that sequence of cards is going to remain the same the entire hand. I’m not going to explain the rules of this game, but I am going to explain to you that for people who enjoy games like Rummy or if you’re a harder-core gamer and you know the game Tichu, then you’re gonna be very comfortable and very happy playing the game of Scout. Scout is rated at 7.7 on BoardGameGeek. Its weight is just 1.3. In fact I’m just noticing now, I’m presenting the games alphabetically this week, but they decline in weight from one to five, so t his is less weighty than the three we’ve just covered. The final game by the way will be less weighty than this. But basically when it’s your turn, you’re going to take one or more cards out of your hand, put them on the table, then the next player is going to attempt to top that maybe with a more valuable card or a more valuable combination of cards.

That’s why this genre of card games is called ladder-climbing because we climb a ladder by going up, well, at least when we go up ladders, you’ll be doing the same thing with the cards you laid down on the table, you’ll keep trying to top whatever trick was just played before yours. Now if you can’t top whatever combination is sitting on the table, you will take a card from that trick played to the table and add it to your hand and you’ll choose again where to put it in your hand. That’s the only time you can disrupt the order of your hand. You take a new card and you can decide where to put it and also which way to flip it. Again, you’re trying to get out of cards, so generally if you’re left with cards in your hand because your buddy went out first, those points are going to count against you. If we’re playing a four-player game of Scout, that means we’re going to play for hands. If you’re playing a three or five game of Scout three or five hands, so one hand per player, each hand taking about 10 minutes to play.

This is one of those great card games that can be played over and over your whole lifelong. A lot of us, of course, grew up with games like Rummy or Spades or more simply Go Fish or more complicated a game I love Bridge. A lot of us recognize these games, but there have been some great more recent card games that I think stands shoulder to shoulder with a game like Rummy or bridge. If you hadn’t previously heard of Tichu, I can recommend that one too as well. T-I-C-H-U, Tichu and Scout, probably two of the truly great new card games to appear in recent years. Scout. By the way, of these five casual games I’m highlighting this week, this one’s probably the hardest to find, so If you’re hearing this podcast within minutes or hours of it coming out, you have a better shot at buying the next copy of Scout. If you’re hearing this on Saturday or two weeks later, good luck.

Either way, this is a game worth acquiring even if you can’t get it in time for the holidays. A great game to play throughout 2023. The last of my five casual games is probably my favorite. If I had to name a game of the year for 2022, it is So Clover! It’s supposed to be punning off the phrase so Clover, but the shape of the player boards are four-leaf, greenleaf, clovers, which has very little to do with the game, but that’s why it’s called So Clover! This game is rated as a 7.6 on BoardGameGeek. The weight of this game, it couldn’t be much simpler fellow Fools, it’s a 1.1. So Clover! is a word game. On the box, it plays two to six, which in fact it does, generally considered best with three or four players, but I’d be happy to play it as just two or six. The more players, the longer the game will take. What’s happening in So Clover! you’re going to be pulling a bunch of cards from a face down pile and you’re going to arrange them randomly on the board in front of you, and each of the cards has words on them and you’re going to be dropping them down in a little two-by-two grid on the Clover in front of you.

Two words by two words. If you look across the top, you’ll see two different words. Let’s just say one of them is boat and the other is pig. You’re going to have to think about what is the one word clue that I could come up with that would unite boat and pig? Once I remove all of these cards from my board and only show the clues that I wrote down, I’m asking my teammates and this is a co-operative game, not a competitive game. This is a cooperative game. I’m asking my partners to figure out, based on my clue that it was boat and pig I was trying to speak to. What word would unite boat and pig because this is the challenge you get in this game? I have to admit, I couldn’t come up with anything off the cuff, so I briefly stopped this podcast, went offline with my producer Rick. Rick, you and I talked this out. What’s a single word by the way that can somehow connect in the minds of our fellow gamers are secret words, boat and pig?

Rick Engdahl: I don’t think there is one. 

David Gardner: We talked about it. They both float. Do pigs float?

Rick Engdahl: No. I was thinking of the word muck. It’s the pig lives in much. It’s a noun but you can also muck a deck maybe. It’s like to clean is to much.

