7 board games that can help develop important life skills


young woman placing pieces on the Terraforming Mars board

There are few things more enjoyable than playing a board game with your family on an evening or a weekend. Depending on the game you pick, not only could you strap in for a couple of hours of fun, but you could be learning important life skills too.

From planning to resource management, claiming victory in various board games will require a careful, logical strategy. But which games are good at developing life skills, and what are these skills? Read on to find out more.

1. Monopoly – financial awareness

Monopoly is the most obvious choice and by far the most well-known game on the list, and the financial sense it can give you cannot go unstated. Monopoly is a household name in the UK, and through its many iterations it has taught financial management and awareness.

As you make your way around the board you’re forced to think about your financial security and future. For example, on your first rotation you may land on Whitehall, and you’re faced with a decision: do you buy Whitehall now, or save for something better in the future?

You also need to be constantly aware of how much money you have left to avoid going bankrupt. In some cases, you may even have to decline a good opportunity just to keep enough in your emergency fund to protect you when you land on another player’s space.

2. Ticket to Ride – problem-solving and planning

In Ticket to Ride, players compete to score the most points by connecting major cities across America by train. However, you must carefully plan your route to avoid being cut off by other players, as there are a limited number of tracks, cards, and trains to go around.

One of the most important skills Ticket to Ride can teach you is problem-solving, especially when another player claims a route in your journey, and you need to find another way around.

Planning your route effectively, managing your cards, deciding how you should use your turn, and making changes in advance could all be key in who wins and who stops short of the platform.

3. Risk – decision-making

Unsurprisingly, Risk is all about taking calculated, measured risks in order to conquer the world. You take on the role of an army general with the aim of controlling as much of the world as possible, but every other player is intent on doing the same.

Everything in Risk is determined by a roll of the dice, but by carefully managing your troops and calculating the odds of each decision you make, you can increase your chance of victory.

You must leave behind enough troops to defend the territories you hold while also sending enough troops to battle for territories you want. You need to decide how many soldiers you need for each task, while also planning your expansion strategy depending on where may be harder to defend.

4. Terraforming Mars – resource management

In Terraforming Mars, each player controls a corporation tasked with making Mars inhabitable for human life. You must generate an economy for your corporation and use that economy to earn the most victory points by completing certain objectives.

In some ways, each player is working towards the same goal: terraform Mars. But they must also complete individual tasks before the terraforming is complete.

In this case, you need to balance the expansion of your corporation’s economy and the spending of resources necessary to complete your additional tasks before you run out of time.

5. Hanabi – teamwork and communication

Hanabi is the Japanese word for “firework” and, in this cooperative card game, you play as a team of firework display organisers trying to impress the locals. The catch is that you are not allowed to look at your own cards, but instead hold them away from you, facing the other players.

By giving each other specific hints, the team must work together to ensure the cards are played in the right order, and the display goes off without a hitch.

Hanabi requires clear teamwork skills to make sure everyone understands their next move, and contextual communication to prevent others from making mistakes.

6. Empires of the Void II – resource management, planning, and decision-making

Empires of the Void II (EotV) is by far the most complex game on this list, and the time required to finish a single playthrough reflects that. However, there are several skills it can teach you along the way.

In EotV, each player takes command of an alien civilisation in deep space, fighting to survive and thrive against the odds. The goal is to earn the most victory points, but there are so many ways to earn them that everything you do needs to be carefully thought out and planned.

You need to balance your available resources (credits, ships, command points, and more) to expand your presence in the universe while also forming alliances, fighting battles, and completing quests.

Every step you take must form part of a greater strategy, and rash decisions could hurt your chances of earning victory points later.

7. Antidote – analytical deduction

In Antidote, each player is a scientist working in a lab when someone spills an unknown toxic chemical. Players must then decipher which chemical was spilled and take the correct antidote to prevent the toxin from poisoning them.

Antidote is a game all about deduction. You must use both the cards in your hand and any information you can gather from the other players to identify the spilled chemical and have the necessary antidote in your hand at the end of the game.

In some cases, it may be mutually beneficial to share information with another player, even when everyone is working individually. It is up to you to decide when this is a good move, who you should work with, and which antidote you need to take.