In an era of ever improving digital content, board games have been relegated to the back of the storage closet, doomed to collect dust.
Even the new Jumanji movie has abandoned the board game concept in favour of a video game. As my nine (9) year old niece told me in her review of the movie “It makes way more sense than the old one, who could ever get sucked into a board game?”.
But nonetheless we are a family that loves board games. We play them at every family get together, regularly play them with our older son at home, and our youngest will no doubt be begging to play in no time at all.
There are some obvious reasons we choose to play board games in our family. Mike and I both grew up loving to play board games with our families, and we cherish those memories. So the quality family time was no doubt the biggest motivator to continue playing with our own kids.
But in addition to that, board games and card games have also been an excellent way for us to build our oldest son’s math skills from a very young age. Crib is a family favourite, and our oldest has been learning since he was 3. Starting first on a team with his Dad or I, but progressing to playing independently, even scoring his own hands by the time he was 6. Now at 8 years old his understanding of the importance of pegging and thinking about what his opponents hand(s) may hold is starting to develop.
But I was recently watching my husband coach him in the various strategies of one of our favourite board games, which got me thinking about some of the benefits of playing board games that can often go unnoticed.
Mike is phenomenal at games, regardless of the particular game, he wins more consistently than anyone else I know. Our entire family considers him one of the luckiest people they know, which is hard to argue with, we are very fortunate. But as stated by Seneca, “Luck is the crossroads where opportunity and preparation meet.”
So it’s not that Mike just happens across these wins, when it boils down to it, he is an extremely skilled strategist, and he consistently develops and implements strategies that prepare him to capitalize when opportunities arise.
It’s also exactly the way we approached planning and managing our finances, including our journey to Financial Freedom.
When it comes to finance you can have excellent income, and even disciplined spending/savings habits, but in the absence of a viable strategy, you lack clear direction. Even in war, in the absence of strategy, the largest and most well equipped army can fail. But with strategy, David can beat Goliath.
Many of us are willing to devote hours of our lives working out to develop and hone our muscle tone, or build endurance. Or dedicate years to building the ability to clear our minds, or strengthen our memory. What about devoting time to exercising and developing our brain muscles to think strategically?
That’s exactly the type of brain muscles that playing board games exercise, with the benefit of happening in a fun and social environment. If you want to be competitive within the game, you are forced to become adept at mining the information available, weighing the odds, predicting your opponents potential moves, and developing and executing a strategy.
Our families favourite board game is a game called Settlers of Catan. The game utilizes a board of resources that are randomly placed, along with randomized rolling odds for each resource. As a result, each game is entirely different and requires completely different strategies dependent on the positioning of the resources and the related rolling odds. The resources you require to score points changes as you progress through the game, which necessitates both an early and late game strategy, the ability to transition seamlessly between the two, and the ability to flex greatly depending on the actions of your opponents.
The game also involves trading with your opponents, and therefore strong negotiating and communication skills are a significant asset.
These skills aren’t specific to just that one board game, they appear and are often necessary to succeed in a wide variety of board and card games alike. But they are all invaluable life skills, particularly in the realm of finance.
So invaluable that many “experts” make a living selling different methods to develop exactly those skills. They are skills that can change the way you approach, analyze and make decisions in all aspects of your life.
Through the simple act of playing a family board game, we are teaching our son essential financial and life skills, without even talking about finance, or using words like strategic or analytical thinking.
Simultaneously, we are maintaining and honing our own strategic endurance. Practicing our ability to acquire all the information available to us, weighing the odds and possibilities of each option, and developing and implementing short term and long term strategies. Always with the built-in expectation and wiggle room to flex if and when needed.
In hindsight, it is undoubtedly this approach to life that allowed us to capitalize when opportunities have presented in our lives, and make the goal of Financial Freedom a reality.
So if you want to exercise your brains strategic muscles, make board games a regular activity. Intentionally build your ability to mine the information available, analyze that information, and develop your strategy. Then apply that same strategic thinking to the decisions you make in your day to day life, financial and otherwise.
Living strategically will ensure you’re always prepared for when opportunity crosses your path. And when it happens, everyone else might call it luck, but you’ll know exactly what went into making that “luck” a reality.