David Gardner: You muck a boat, you clean a boat. Good. Let’s go with muck. In the game of So Clover!, you’re not allowed to ask for help from your pal. Rick, you need to sit there and puzzle that yourself. But over the course of 10 minutes or so, everyone quietly looks over four different pairs of words to create four clues on their board. Again, I’m not going to explain the whole rules of this game, but basically, you’ll then pull all the cards off your board. You’ll only show the keywords that you gave, then you’ll ask your fellow players to piece together the cards that you had in order to figure out the right arrangement to speak to each of your clues. This is, like all of my casual games, infinitely replayable. This game takes somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes. This is the game I have played more than any other, not because it’s the best game of all time or my very favorite, but because it’s so easy to throw down among any group of people, family members over the holidays, even people who don’t enjoy games.

So Clover! is a genius word game, very similar to the game Just One which was on my games games games Volume 1 of this podcast in 2019, another great word games. Those are the five casual games of the year for me for 2022. A combination of ones that may or may not have come out this year, but that I played the heck out of this year and that I highly recommend to you, your friends, and family. To summarize, Seven Wonders Duel, The Guild of Merchant Explorers, My City, Scout and So Clover! Again, all should be pretty purchasable, pretty easily here, between now and the end of the year. I do want to mention just in passing one more game that I mentioned this time last year that I really just continue to love. If you’re looking for an extra idea and you hadn’t already bought and played Cascadia.

I’m not even going to explain how it works or what’s going on. But Cascadia is another great casual game if you’re looking for additional ideas. Thus much for casual family games, we’re about to move now to hardcore strategy games. But before we do, I do want to mention the mailbag. This month, my producer Rick and I will be recording this month’s mailbag earlier than usual so we can both take the last week of the year off. It’s going to be a fresh new podcast of course, it will be your mailbag, but we’re actually going to record it probably a week or so before the end of the year, earlier than usual. That’s my way of saying before we move on to hardcore strategy games, that if you’d like to be part of this month’s mailbag, drop us a note like asap, our email is [email protected] We’ll take them all in and read them probably Friday, December 16.

Of course, the mailbag will come out on its normal schedule, which this year happens to be Wednesday, December 28. But I’m a flagging this with the very first podcast this month of course. If you have questions or thoughts about games or additional game suggestions, we’re happy to speak to that in the mailbag, our email address, [email protected] and of course @podcast you can tweet us on Twitter. Well, before we move on to our hardcore strategy games, Rick, I wanted to ask you about Board Game Arena. A lot of people will use the acronym BGA. That’s the Internet site which increasingly has many of these card and board games that you can now play online against opponents across the net. Rick, you’ve been availing yourself some of BGA this year?

Rick Engdahl: Yeah. We discovered like a lot of people did. We discovered BGA and made a lot of use of it during the lockdown years. Played a little bit against strangers from who knows where, and also with local friends, even you can select who you want to play with if you want to.

David Gardner: One of the great things about playing games that way, and you and I know both still enjoy far more playing with people in person, whether a board or card game, but have to admit two cool things about playing on BGA. One is that the game is usually go a lot faster. You’re using the same rule sets. In many cases they try to make the components look just the same as the physical components if you own the game yourself. But man, Rick, you don’t have to setup anything.

Rick Engdahl: You don’t have to setup. You don’t have to clean up and a lot of the mechanics in the game that can take some time like say drafting.

David Gardner: Shuffling.

Rick Engdahl: We’re talking about before shuffling, things like that. Because those things are obviously not necessary to do in that context. The game can go much faster. I was playing a game of seven wonders, not the dual game, but the multiplayer game. That’s not a long game to play in person, but on BGA, it’s a very fast game to play. We found that we could play a dozen games in evening very easily and get a better feel for who’s winning overall as opposed to who’s just wins one game. It’s fun to do.

David Gardner: Great examples. Certainly, the games often go faster. The game keeps score for you, etc. Then one other aspect is of course, you’re playing against the world and some of the best players in the world of some of these board and card games are playing right there on BGA, the system is going to keep track of the results. You can build up with your avatar, you can build up stats, you can play games over and over. You’re going to get a lot better, generally a lot faster at games that are played on BGA. Just a shout-out to BGA. I think many of our gamer friends listening in this week already know about it, but I like to share it out for all those who don’t.

