Becoming a successful entrepreneur or freelancer requires a broad range of skills -- from budgeting to salesmanship to negotiating. These are skills that I never learned in a classroom.

Can I learn them by playing a game?

I believe that the countless hours I’ve spent raising civilizations from the dust and expanding my railway empire have not gone to waste. Here are 4 of my favorite games that teach valuable skills for every entrepreneur:

1. Co-opoly

You may think that Monopoly does a better job teaching business skills: you learn that once someone starts to win, they just hammer you mercilessly until you’re bankrupt.

But true freelance success doesn’t work that way. Every successful freelancer knows that cooperating with other freelancers -- forming lasting, meaningful bonds, or even business partnerships -- are more sustainable in the long run. (Hello, New Mutualism!)

In Co-opoly, players must run a co-op and and either win together by defeating Point Bank or lose together.

Skills taught:

  • Democratic business ownership
  • Real-life problem solving
  • Teamwork

2. Betrayal at the House on the Hill

In this game, players explore a haunted house until one of the players becomes the “traitor” or monster. Then all the players must work together to defeat the traitor and survive the house!

This is one of my favorite board games. This also teaches cooperation and uniting to solve problems. Although your business may never face a traitor like skin-eroding space acid, I’m convinced that my ability to humanely argue for collective action has helped me work better with nasty clients.

Skills taught:

  • Collective action
  • Exploration into new areas benefits everyone
  • How to run away from skin-eroding space acid

3. Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization

Building a business from scratch requires that you have very long-term vision and are able to juggle a lot of competing demands. This kind of simultaneous micro- and macro-vision is the kind you learn only in programming, waitressing, or playing civilization board games.*

This is quite simply one of the best civilization board games out there. Players must gather resources and build technologies. Each game is different, so it keeps me interested.

*Unable to be verified.

Skills taught:

  • Planning for stuff
  • The necessity for science and knowledge in sustainable building
  • Mental stamina (games are 3 hours long)

4. Android: Netrunner

This game pits a lone runner against an evil, brainwashing megacorporation. The “lone runner” player will learn how to make things work with less resources. As BoardGameGeek describes, the lone runners “are always a little desperate, driven by tight timelines, and shrouded in mystery.” Sounds a whole lot like the Unfree Freelancer to me!

Skills taught:

  • Getting along with fewer resources than your competitors (other businesses)
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Small operations are agile, not weak

Freelancers, what are your favorite games?

Lead image by Francois Phillip.