#Boardgame to #Wargame – or – Professional training with Catan (@catan, 1995)

YOU CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS is the saying. Or an old game. As I continue my 2019 challenge series one of the next games up is Catan (1995). This game won the Origins Award in 1996 for “Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Board Game.”


I mean, Catan is a decent game. It is most famous not for the game but what the game represents; the true arrival of Eurogames in North America. It was a genre-making product. The RockyMountainNavy family occasionally plays Catan; we still pull it out as a gateway game for new gamers (especially younger gamers) but it mostly goes unplayed as our tastes have changed over the years.

Since Catan is so famous it is inevitable that players will tinker with the design. Catan has doubtlessly inspired many other games directly and indirectly. Interestingly, players not only look at what other games Catan inspires, but also at the game thesis behind Catan and look for other applications.

A “professional” example is found at The Wavell Room. The article is “The ‘Settlers of Catan’ as a Model for Post-Conflict Development.” Here the authors explore using Catan to focus on restarting of industrial production, developing infrastructure, investing in innovation, and planning for insurgency. As the authors point out:

The victorious player in Catan is the one who successfully balances these four priorities to the best effect throughout the game. There will be significant debate to be had between the best strategies for both initial stability and also long-term development. Resolving the interface between these strategies will enable a player to tie together a coherent plan through the short, medium and long term. This will prove to be excellent training for the more challenging task of doing so in a real life situation.

Professional wargamers in policy or defense fields should take note. Even “old dog” games an be used for training. It might take a bit of imagination to make the connection but once there you can’t unsee it.

Perfect excuse to take Catan to the office; it’s professional education! Think the boss will buy it?

Feature image BoardGameGeek. Caption was “Conqueror” – how fitting….

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