Even if you have never played the board game Catan, odds are you
have probably heard of it.
Catan - formerly known as "The Settlers of Catan" - has sold over 25
million copies in more than 30 languages, and it has created a cult
of rabid fans around the world.
While kids for generations learned about real estate and capitalism
by playing Monopoly, these days they are just as likely to be
learning financial lessons from Catan.
Reuters talked to a few devoted Catan fans about the key lessons of
the game and what parents can pass along to their kids when sitting
down to play:
1. Location matters
Players are basically playing the role of settlers, trying to build
their communities and maximize their resources (wool, wood, brick,
ore, and wheat). As a result, "itís all about where you start out,"
says Vinny Bonta of Columbus, Ohio, who represented the U.S. at the
world championships in Berlin in 2014 (placing 13th overall).
"If you really want a resource like lumber, for instance, you have
to place your settlement onto a lumber-producing location in order
to get that. So location is everything," Bonta says.
2. Relationships are a valuable commodity
There is a fair amount of trading that goes on in Catan, as players
swap resource cards depending on what they need to progress. So the
game is not just about luck and rolls of the dice - it is also about
who is willing to make deals with you.
"That is the biggest point that people miss," says Bonta. "If you
are friendly with someone, they are way more willing to trade with
you. So socially, I am always talking and trying to build
connections with people."
3. Create win-win exchanges
When it comes to trading, do not just think about what you are
getting; think about the particular needs of the other player, as
well. Memorize their cards if you can, so you know exactly which
cards they are holding.
"Different people all have different resources, so each player is
going to value those resources differently," says Stuart Ritter,
senior financial planner and VP at Baltimore-based money managers T.
Rowe Price, who regularly gets clobbered at Catan by his 9-year-old
son. "I might have a ton of wood, but need something else. That
gives you the opportunity to create a win-win trade for both
4. Be patient
Winning in Catan is not about a lightning strike, like a chess
checkmate in a few moves. Just like investing for retirement, it is
about having a long-term strategy that may take time to come to
fruition. (One popular shirt in Catan's online shop: "The Fastest
Way to Victory is Taking the Longest Road.")
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"Achieving a goal is not something you accomplish in one or two
turns," says Ritter. "So you really need to be patient in acquiring
resources and building the things you want to build, and not going
for immediate gratification."
Bet big on one or two resources, and it might work - or it might
fail miserably, just as if you bet your retirement portfolio on a
In the same fashion, try not to get stuck with a single resource. If
you do, you may find yourself desperate for others - to construct
roads, for instance, you need brick and lumber, while building
cities requires ore and wheat. If you are not diversified, you could
end up as the victim of some very lopsided trades.
"Build on a variety of numbers, where you can gather a variety of
resources," says financial planner Steven Starnes of Grand Rapids,
Michigan. "You just can't predict for sure what will perform better,
so it is important to thoughtfully diversify investments."
6. Be flexible
You may develop a brilliant path to victory, but the board gets set
up differently every game play, and every single move by your
opponents can alter the dynamics of the game.
As a result, you need to be prepared to scrap your preconceived
notions, and stay nimble enough to change direction when needed. "It
is vital to react to what is in front of you and adapt to what is
happening, and not get stuck where you were," says Bonta.
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Cynthia Osterman)
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