Business boardgames – learn business skills while playing games!

(business boardgames – 5 minute read)

An image of comic Sam holding a Comic Sam playing piece, placing it on a boardgame with Ahmad the intern looking on

Boardgames are a great avenue for teaching real life skills. In this article I’m going to highlight some of my personal favorite games that have transferable skills that have helped me as a small business owner.

Business boardgame that teaches planning and communication

Catan

Catan is a classic boardgame that is about growing your settlement in the Isle of Catan. You will be competing with other players to build roads, villages and cities in an attempt to win victory points and become the most successful settlement in Catan! To build the infrastructure you need to win the game, you need to build on resource tiles, which generate resources based on randomised dice rolls.

Planning Ahead!

What I like about Catan is its emphasis on planning ahead. There are four things that you can build – roads, villages, cities and development cards. Each building has its own set of resources. Gaining access to these resources is crucial to success. You often have to plan where you will expand your settlement next so that you can obtain the resources that you need to succeed.

In business, we are similarly planning ahead all the time. In order to achieve our business goals, we need to think of the resources (cash, stock, manpower) that are required.

Communication

As the game progresses, more villages and cities will be placed down, restricting the ability of players to grow and expand. Some players will have better access to certain types of resources compared to others. In this case, players are allowed to bargain and trade resource card with one another. When bargaining, it is interesting to see power dynamics evolve as players with the upper hand demand better prices from players who need a certain resource. Smart players will learn to figure out what the other player wants and come to a win-win deal that benefits them both.

Communication with stakeholders is key to growing your business. You need to communicate expectations to your team members. You also need to clearly outline your product and services to your customers. More importantly, you need to understand what the other party desires so that you can align your desired outcome with theirs. This creates a win-win situation for both of you!

Project management in a business boardgame

Running a business comes with a fair bit of admin, especially if you are running a complex business, like a winery! Which is the premise of the boardgame Viticulture. In it, each player is a winery owner who wants to produce the best wines in Italy and hold the title of the best winery in Tuscany.

Project (Wine?) management

There are two seasons (four with expansions) that represents game rounds in Viticulture. In each season, you can perform certain actions, like giving a tour of the winery, planting grape vines, harvesting grape vines and selling your wines. You can perform as many actions as you want, provided you have the workers to spare. To score, you need to have grape vines, harvest them, turn them into wine, age them in an appropriate cellar (which you have to build) and then finally sell them for points. You only start with a few workers and from the very start you are managing your workforce to not only make wine, but to train more workers for future production efforts.

Project management is a constant for all businesses across all industries. Viticulture does a great job of distilling key activities in the wine making process and breaking it down in a way that is easy to understand. Any business owner playing Viticulture will immediately appreciate the process workflow of turning grape to wine. It is very easy for a business owner to draw parallels between the processes in Viticulture and the processes in their business. Also, that human resource constraint is all too real on the board as it is in real life. Viticulture is a great way of giving you ideas on how to run your processes more efficiently.

A business boardgame about knowing the competition

Most boardgames are competitive. To a certain extent, victory in boardgames boils down to knowing what your competitors are going to do. However, Root the boardgame takes this to the next level by having four assymetric factions which play differently and score differently. Each faction is seeking to control the Woodlands on the board and to be successful you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each and every faction.

Know who your enemies competitors are!

Root factions play very differently from one another. The Avian Dynasties (birds) play using decrees, which allow them plenty of actions in late game, but are vulnerable to discord if you are unable to complete even one action. The Marquis de Cat (cats) are an industrial faction, building sawmills and workshops to power their military might. The Woodland Alliance (mice and foxes) are the peasant rebels and experts at Guerilla warfare. They gain power the more they are oppressed. If left unchecked, they can launch uprisings in woodland clearings, destroying the presence of other factions there. Finally there is the Vagabond, a lone player who is travelling in the woodlands, helping (and bashing) whomever they please.

Because the factions are so different from each other, Root is a game that takes a while to get into. It is a harder game to play compared to Catan or Viticulture. But once each player understands how their faction interacts with other factions, it starts to shine. For the keen business owner, this boardgame teaches you the value of truly knowing who your competitors are. You need to understand their motivations and what their capabilities are. Equally important is to leverage on your faction’s (business’?) strengths to keep your competitors at bay and come out on top!

Playing is a great way to learn!

These are just some of my personal favorites that have helped me develop an edge as a business owner. I’m sure there are many other boardgames out there that have business-transferable skills. The great thing about games is that it gives you an opportunity to try out ideas and take risks you wouldn’t take in real life. If you succeed, you win the game, if you fail, you lose the game. But in the end, its just a game and you’re no worse off than when you started.

If you are looking for some great boardgames to play (while learning!) over the upcoming holidays, be sure to give these ones a go!

Stay positive!

4 Comments

  1. Carmen

    Reply

    Great article. Powergrid instantly comes to mind as a game that incorporates many simulated business facets.

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