#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.”

Really?

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….


#Boardgame goodness with Villainous: The Worst Takes It All (@wonderforge, 2018)

I was very surprised to see that Villainous: The Worst Takes It All (Wonder Forge, 2018) took home the Toy Association 2019 Toy of the Year Award. Given last years winner I was shocked to see a hobby boardgame (though available in mass market channels) actually win.

What shocked me even more were comments from the Ravensburger CEO after the win (as reported by Dice Tower News):

“The positive response from Disney fans and strategy board game enthusiasts for the growing Disney Villainous franchise has been overwhelming. In the last quarter of 2018, Ravensburger sold more than a quarter of a million copies globally of Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes It All, and it rose to Top 5 of Amazon’s Most Wished for Board Games. Even before it hit shelves last summer, we knew we had a winner and had already begun working on the next in the franchise, Wicked to the Core.” -Filip Francke, CEO of Ravensburger North America

Did he really just say they sold 250,000 copies IN THE LAST QUARTER of 2018? This is an incredible number considering the very popular Ticket To Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004) claims to have sold six million copies…in 15 years. Even the venerable Settlers of Catan (now simply Catan) was credited with 22 million copies sold in 2015…20 years after it was released.

In some ways the sale of Villainous also show a disconnect in the hobby boardgame market segment. BoardGameGeek only shows a bit over 5000 copies “owned” and the game is ranked as the 237th most popular Family Game.

I think Ravensburger is really happy about the public reaction to Villainous: The Worst Takes It All. Having released the title under the Wonder Forge line with a pen-named designer has all the hallmarks of trying to reduce risk from exposure to a flop. I guess this fear is no more given press about a forthcoming new expansion, Villainous: Wicked to the Core.

[I wonder if Wonder Forge is going away. Contrary to the words of Mr. Francke, Wonder Forge has acted nothing like a company with a “winner.” The last Tweet on @wonderforge was in September 2018 and the website http://www.wonderforge.com looks like it was last updated Spring/Summer 2018. Even at Ravensburger USA it shows Villainous: The Worst Takes It All as “Coming Soon” with no further link provided. For a game that appears to be making bank for the company it sure ain’t getting much online love from them. Maybe that will change after the TOTY award.]

Here at the RockyMountainNavy house Villainous: The Worst Takes It All initially got a mixed reception. After hearing about the new expansion we decided to bring the first game out again and give it another shot.

I took Ursula while Youngest RMN Boy played the Queen of Hearts. I was surprised that Middle RMN Boy took Maleficent as he has played Captain Hook in every other game of Villainous. I thought for sure he was going to take Captain Hook because he usually shows less initiative in games given his Autism Spectrum and hesitation when trying something new.

Learning our lesson from before, we took time before the game started to study our Villain Guides and strategize before the first round. We went round and round slowly at first as we relearned the rules. Middle RMN Boy and myself constantly played Fate Cards on the Queen of Hearts but we didn’t seem to be able to find very powerful ones at the right time. For myself, Ursula had the Crown at Ursula’s Lair and I was ready to play a Binding Contract on King Triton and get the Trident. After that I figured it would be one more turn to get the Trident to my Lair. It was looking to be not a moment too soon as Maleficent had three Curses out and probably had a fourth ready. To our surprise, the Queen of Hearts played then immediately turned her last Card Guard into a Wicket and then Took the Shot…and made it!

We all agreed that this play of Villainous was much more satisfying then the first time. The key appears to be taking the time to study the Villain Guide ahead of starting play. After the first few less-than-satisfying plays Villainous: The Worst Takes It All had sat on the shelf of shame for several months. I think it is back now, for better not worse!


Feature image shot by self