A board game with 20 million units sold that encourages collaboration

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by Marina Morg

Posted on August 15, 2018


A board game with 20 million units sold that encourages collaboration

At the end of the 80s, Klaus Teuber was on the verge of ruin. The bank was going to seize his house because the family business - a modest dentist's office in Darmstadt, a few kilometres from Frankfurt - entered a phase of difficult difficulties to overcome.

To escape from the problems, Teuber locked himself in a small clinic room and designed board games. A friend suggested that he should show it to a company, and they published it. That is where his passion for developing more games came from. 

The games were, in short, the unexpected lifeboat for Teuber and his family when his career as a dentist was doomed to bankruptcy. Thanks to the creation he patented in 1995: The Settlers of Catan, a strategy game that, silently and constantly, has been multiplying followers and today accumulates more than 20 million units sold throughout the world.

The game is about exploring an island without colonizing, and everyone has the opportunity to become what they want. There is competition for terrain and resources, but the main issue is that the problems that emerge from that competition can be solved in a non-violent way; Collaboration between players is important and occurs frequently, and leads to win-win situations. 

Catan is about the human instinct to grow and improve: you harvest something and you build things. Although at the end of the game you have been left with nine points and do not win, -you win when you reach ten points- you have the feeling of having created something positive.

 

In Catan it is impossible to attack: the way to win is by collaborating, seeking your benefit, even benefiting others. Competition and conflict are part of the essence of man, but maybe Catan can help to intensify the idea that trade and collaboration are more useful tools than aggression or war to solve our problems in the long term.

 

To Teuber, certainly, that positive attitude has worked: in 1998 he closed the dental clinic when the sales of Catan seemed to be able to suppose him a stable economic sustenance, and today it is a game translated into more than 30 languages, which generates millions of euros.

There had not been such a successful board game in the world since Monopoly and Risk.

 


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