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25 Awesome Board Games That Will Make You Smarter And More Creative

25 Awesome Board Games That Will Make You Smarter And More Creative

We all (probably/hopefully) have fond board game related memories. What if I told you that all that time you spent throwing dice with the family had measurable long-term benefits? The following board games are especially amazing in terms of cultivating your priceless brain cells!

1. Ticket to Ride

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    What it is:

    This is a game where you try and connect cities on the game board by building railways. Whoever builds the longest railway, or finishes with the highest score, wins the game.

    How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

    Ticket to Ride, while simplistic at a glance, is a strategy game at its heart. There are several ways in which you can inhibit other players and their expanding rail lines, and multiple paths to victory. It’s a game where you can hone your manipulative skills, develop your logistical abilities, and even learn a bit of basic geography!

    2. Takenoko

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      What it is:

      This one reminds me a bit of World of Warcraft’s farming minigame, except, they’re really not that similar besides the fact that both deal with pandas. In Takenoko, you grow bamboo to appease the tastes of the resident sacred black and white bear. Whoever grows and maintains the best bamboo farm and satisfies the panda best, wins the game.

      How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

      There’s no better way to learn some organizational skills than to put together a farm, even if it’s a board game based one! Plus, you’ll certainly grow (pun?) your detail-oriented related skills in the process, since victory depends on the quality of your farm. Just as in real life, those who are the most fastidious are likely to come out as the winners.

      3. Stratego

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        What it is:

        Ah, a classic. Basically, two players are given an army, whose ranks/power are hidden from their opponent. Among these soldiers, you hide a flag. Whoever captures this flag first, or takes out enough of the enemy’s troops, wins.

        How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

        The name says it all. This game is all about strategy. In one sense it’s a mind game since you’re trying to find the other player’s flag, and attempting to make predictions based on the rank of the unit you’re attacking. While you might not become the next Napoleon playing this game, your analytical and observational skills will surely get a boost…

        4. Settlers of Catan

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          What it is:

          If you’ve played the Civilization games, you’ll have a decent idea about what this game is like. Settlers is all about building up territory and resources until you have enough points to win the game. Much like Civilization V, you play on a hexagonal game board with randomized resources. Apparently, it’s popular among college aged kids (though I wouldn’t know since I never got invited to the cool board game parties).

          How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

          It’s all about resource management, trade, and prescient planning with this one. This game will, with luck, make you more frugal or at least more aware of the limited nature of the resources you possess (i.e. money). Often in this game you’ll be backed into a corner or given a plot of land with few resources, and making do with what you have is necessary to win. A good life lesson, if there ever was one.

          5. 1812 – The Invasion of Canada

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            What it is:

            This game is about the oft glazed over War of 1812 (if you can tell me why this war started without Googling it, I’ll give you a virtual cookie). Two factions, one British and one American, vie for control over territory in North America. Whichever side ends with the most zones under their control wins.

            How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

            At the very least, this game will teach you a little bit about history, since I’m betting at least ninety percent of people know nothing of the specifics of this particular war. The fact that the Native Americans are on the British side will tell you a little bit about early U.S./Indian relations. As with Stratego and Settlers, you’ll also develop your planning (scheming) skills and get a better idea about how wars are fought.

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            6. Euphoria

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              What it is:

              The goal of this game alone makes it worth playing: you need to take control of a dystopian city. To get there, you’ll need to step on opposing players (figuratively), keep your workers uneducated, and find other morally questionable ways to rise to the top of the dictatorial food chain. If you are an aspiring autocrat (any Mr. House fans here?) or have a natural tendency to believe in your superiority over others, this one’s for you.

              How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

              What better way to hone the skills necessary to compete in a capitalistic society like America than to test your mettle in a game about conquering dystopia (which is at only a tiny bit worse than our current system)? While it probably won’t help you rise up any corporate ladders in real life, you’ll be better prepared to take advantage of others when given the opportunity.

              7. Amerigo

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                What it is:

                A game about exploration, with a twist. Your actions are determined randomly, at least in part. A tower located in the middle of the game board contains colored cubes that, when jostled free at the bottom (whenever a player adds more cubes to the tower), determine what you’ll do. The cubes will direct you in your mission of exploring a South American archipelago, where you’ll build towns and create trade routes in order to acquire victory points.

                How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                This game will make you think. Not only will you be doing the typical planning and resource management, but you’ll need to base all of your moves around what the tower gives you. In other words, this game will test your ability to react to ever-changing circumstances; always a useful trait to have.

                8. A Game of Thrones

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                  What it is:

                  This game has a simple premise, even if you aren’t familiar with the titular book series/television show. Whoever conquers the most land gains the Iron Throne.