Rick Engdahl: One last benefit is that it gives you a great avenue to try out games that you think you might like. But maybe you’re not sure. These games that you’re recommending here, you can try them out on BGA first and make sure it’s something you like.

David Gardner: That’s right, and the site is free. Although there are premium aspect of it of course as well. Well, let’s move now onto list Number 2. And these are the harder core strategy games. By the way, if you’re still listening, you are either already a harder-core gamer or you are open to becoming one if you don’t want to go deeper here. We’ve had a great time this week. This is enough of a podcast about games for most people. Please find some of the great games I’ve already mentioned. Enjoy with family and friends this holiday season. Full stop. But if you didn’t stop with me, that means you’re willing to go deeper. You’re going to be playing games that are longer, far away here and boy did some great games appear in 2022. Let’s talk about my five favorites. Again alphabetically, we’re going to start with what I believe is the game of the year for 2022, for harder-core strategy games and that is the game of Ark Nova. Yep, arc as in Noah’s Ark, Nova as in the latter half of Supernova, Ark Nova.

This is a zoo simulation game. We’re going to be building zoos competing against each other. This game is rated 8.6 on BoardGameGeek, already with more than 21,000 ratings. This puts Ark Nova as presently the fourth greatest strategy game of all time. I played a lot of them. I think I agree the weight of Ark Nova is 3.7 out of five. Yes, this game is going to take about 45-60 minutes to teach. It’s going to take about two-and-a-half hours to play the box lists one-to-four players. Most people on BGG would prefer it. I do too with fewer than four. In fact, I don’t think I’d want to play Ark Nova with four, that would take forever. This is one of those games, the more players, the longer the time It’s listed as best with two, I’d be happy to play with two or three, and yes, it does play solo. Well, with my harder-core strategy list each year, I specifically make a point of not trying to explain the rules because these games can get very complicated very quickly.

But suffice it to say in this zoo simulation game that there about 250 cards, each one of them unique, many of them showing animals, but others showing specialists or potential business partners or special enclosures or conservation projects. All of the things that are involved in zoos these days are simulated in Ark Nova. But the key here like the great game, Terraforming Mars and other my favorite games of all time. Each one of those 250 plus cards is unique. In a game of Ark Nova, you won’t be going through that full deck even with four players probably, which means it’s very replayable. The mix of cards that comes up each time is different. What’s not different are the five actions that we each as competitors take throughout the game. One of them, for example allowing you to draw more cards to your hand.

Another that allows you to build more parts of your zoo. Yep, this is another game with a map where you’re dropping polyol Domino’s down onto your map trying to fit everything into your enclosures. Of course, you’re going to be playing cards for your hand as well, the animals to your zoos. These are some of the actions. Again, there are a number of different game mechanisms that all combine beautifully. You’re going to be doing some drafting, you’re doing some economic management. There’s some end-game bonuses everybody’s playing toward. Quite confident actually since if you’re a serious gamers still listening to me and over 20,000 ratings are already logged, I’m quite confident you might well have heard of Ark Nova at this point, but if not, take a look on BoardGameGeek, and again, it is purchasable on Amazon, looks widely available to me and I highly recommend this, which is again for me, the game of the year, Ark Nova.

It is often by the way, compared to games like Terraforming Mars, a business economic simulation happening with lots of card play and card drafting and valuation and victory points galore. Onto a harder core game number two. This one is Clank Catacombs. Now, Clank is a series of games created by Paul Dennen. The first one appeared in 2016, and this is a deck building game. So over the course of a game of Clank, you’re going to be buying cards from the central area and you’re going to be adding those to your own personal deck that you’re going to be drawing from your deck and playing the cards and taking the actions. In the case of Clank, the classic game, you were starting your little pawn in town. You’re moving your pawn down through the gameboard into the dungeon, moving it along through the dungeon with the movements on your cards.

You’re trying to steal a valuable treasurer and then run out of the dungeon using your mobile and points to get out before the big boss Dragon shows up and incinerate all of the players who didn’t get out in time. So it’s a race game, but it’s driven by deck building and Clank has now come out in many different forms. There’s this space version of it. There’s a sunken treasurers version. There’s a mummies curse version that came out in 2018. Then more recently within the last couple of years, a legacy version of Clank. I already spoke to legacy games earlier this podcast. There’s now a legacy version of Clank, and I certainly highlighted that as one of my top five last year. Yeah, I’m a Clank fan, but in particular, Clank Catacombs has just come out in the past few weeks. What’s cool about this version of Clank is that all the others are on a fixed gameboard where each time you play the game, even though the cards that you buy and the deck that you build is different each time, the Board is always the same.

