Three Games That Let You Build Your Financial Empire

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Economic games are more than simply counting widgets or selling stock. There’s a whole manipulable system ready to be plundered by the players. And you don’t need to be an Econ major to enjoy these titles. Instead, anyone with a keen mind and shrewd acumen can excel and win the day. These in particular will have you feeling like a captain of industry even if you don’t know your way around a demand curve.


Great economies began with the industrial revolution. And that’s right where Brass takes place. Set as England’s cotton mills and iron foundries were coming into their own, players take on the roles of British industrialists looking to expand their economic empire.

Players have access to a few different types of industries. When built, they are simple tiles placed on the board. But, these represent struggling endeavors attempting to expand. Only when they reach their capacity are the tiles flipped for points and profit. Coal mines and iron foundries can flip when their coal and iron is used. But Cotton Mills and Ports flip only in tandem.

Novice players might try to build both cotton and ports and flip their own tiles. But the true industrialist knows that a player who specializes can make a greater profit. What results is a strange, semi-cooperative game where cotton and port players end up helping each other out – all while looking for opportunities to cut each other down and come out on top.

You might also drive up the price of iron and coal on the open market. Or capitalize on the high prices to flood the market and get a quick cash infusion that will fuel your industries. Brass is for the ruthless and efficient.


Set at the dawn of coal mining in Germany, each player starts with a little plot of land rented from local nobility. At first, the coal is so near the surface that any peasant with a shovel and a few hours to kill can dig it up for you. But once that is completely dug out, you’ll have to start utilizing a mineshaft and more specialized labor. Haspelknecht lets you dig yourself into riches or an early grave.

Each round, resource discs come out, but you can only choose five and only in two different colors. This makes you hyper focused on what you need. You can’t do everything you want each turn and it forces you to make hard choices. You also have to plan ahead, shifting your focus from task to task. Will you dig out the most coal and get those sweet, sweet points or will you invest in developments that assist you both during the game and with end-game scoring?

And the best part is the playtime. Often, economic games can be lengthy affairs. After all, you want to give the players a chance to build up their empire and then flex their economic muscle. But Haspelknecht gives you a full, rich experience in under ninety minutes. Since you don’t need to set aside a special time for play, it’s easy to bring it off the shelf.

Chicago Express

The players of Chicago Express are looking to march railway from the Eastern U.S. as far west as Chicago. But players don’t just build track and make routes. Too easy. Instead, they invest in the various train lines, hoping to win their portion of money when the trains pay dividends.

There are four train companies (with a possible fifth) that each have various shares of stock. Players can auction these stocks with the share going to the highest bidder. Owners can also use their turn to build track, hopefully marching it toward Chicago. Everyone is in it for themselves, and there can be only one winner.

And the best part is that alliances naturally develop and shift during the game. Perhaps there are two players who each own a stock in a company. They work together to get a good payout since they will progress over the other players. Then, one of them gets a second stock. Now that player gets double what his partner receives. Suddenly, that partner no longer wants to help out and is looking to expand into other train lines. They might even run the route the wrong way to ensure it never reaches Chicago. Savvy players can push to make or break those alliances.

What are your favorite economic titles?  Tell us about them in the comments.

Image Credits: Eagle/Gryphon Games, Capstone Games, and Queen Games

Featured Image Credit: William Bell Scott – Iron and Coal (wikimedia commons)

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