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Contentment in Catan

That Klaus is a genius. Twenty-five years ago he designed a board game that left the losing players not wanting to slash their wrists but wanting to try again. I’d bought his game, The Settlers of Catan, after being inspired by a chapter on its history that told how Klaus was keen to avoid games like Monopoly, whose goal was to bankrupt the other players, but keen for a game that kept all players at the table, and no one humiliated. A game that still had plenty of competition to keep the heartiest participant satisfied, but a game too where all finished with dignity and having made some progress.

It seemed to me that Klaus had hit on something important. Neither a sentimental socialism, where every player finishes equal (and usually impoverished), nor a cold capitalism, where only one player finishes comfortable and cozy. But a game which seemed to encourage effort and breathe contentment.

The only other time I’d encountered such an ideal was in the Book, where Paul wrote to the Corinthian church to inspire them to give to the poor in Judea. He took Christ as his example and equality as his aim. Yet not an equality of bank balance (Gk. isobar, equal weight), but an equality of concern (Gk. isotes, fairness). An equality which keeps all players at the table, all making progress, all finishing with dignity, and none wanting to exit early and slash their wrists.

DM 30th March 2020

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