Well, for the first time, the innovation with Clank Catacombs, or that you’re actually spawning the gameboard as you play through. Each time you play a game of Clank Catacombs, the gameboard will therefore be different. Of course, you’re still going to be doing a lot of the same things trying to get in there move through as quickly as you can through the cataclysms, go as deep as you can to get the best treasure and then get the heck out before it all blows up, but really each of the Clank games I would recommend. But I am excited in particular, I have to admit I haven’t played it yet, but I know the game well enough to know that Clank Catacombs for deck-building strategy gamers, people looking for a little bit lighter fun, I should mention the weight of Clank Catacombs is 2.5. So this is a much quicker, easier to learn game and to play than Ark Nova. Both are so highly rated though Clank Catacombs comes at 8.4 on BoardGameGeek. While the box says it plays 2-4, gamers generally think this game is better with three or at the max four players.

That’s all I want to say about Clank Catacombs, hardcore strategy game number two. Onto hardcore strategy game number three. This is actually a plug for two expansions, both of which came out in 2022, and both of which enhanced one of my favorite games of the last decade. The game I’m thinking of is Dune Imperium. Fans of the book series Dune, those who may have seen the recent movie of last year. That’s the Dune that we’re talking about. This is a game that I talked about one year ago because in fact, Dune Imperium was on this harder-core strategy list one year ago today, but as often happens with popular strategy games, an expansion came out in this case two smaller box expansions both of which are brilliant and that’s why I’m highlighting this as game number three this year, Dune Rise of IX came out earlier this year. It’s an 8.8 on BoardGameGeek.

That’s an incredibly high number, topped even more recently by Dune immortality, which just came out in the last month or so, which is at present, keep in mind all of the fans and gigs have put in their big numbers for this one, a 9.2 on BoardGameGeek, that’s probably unsustainably high, but both of these are fantastic expansions that will make your plays of Dune Imperium that much better. This is a game, by the way, that is an 8.4 the base game overall really one of the top 20 games of all time at this point. I really love this game and I believe it’s worth it. So with Rise of IX and Immortality, either or both of those expansions will further enhance your experience of Dune and yes, this game, both the base game and of course it’s expansions, play three or four players. I like it with either there is a single-player version, there is a two-player version as well, but really this game screens to be played with three or four players.

Now, I will mention Rise of IX appears available on Amazon, but Immortality, which was kick-started and it’s pretty brand new, you may have a harder time finding Dire Wolf is the publisher and if you were to go to direwolfdigital.com or Shop. direwolfdigital.com. You might be able to score yourself a copy of Dune Imperium, the immortality expansion, but even if you can’t get that in time for the holidays, if you hadn’t already discovered the base game and or The Rise of IX expansion earlier this year while you’re in for a treat. Before I move on to game number four, I’ll mentioned, another great expansion came out this year for another game I highlighted last year, I’m not including this on my list of five, but that’s because I kept it to a list of five. If I’d done a top 10, Lost Ruins of Arnak and its expansion this year, expedition leaders would absolutely be on this list as well. Just as Dune Imperium made it last year, so did Lost Ruins of Arnak both of them came out with expansions this year and they’re great.

I think I included June because I just liked the game a little bit more, but I should mention to my fellow hardcore gamers here that these games blend deck-building. We just talked about that some with Clank Catacombs, deck-building, with worker placement. It’s very compelling the way these two mechanisms are fused in both Dune and Lost Ruins of Arnak, completely different games, but using some of the same mechanisms in both integrating them, so very well. Really any of the games that I just mentioned, even if you only get the base game of Lost Ruins of Arnak or Dune Imperium. If you had not previously discovered those, I highly recommend them. Of course I spoke to them more in last year’s games, games, games podcast. Onto hardcore strategy game number four and it’s Great Western Trail, second edition. Now, Great Western Trail first came out in its original edition.

