Highly Effective Business Strategies I Learned From Table-Top Gaming

Highly Effective Business Strategies I Learned From Table-Top Gaming

When I still lived back in California, my friends and I had regular Game Nights. My husband was away (He’s military), so our roommate helped keep me busy by having our mutual friends over every Monday night for drinks, hilarity, and some friendly competition.

Not only was this a ton of fun, but it also taught me some lessons that I still reflect back on today. I’ve been gaming since I was a child, with my first table-top game being Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Not only are the following board games my Top 3, but they also taught me some important lessons about business.

So…Behold! The list of effective business strategies I learned from table-top gaming:

Settlers of Catan

 Business strategies you learn from gaming

A creation of Mayfair Games, Settlers of Catan is an award-winning strategy game in which players have to collect resources (stone/ore, wood, brick, and sheep) and use them to build roads, settlements, and cities.

There are several editions, with additional resources and added gameplay. Each round is supposed to be around 90 minutes, but we have had games take closer to six hours. I’m not sure if this has had to do with the drinks being consumed, but…still. It can get pretty brutal.

What does this have to do with business?

In the game, Ore is the most important resource. It’s pretty darn tough to win without some combination of cities and/or development cards, both of which require Ore. With the exception of when you play on imbalanced maps, you should prioritize getting ore in initial settlement placement.

  • When it comes to sustaining long-term growth within your company, you need to understand what sets it apart from the competition. Identify why people would come to YOU, as opposed to someone else.
  • For example, some companies compete with one another in terms of “authority” – Barnes & Noble is the definitive place to buy books. Places like Walmart compete on price.
  • Figure out what special benefit only you can provide, and use that to your advantage.

Figure out where your opponents are going to build toward. This will help you avoid wasting roads in the initial settlement placement.

  • Now, when it comes to Catan, this strategy is built upon the idea that you want to block your opponents from getting ideal placement for their settlements. It relates to business, but from a different angle.
  • No matter what your niche or industry, your competition is (more likely than not) excelling at someone you are having a hard time with. Look to them to see what they have done differently. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Why have they done things the way they’ve done them? (Yeah, that was oddly phrased.)
 Business strategies learned from gaming

Diversity of resources is incredibly important in this game. Ideally, you’re going to want to have at least 4 of the 5 resources. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself dependent on trading with opponents.

  • Invest in a variety of talent to grow your business. Your employees have direct contact with your customers/clients, so you need to hire people who are motivated and inspired by your business’ mission.

  • If you do not have employees, be sure to focus on specializing in a few different things. That way, you are able to provide a wide variety of things, rather than just one main thing. If that niche dries up, you will be stuck without something of value to offer.

Try to only trade on your turn. If you absolutely must trade on someone else’s turn, make sure the trade is skewed in your favor.

  • Don’t do work for free, unless it will benefit you.

  • Do not let people talk you into charging less than your time and talent is worth. Discounts are great, but you will lose money if you offer them to everyone ALL the time.

I am absolutely, hardcore in love with this game. It’s a fight for survival, and survival of the toughest. I don’t say fittest, since you can start out in pretty dire straits, yet still do well if you’re ruthless enough. I never was, but I always had fun! Wood for sheep, anyone?

Cosmic Encounter

 Business strategies learned from gaming

This game is pretty brutal. It’s all about forming alliances, and then breaking down that trust right at the very end. Well, unless you’re far too nice and decide to let someone share a victory with you. (I’m too nice for this game.)


What does this game have to do with business?

In this game, you are building a galactic empire. The alien races (There are A TON of them, and even more with the other editions) vie with one another for domination of the universe.

  • Just like the alien race you go with (You are given 2 to 3 options per game) have the skills and abilities you can play up the most, the niche you pick has to do with your skills. If you are going to dominate (Or at least kick some serious ass in) your niche, then you’re going to want to pick one that you can do well in.

  • What experiences have you had? What type of education did you complete? What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies? What is your personality like? These are all questions that will help you pick the niche (AKA Alien race) that is right for you.

Players form alliances, break trusts, and live in the moment. I do not happen to be one of those players that turns my back on my allies. I simply stop accepting alliances at some point, and focus on building up to that winning point. You can do the same with business.

  • Network with others in your industry, niche. Do guest posts, collaborate on a project, comment on other people’s blogs, link back to your favorite sites and blogs, and build your connections. You ultimately want to focus on your own business succeeding, but it’s always good to form alliances with others. 



 Business strategies learned from gaming

This game breaks people down. It breaks friendships. It’s also highly addicting.  If you drink, get your flasks and glasses ready. You’ll probably need it.

In this game, four diseases have broken out around the globe. It’s up to a team of specialists (That’s where you come in!) in various fields to find cures for those diseases before mankind is completely eradicated. No pressure.

Players must cooperate and play to their strengths in order to create a strategy for cures and preventions. You are more likely to lose than win, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

So…What does this have to do with business?

One of the most effective strategies is to build a research station at either end of a massive problem area. That way, you can go in on one side, sweep across all the affected areas, and leave from the other side. This prevents you needing to backtrack, wasting your movements.

  • When you’re looking to expand, one of the most effective strategies is to start local and expand out. Keep up with the local businesses that are within your niche/industry, and get in contact with them. Offer them your services. Build up experience and referrals at a local level, and it will make it easier to grow your businesses and extend your reach.
 Business strategies learned from gaming

In the game, you want to keep track of the number of cards within a particular color that you have already played. Later on, you will need to make decisions about which cards you want to keep.

  • This is particularly effective when it comes to freelancing. If you have built up a good amount of regular/retainer clients, you are going to have to figure out where the majority of your time is spent.
  • Are you spending significantly more time working for one client than any of the others? If so, take a look at the money you are bringing in. Is that client paying you what you are worth? You are worth more than a couple pennies a word. You are worth more than $10 for a 500-word post.
  • rop your lowest-paying client, and use that extra time to market yourself and pitch to clients that understand the value of your work.

In Pandemic, finding cures is everything. Don’t waste time treating or eradicating when you can work toward curing the diseases.

  • Don’t waste your time doing a bunch of low-paying gigs for a bunch of random clients. One client who pays what you are worth is far more valuable than a bunch of clients who will only pay pennies. 


So…what now?

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