Jan 262013
 

Worldwatch Institute, Catan GmbH, Mayfair Games, and Kosmos partner to produce Catan: Oil Springs, a sustainability educational scenario for the award-winning game The Settlers of Catan

Recognizing the value of making sustainability education fun and engaging, the Transforming Cultures project at the Worldwatch Institute has worked with Catan GmbH, Mayfair Games, and Franckh-Kosmos Verlag to develop Catan: Oil Springs as a non-profit scenario for the award-winning board game The Settlers of Catan, produced in 30 languages.

Oil Token Used in Catan: Oil Springs

The scenario integrates a new resource into the mix—oil—and brings with it the opportunity for players to develop significantly faster, but not without risking industrial pollution and disasters such as coastal flooding triggered by climate change. Other sustainability challenges, including issues of development disparity, the resource curse, and limits to growth are integrated seamlessly into the game, where players struggle with whether they should use oil to grow even as they risk undermining the productivity of their lands and even risk inundation of the entire island of Catan.

In the scenario, there also are opportunities to take oil out of production permanently and thereby protect Catan from further ecological damage while gaining points for being “Champion of the Environment.”

The desert and two other hexes on Catan now produce oil.

“Ultimately, humanity will need to move away from fossil fuels in order to prevent potentially catastrophic changes to Earth’s systems, including the climate,” said Erik Assadourian, co-author of the scenario and director of the Transforming Cultures project at Worldwatch. “This game shows the extreme difficulty in prioritizing long-term well-being and security when there is so much pressure to maximize short-term growth—an essential lesson in today’s growth-obsessed culture.”

Benjamin Teuber, who supervised the editorial work from the side of Catan GmbH, liked the idea from the beginning. “Catan’s philosophy has always been at its core to deal with a limited amount of resources in a sustainable and responsible way, ” he said. “The use of oil has brought great benefits with it. However, responsible usage has become more important than ever for all of us, and we hope to convey that concept in both an informative and entertaining way in this scenario.”

The first player to take three oil tokens out of production gains the Champion of the Environment Token.

The scenario, written by Erik Assadourian and Ty Hansen, is an opportunity for Worldwatch to expand awareness of key sustainability issues to a much broader audience—The Settlers of Catan has 18 million copies in production worldwide—and allows Catan players to wrestle personally with issues that often seem difficult to grapple with. With agreement of Catan GmbH, Mayfair Games, and Kosmos, sales of the cardboard version of this scenario will be used to cover the expenses of graphics and printing. Further profits will support Worldwatch’s Transforming Cultures project.

Catan: Oil Springs is being released in Essen, Germany, at Spiel ’11, the world’s biggest board game convention. In order to distribute this scenario as widely as possible, it will be available free for download at www.oilsprings.catan.com. A German translation is also available on the site, as well as Educators’ Resources and purchase information for those who want a printed copy.

Press release written for the release of Catan: Oil Springs in October 2011, an effort of Worldwatch’s Transforming Cultures Project