                  How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                  This one, while improving your strategic abilities, will also improve your knowledge of the Seven Kingdoms. Perfect in today’s world, where knowing Game of Thrones lore is almost as essential as learning actual history. Additionally, as in the show, you’ll be put in situations where diplomacy, and perhaps betrayal, are your only options.

                  9. Kemet

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                    What it is:

                    Relive your sixth grade fantasies and create the Egyptian Empire you always wanted! This is a game mainly centered on war, with other things going on simultaneously that you’ll have to manage.

                    How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                    As with many war games, you’ll need to make sure you balance your resources. You may do a lot of damage to your opponent militarily, but forget about everything else you need to manage, such as your workers and upgrades. Anybody who wants to be a better leader will find a lot to like about this game, since it requires an ability to keep up with all of your ever-fluctuating responsibilities to win the game. If nothing else, you’ll learn a bit about Egyptian culture and iconography…

                    10. Trajan

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                      What it is:

                      A board game about ancient Rome! That should be enough to pique your interest. Your goal in this game will be to acquire as much power as possible, through multiple avenues.

                      How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                      You’re learning more about the Roman Empire. Isn’t that enough? No? Ok, well I suppose you’ll be able to brush up on your lobbying skills, since a large part of this game deals with influencing Roman politics in your rise to the top. Of course, there will also be lots of war and trading, since this is the Romans we’re talking about after all.

                      11. Small World

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                        What it is:

                        Like the name implies, Small World gives players an unnaturally tiny game board to work with. Never has the phrase “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us” had more meaning. You’ll need to grow your fledgling empire by kicking other players (literally) off of the map.

                        How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                        This game will teach you all about balance. Since there’s so little room to work with, you’ll have to rush to colonize the board. That being said, grow too quickly and you’ll over-extend yourself, ending your empire’s existence faster than you can say “Julius Caesar.”

                        12. Clue

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                          What it is:

                          Does this one require an extensive explanation? The game’s all about finding out who the killer was, their weapon of choice, and the room where the murder occurred.

                          How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                          Make like Sherlock Holmes and improve your powers of deduction! Clue probably won’t qualify you to become a professional sleuth, though hopefully it will make you more observant!

                          13. Agricola

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                            What it is:

                            Build a farm! Whoever constructs the best one, wins. It’s more complicated than it sounds though, as the game takes into account every little aspect of your homestead when determining the final score. Concentrate too much on raising animals and not maintaining your home? That could cost you the game.

                            How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                            As in real life, Agricola gives you multiple avenues to victory, and you’ll have to determine which ones will have the most beneficial effect to your farm, and thus your final score.

                            14. Twilight Imperium

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                              What it is:

                              This is a game where you can live out your life-long dream of ruling an empire…in space!

                              How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                              Your brain is going to get a workout playing this one, that’s for sure. Really, that’s not surprising considering that you’ll be running galactic-sized civilizations in this game, compared to the earth-based ones in previous examples.

                              15. Descent: Journeys in The Dark

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                                What it is:

                                From the looks of it, this is a board game version of a classic dungeons and dragons game (I’m no expert but I did read Ready Player One…). One player serves the role of the proverbial dungeon master, while the rest play as the stereotypical heroes.

                                How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                If you ever wanted to hone your latent maniacal psycho killer traits, there’s no better way to do so than to be a dungeon master. That being said, you’ll learn a lot about reacting to random, often terrible situations playing the role of the hero as well.

                                16. Chutes and Ladders

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                                  What it is:

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                                  Well, this one probably needs no explanation. Basically, ladders are good. Chutes are bad!

                                  How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                  Let’s face it; life can be pretty crappy sometimes. You get thrown about a hundred curve-balls every year, so it’s nice to be able to handle yourself well in times of crisis. In Chutes and Ladders, you’ll often find yourself randomly knocked down several squares for no reason other than sheer random chance, much like what happens in reality. Better to test how you handle adversity in a friendly kid’s game first, right?

                                  17. Shogun

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                                    What it is:

                                    Take on the role of a Daimyo (basically a Feudal Lord) during Japan’s Sengoku or “Warring States” period. Each player is offered the same courses of action; it’s up to each individual to determine the ones that will best lead their state to victory.

                                    How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                    For one, you’ll learn a lot of cool Japanese vocabulary. “Daimyo” is a pretty nifty word to know off the cuff, after all. Also, since every player has the same options, you’ll really have to out-think your opponents if you want to beat them.

                                    18. Pay Day

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                                      What it is:

                                      Think of this as an easier version of Life or Monopoly. You’ll be given a monthly salary, and you’ll need to budget it well to win.