The year was 2016. It was a very popular and well light game back then, but it got redone, I would say was somewhat better graphics and a couple of rules tweaks and came out more recently as Great Western trail, second edition. I cannot recommend this game highly enough. Once again, you’re doing some deck-building, which means part of this game is a card game. In fact, in this case, you’re buying livestock, cows and bulls. You are Rustling. You are driving them from the origin of the start point of the board to Kansas City where you’ll be dropping them off the most valuable cattle that you can manage over the course of a game, you’ll probably be visiting Kansas City five and seven times. It’s a race game. As you move from one point to the next, along the Great Western trail. Deck building your way, building buildings that give you unique powers.

When you drop one of your own buildings along the trail, other players can’t really use it effectively, which means you’re slowing them down as you build buildings, but you’re going to need to make a lot of money from your cattle to build the most valuable buildings. Of course, economics runs underneath so many of these harder-core strategy games and Great Western Trail is no exception. This game is an 8.5 as its second addition on BoardGameGeek, which means it’s a truly outstanding strategy game designed by talented German game designer Alexander Pfister. This is one of the top 15 strategy games of all time at this point. It’s way, yup, is up there, 3.7, that’s Ark Nova level. That means for gamers who are getting ready to play Great Western Trail second edition, while somebody is going to need to read the rule book, which is going to take that person probably about an hour to read and then an hour to teach others.

You’re going to be playing this game probably over the course of 2-3 hours so yes, weighty and to my way of thinking, absolutely worth it’s so rewarding this game plays. Well for 1-4 players, as it says, on the game box, it’s considered best with three. Now I’ll mention for those who may have come across Great Western Trail in the past, there’s a new version. It’s like a sequel. It looks a lot like the game has some of its same mechanisms, but it’s called Great Western Trail: Argentina. That new bucket-related game is just coming out as we speak. In fact, again, this is only for really avid gamers like me, if you already had Great Western Trail and didn’t know about Argentina, you should know, you can probably order it. I don’t see it on Amazon these days, but I sometimes by games from a Canadian website here in North America called board game bliss, where I did order Argentina. Great Western Trail: Argentina is out there for anybody who loves him or her.

Some Great Western Trail and may not have known that a sequel is now out. I realized that fair amount of my hardcore strategy game talk has been about sequels. That can often be the case in my experience, movies sequels are usually worse than the original movie themselves. Video games sequels are almost always better than the original themselves and games, well, tabletop games that can go either way, but of course, in my games, games, games podcasts each year I’m focusing on the best and often I’m finding brilliant expansions that explore new areas or enhanced your enjoyment of existing great strategy games. So there you go, game number four, Great Western Trail, second edition. That brings me to game Number 5. You know, I have made a point of interviewing some of my favorite people from the tabletop games world I’ve already mentioned a few of them like Richard Garfield, Reiner Knizia and Rob Daviau earlier in this podcast.

Here I’m going to mention another and that’s Jamey Stegmaier. One of the proprietors of Stonemaier Games, a brilliant game designer on his own, but also a talented businessperson in publisher. Jamie came on this podcast some years ago because he’s so good at Kickstarter and racking up lots of dollars for his new games. He shared some of his secrets about how to succeed on Kickstarter, on Rule Breaker Investing a few years back. But Viticulture has been one of his better games, both as a designer and a publisher. Many of you are hardcore strategy gamers. That’s why you’re still listening to me right now. Probably have played viticulture or are aware of it. It’s a worker placement game, simulating, of course, the world of wine and wineries and having your own vineyard and running the business of your Vineyard as you compete with others for, of course, victory points because that’s how things are scored.

Often in the world of business, we score with dollars in real life, but in these games, we often score with victory points and that’s true in viticulture as well. But in particular here in 2022, a new cooperative version called viticulture world came out as a stand-alone and expansion to viticulture. I highly recommend having played some viticulture world myself. This game, viticulture world, is rated 7.9 on BoardGameGeek. It’s weight, while it’s 3.2. It’s not going to be as long or difficult as the Great Western Trail, but it certainly is a heavier strategy game. This game does play ably. Players 1-5. Yep, it’s a cooperative game. You can even play it by yourself, but it is considered best with two. It’s the game you might really enjoy with a spouse or partner, especially if you both enjoy wine. Over a glass of wine, you can strategize together how to beat this game, because that’s what it is.

