Koans I-III can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming I (December 2009). Koans IV-VI can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming II (April 2010). Koans VII-IX can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming III (October 2012). Koans X-XII can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming IV (May 2014).
XIII. The Problems of the World
The best gaming store in the world was located in an urban center that was peopled by progressives, anarchists, minorities, and other persons who sometimes felt the need to speak out against the establishment. Thus, the student of gaming who regularly attended events at that store sometimes found his route there blocked by protests arising from questions of social justice.
This was the case one day in the long winter when reports revealed that protesting in the urban center had turned into looting, vandalism, arson, and assaults. Sadly, this was not unusual.
Undeterred, the student of gaming set out for his regular gaming evening.
As he traversed the streets leading to the gaming store, the student saw windows that were broken, with wood now barricading those gaping wounds, while glass littered the sidewalks — and though he skirted the glass, this did not prevent his progress toward the store.
Then the student saw that some trash cans had been lit afire, and that their burned-out husks blocked his path — and though he detoured out into the street, this did not prevent his progress toward the store.
Then the student saw that the protesters were out once more, blocking the streets and waving signs, and one even threw an empty bottle at him — and though he took an alternative route, this did not prevent his progress toward the store.
Then the student saw that the National Guard had also been called out, resulting in a military presence in the streets of the city — and though he gave those military vehicles and armed soldiers a very wide berth, this did not prevent his progress toward the store either.
At last, the student of gaming arriving at the best gaming store in the world, and his friends were surprised to see him, for they knew he walked the streets of the city. The student shrugged and sat down at a table to play a game.
“Why did you brave those crowds and those police?” one of his fellow gamers asked.
“I did it because gaming is my Tao,” the student replied. “It is how I escape from the problems of the world.” He then preceded to arrange his gaming board, laying down plastic figures depicting tanks and armed soldiers.
Afterward the student and his friends played a game of spiraling financial ruin and another where an epidemic of disease burst out from Africa.
It was a good evening.
XIV. The Nature of the Strategy (and the Tactics)
A politician was very confused about the nature of strategy and tactics, so he went to the Tao School of Catan to seek enlightenment.
There the politician asked the monks, “What is the nature of strategy?”
They replied, “It is placing a settlement so that one may place another settlement several turns later, and eventually reach the port that allows you to trade wood at a truly awesome ratio.”
Then the politician asked the monks, “But what is the nature of tactics.”
They replied, “It is placing a settlement so that the jerk next to you doesn’t grab the space first.”
Leaving the school, the politician reflected on how much he hated his opponent, and so launched upon a campaign that focused entirely upon keeping that jerk from grabbing the next space.
And so he lost the election.
XV. What We Do
A monk newly arrived at the Temple of Gaming was confused by the great regard given to games. He watched other monks wake early to play games before their chores, and did not understand why they did not rest more. Likewise, he saw monks stay up late, playing Catan or Puerto Rico by candlelight when they could have been sleeping.
When this newcomer paid more attention to the playing of these games, he saw how the other monks threw themselves fully into their play. He saw the joy of an “8” being rolled in Catan at precisely the right time, and the horror of someone calling for the shipment of goods in Puerto Rico when there was insufficient space upon the boats. But he did not understand these emotions; he did not see how they could be wrung out of a few pieces of wood and cardboard.
After many days and nights of puzzlement, the young monk finally approached one of his older brethren and asked him how these games could bring such enjoyment, and why they were such a central part of the monks’ lives.
The older monk told him that an ancient tome of wisdom had decreed that everyone should be as they were. He then quoted it, saying:
“Craftsmen gotta grow,
Prospectors gotta claim,
Captains gotta row,
And gamers gotta game!”
And so the young monk was enlightened.
Though he wasn’t convinced that captains did their own rowing, except to match an A-B-A-B rhyming scheme.