                                      How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                      If you have kids, they’ll definitely learn something about the value of money playing this game. Speaking as a young adult myself, you really don’t understand what it’s all about until you get your first bill or emergency expense thrown at you, so the earlier you learn to cope with it, the better. Also, this game is great at demonstrating the fickle nature of the capitalist system.

                                      19. Scotland Yard

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                                        What it is:

                                        Assume the role of a detective for Scotland Yard. If you don’t know what that is, then you’re already learning something! The goal is to catch the escaped mastermind criminal before he eludes your grasp…

                                        How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                        If anything, it’s great to immerse yourself in a bit of British culture, since European countries are looked upon as being so “cool” these days. Other than that, you’ll get a brain boost from having to predict and anticipate the criminal mastermind’s movements.

                                        20. Acquire

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                                          What it is:

                                          Be a pretend real estate tycoon and use underhanded business tactics to ensure that your business crushes the others. The wealthiest player wins!

                                          How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                          This will definitely give you a taste of what it’s like to be an investment banker on Wall Street. You’ll have to invest in stocks, orchestrate mergers, and manage your business in a way that results in the most profits. Though you may never own an actual real estate empire, these skills might prove to be useful anyways. Remember, it’s a cutthroat world out there! Better to understand the people draining your bank account than remain mystified by the process, right?

                                          21. Chess

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                                            What it is:

                                            After such an eclectic list of games, I’m sure you’re scratching your head at the inclusion of good old chess. For those not in the know, the goal of the game is to take out the opposing player’s king.

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                                            How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                            There are way more strategies out there for chess than I can write about here. Suffice it to say, to become even semi-decent at chess, you’ll need to have good analytical skills and an ability to predict your opponent’s moves far in advance. Both of which could come in handy in any number of professions.

                                            22. Scrabble

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                                              What it is:

                                              Another old favorite! It’s what everyone used to play before Words With Friends stole its thunder. Using the letters given to you, make words to gain points. Whoever ends up with the most points, wins!

                                              How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                              One thing I’ve learned in life is that people’s vocabularies are painfully limited. If I have to explain to somebody what the word “facetious” means one more time I think I’ll blow a gasket! Play this game a lot and you’ll be improving your word reservoir, which everyone around you will appreciate.

                                              23. Pandemic

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                                                What it is:

                                                A zombie game! Who doesn’t like those? There’s no one winner in this game; you either defeat the virus and all win, or allow the infection to run rampant and lose as a team.

                                                How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                                Though I love saying that I hate group projects, it’s a fact that cooperation is key to success in this world. What better way to see if you have the ability to work with others than to determine if you and a few buddies can defeat the zombie plague?

                                                24. Diplomacy

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                                                  What it is:

                                                  Use all of your cunning and intellectual faculties to try and negotiate your European nation to the top of the pre-WWI era food chain.

                                                  How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                                  Learning about history always makes you smarter, and this is no exception. Everyone wonders how something like World War I could have started, and this is why. Complicated alliances created through convoluted diplomatic processes. Can you address your country’s needs without angering others? Can you do so better than actual turn-of-the-century leaders? If your answer is yes, perhaps you should seek a job in congress…

                                                  25. Le Havre

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                                                    What it is:

                                                    I’ve always been interested in ships, so this game caught my eye. Basically, you’ll have to oversee a harbor. In the process you’ll build ships and develop your port by constructing useful structures. It’s a game all about building your harbor’s economic potential.

                                                    How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                                    Though airplanes replaced ships for travel purposes, ships still dominate when it comes to the trade of goods. There’s no better way to understand how this system (which basically sustains our current way of life) works than to manage your own harbor and see how you do in managing the import and export of cargo. If anything, you’ll see just how difficult maintaining the profitability of all this is. Like they say, it all comes down to logistics!

                                                    I hope you enjoyed reading this list as much as I enjoyed creating it! There are a lot of strange, eclectic games on here, so be awesome and try a few of the crazier ones out. If you’ve played any of these, let me know what you thought of them in the comments below… unless it’s in reference to chess or scrabble, I’m pretty well-versed in those!

                                                    Featured photo credit: dice-072504-1.jpg/MorgueFile via mrg.bz

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                                                    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

                                                    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                                                    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                                                    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

                                                    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

                                                    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

                                                    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

                                                    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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                                                    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

                                                    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

                                                    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

                                                    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

                                                    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

                                                    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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                                                    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

                                                    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

                                                    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

                                                    The Neurology of Ownership

                                                    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

                                                    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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                                                    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

                                                    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

                                                    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

                                                    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

                                                    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

                                                    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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                                                    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

                                                    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

                                                    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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                                                    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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