Wednesday Reads

Wednesday Reads: Investing Lessons from Catan

A round up of interesting or cool stuff I’ve read.

Image from Wikipedia



I’ve been reminiscing about board games.

In particular, some of the board games sat on my shelf.

We haven’t played some of them in at least a year. A pandemic-induced lockdown is not an ideal time to invite a few friends round for drinks and games!

Of course some of our games are suitable for just Ms FIRE and I. But there’s one in particular that I’ve been itching to play.


Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan was my gateway from a childhood of Monopoly and Boggle to an adulthood of modern board games.

To be honest, I played it so much during University that I had to take a long break from it. But every so often I get the desire to knock out a  game for old times’ sake.

Seeing as socialising in the UK is banned for at least another month, I thought I’d do the next best thing, which, obviously, is to write a tribute to Catan, and the lessons one can take from it for investing and life.


Wood for Sheep?

We all have that one friend.

Every game, they go all in on sheep.

They only place their settlements on those hexes that maximise their chances of receiving sheep after a dice roll.

They will also be sure to stick one of their settlements on the sheep port, allowing them to trade just two sheep with the bank for a resource of their choice. This is half the cost it would be otherwise, and also means that you don’t have to compromise with your fellow players in order to reach an agreement.

Sometimes it works like a well-oiled machine, and no one can compete.

Unfortunately, usually you’re left with so many sheep that by the time it’s your turn, someone else has rolled the robber, causing you to lose half your resources.

Much like life, sometimes going all in on a single stock works wonders and you can crush the competition. The obvious comparisons today would be Tesla and GameStop, or, looking to another asset class, Bitcoin.

However, there’s no guarantee in advance that it will pay off. It makes sense to diversify.

In Catan, you typically want access to a good range of resources in order to build all of the settlements, cities, roads and development cards necessary to gather enough victory points to win the game.

Having a range of resources enables you to always be building something and pushing forward, advancing inexorably towards victory.

It also means that, if you do have to trade, you’re more likely to have a resource desired by another player.

The obvious investing comparison is index funds. Why risk holding one stock when you could hold them all, capturing the aggregate gains of the market? It’s slow and steady, but also consistent and safe.

(And, coincidentally, exactly how I invest my own money)



The other key to success in Catan is adaptability.

As I said above, sometimes going all in on sheep really does work!

But often, you need to take account of the lay of the land and come up with the best strategy for this particular situation.

If two players are competing over the Longest Road achievement, for example, maybe you should spend your efforts elsewhere.

If there looks to be an abundance of one resource at the beginning of the game, maybe you should look to monopolise the rarer resource, preventing anyone else from easily accessing it.

Adaptability wins in board games, just like it does in real life.

Adaptability meant that I was able to make the most of my time living abroad, post-PhD. Likewise, my partner has had to make huge adaptations, moving from the US to the UK (I am, of course, very easy to live with, so that part was undoubtedly no problem. Probably).


Any one else?

Are there any other board game fans out there? Any suggestions of games to wile away the lockdown until we’re allowed outside again?


Interesting links that caught my eye this week:


Financial Origins

Kat and Indeedably take part in the Sovereign Quest February Challenge, sharing their financial origin stories.



Michelle from Fire and Wide tells how awkward it is if your platform provider collapses. She received all of her money back eventually, but could you manage without access for 12+ months? A lesson that it might be prudent to split your ISAs/SIPPs/etc across at least two providers? Meanwhile, along a similar vein, Mr MedFI ponders just how diversified he really is.


Useful Info
  • MonevatorAccumulation units – the income tax loophole that never was
    I was today years old when I learned that Accumulation units are still taxable, even if you never actually *see* the dividends. Not relevant to me at the moment, as I hold everything in an ISA, but something to bear in mind in the future.





  • The Rational WalkCultivating Habits in Good Soil
    An interesting take on Atomic Habits. Argues that, whilst you can’t improve exponentially in a physical sense (you can only run so fast, for example!) you can in an intellectual sense by reading/learning often and giving your brain a good workout.


  • Mantaro MoneyThe most important finance book I’ve read
    Tom gives an overview of the book “Enough?: How Much Money Do You Need For The Rest of Your Life?” written by Paul Armson. The overall message – life is not a rehearsal. You only get one shot, so make the most of it.




  • Andy HartKnow Your Numbers
    Andy summarises some of the key numbers to know when planning for retirement (early, or otherwise). The two that stood out to me were:
    1) Your wealth window. Saying you have roughly 30 years left to work seems like forever. But if you say you have exactly 387 months left before you retire, that suddenly sounds much more urgent!
    2) Your shortfall. How much do you have, and how much more do you need, to support yourself in retirement?
    At only ~20 minutes long, it’s an easy listen
  • Bully the Bear – The 3 ways to Financial Freedom, part one and two
    A great poem by BtB on the three ways to financial freedom. I’m looking forward to part three!



  • Full Time FinanceMania Stocks and the Large Portfolio

    “There comes a point on your journey to Financial independence when mania stocks are just not worth your time.  You’d be a fool to take a large position in them.  And it’s a waste of your time to take a small one.  You are better off investing along with your standard risk tolerance.”


  • MeHow I Invest My Money
    Earlier this week I shared how I invest my own money. Check out all the meme stocks and Bitcoin I own! (Spoiler alert: Zero. I own zero meme stocks and bitcoin).



  • Grocery shopping has changed for good, says OcadoBBC.
    It’s no surprise that Ocado would say this! But, it’s a fair point. We’ve been getting our groceries delivered for *years*. Why wouldn’t you? You get to shop in the comfort of your own home and don’t have to queue at the end.



  • Sign up to Trading212 via this link and we both receive a free share.


  • Sovereign Quest – A new personal finance curation site launched by Indeedably. It’s already off to a great start. Definitely worth checking out.



Thanks for reading. Hope you all have a great week!

4 replies on “Wednesday Reads: Investing Lessons from Catan”

Sunday is board game night for us and at the moment, we are in the middle of a ‘Catan Challenge’ where the loser after 10 games will pay for a takeaway meal!

The last two ‘prizes’ were McDonalds (chosen by the winner, my nephew) and yes, I paid – I need to work on my sheep lol!

I only discovered this game a couple of years ago, having been brought up only on the likes of Monopoly and Cluedo, I didn’t even know this type of board game existed.

There’s nothing like a good board game to bring a family together! We’ve been playing some board games online, using something on Steam called Tabletop Simulator. There’s a good variety of games there, and it’s a lot of fun, but it’s no replacement for the real thing.

If you want a break from Catan in the future, Ticket to Ride and Dominion are both great next steps.

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