This is a cooperative version. Some of my favorite games in recent years, I mentioned one earlier, this podcast. Clover, these are cooperative games where you all win or lose together against the game and viticulture world takes many of the mechanisms of viticulture, again, primarily work, worker placement and economics. It brings it into a cooperative, progressive environment. There are light legacy elements to Viticulture world which we have enjoyed as well. That’s game Number 5. Let me now summarize my five harder-core strategy games. They are in alphabetical order, are Ark Nova, Clank, Catacombs, the Dune Imperium expansions, Rise of X, IX and Immortality. Game Number 4, Great Western Trails, second edition and finally the one I just mentioned game Number 5, Viticulture world.

Now, I can’t end this podcast without throwing out some more harder-core strategy game recommendations, in this case, just paying lip service to games, I won’t explain, but part of the reason I didn’t make the list of five is because they’re not as easy to find as the five I just shared with you. Alphabetically these four games have all been outstanding releases in the past year. Dead Reckoning, Endless Winter, Paleo Americans, Planet Unknown, and Wonderland’s War. One sentence about each dead reckoning is a pirate-themed game. Like Deck-building, except for your card craft, you’re actually making the cards themselves. It’s a brilliant mechanism. As you explore and compete against your fellow pirates in a couple of hours, endless winter, like both June Imperium and Lost Rooms of Arnak, Endless Winter is a combo deck builder with worker placement. I haven’t gotten to play it yet, but I have the Kickstarter version and I’m excited to dive in. I do see that one is available by the way, on Amazon.

Plant Unknown is one of those games like Guild of Merchant Explorers and My City Earlier, a polyomino game where you’re building out your maps together as you explore, in this case, outer space and Wonderland’s War, which is an amazing themed game. Pretend that it all went wrong for Alice in Wonderland, it all got very dark and different factions. Almost like Game of Thrones started warring. Wonderland’s War brings you card drafting together with area control in a wonderfully fun and somatic few hours. Dead Reckoning, Endless Winter Paleo Americans, Planted Unknown and Wonderland’s War, are some more great 2022 releases. The only reason I mentioned them is because our cup run off over in terms of both the bountiful harvest of great new games that came out this year and my enthusiasm not being able not to mention them here at the end of this podcast.

Well, let me say one final thing in closing. I love games. I think that’s evident many times in this podcast. I’ve talked about losing to win. Now that’s one of my big themes in life, really important. I’ve talked about it in the context of investing and also business and how we go through life. I love games and yet, even though I own hundreds of them myself, people might think, well, I’m probably really good at them if I’m this into games and own that many, but I’m actually, don’t tell anyone else, not a particularly good gamer. I regularly get beaten by people of all ages. I’ll teach a new game to somebody. I played it for years and they’ll beat me in the first game that we play together. I guess it’s fair to say winning and losing are not such a big thing to me when it comes to board games. I also love cooperative games, which I spoke to earlier. But the three games, I love the most, which in their own ways involve a lot of losing too, but I’m trying to get better at them every day.

I hope you are too through this podcast and through The Motley Fool, the games of investing, business and life. I’ve always thought of investing as an amazing game and I love keeping score. We’ve done that together with all the five-stock samplers over the course of years now and of course, at the Motley Fool in our business, we have lots of different services. We keep score on what we do in our business. I’m so pleased and delighted I would say blessed to have been an entrepreneur, to be an entrepreneur, somebody who’s created a business, investing in business and life. I love investing in other people’s businesses. That’s what we do by the way as investors. But the game of business will always be infinitely interesting to me, which takes me to darn it, life. Life, when thought of as a game where you can keep score.

The big secret though is, it’s a co-op. It’s not a dog-eat-dog competitive game unless you want to play it that way really. But what really happens in business every day is that buyers shake hands with sellers and transact with each other. We’re all helping each other. You’re good at this, I buy from you. I’m good at this, you buy from me. We’re all helping each other in a cooperative game of life. Now if you’ve ever played the game of life, which I think is Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers. Well, that’s not such a good game. If you know what the one with the little cards and pink-blue pawns and a big spinning wheel. That’s not a good game, but the game of life, all caps, the one I love talking about in this podcast is, so those are the three games that I love the most and I hope I’m helping you get better at each of them. Well, I guess it’s not too early to say it, is it? Happy holidays. Fool on and game on.

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