Lessons in Strategy from Board Games

I’m Tom.

I’m 35.

And I LOVE playing board games.

Correction, I love WINNING board games. I am extremely (and frustratingly, for those around me) competitive, so losing just isn’t enjoyable for me. As such, I overthink every game that I play to find the best winning strategy.

Through this unhealthy obsession, I’ve noticed that there are some useful lessons from board games that also apply to my day job in innovation and business strategy. Here are some examples.

Catan: Understanding the Competitive Landscape

Let’s start with a classic. Catan is a game of resources, trading, and building, but it’s also about understanding what your competitors are doing. Time and time again I’ve seen two people compete so hard over a single objective (like building the longest road), that they both end up getting beaten by someone who found another way to win. Just like in business, there are multiple routes to success and if you go head-to-head with competitors over the same resources or objectives, you’re both likely to end up losers. 

The Catan lesson is to diversify and find your niche. If you can identify a market or a strategy that no one else is focusing on, you’re paving your way to success without unnecessary resistance. 

Lessons in strategy from board games

Splendor: Keep Your Eyes on the End-Game

In Splendor, players need to build production of jewels which can be used to buy points. In the late game you also have the chance to buy ultra-valuable noble cards, but these require a very specific mix of different jewels. 

The gem of wisdom here is to always keep your eyes on the end-game. Building a resource engine is great, but if you’re not working towards the specifics you need for the noble cards in the late game, you’ll probably lose out to someone with more foresight. 

The real world is no different. Short-term gains are good, but without a long-term vision, you might miss out on opportunities that define the future of your business. Think big and plan ahead! 

Pandemic: Utilise Your Team's Strengths

Although the subject matter is a little close to home for many, Pandemic is still a hugely popular long-running game. The objective is to work as a team to save the world against diseases with each player having random unique ability. The critical mistake I’ve seen with this game is when teams get overwhelmed by the outbreaks and treatment and lose sight of their individual abilities which are crucial to ultimate success. 

In business, like in Pandemic, everyone has a special power. Understanding and harnessing these unique skills is crucial. Instead of focusing solely on the problems at hand (or diseases, in this case), assess your team’s abilities and strategise around them for a more efficient path to success.

Carcassonne: Resource Management is Key

Carcassonne teaches us the art of resource management. It’s a tile-placement game, where players build cities and fields, and deploy their individual tokens (called meeples) strategically across the landscape. Points are awarded based on where the meeples are placed.  

The lesson here is clear: resources may seem abundant at the start, but they can deplete quickly. You need to select the right positions to place your meeples and avoid wasting them all at the start on low-scoring placements.  

Every business has its own ‘meeples’, be it time, money, or people. Wise allocation of these resources, even when they feel infinite, can make or break your business strategy. Place your bets wisely! 

7 Wonders: Focus for Maximum Impact

Last but not least, 7 Wonders imparts a simple yet profound lesson: don’t spread yourself too thin. The game is highly complex with multiple ways of gaining points which contribute to winning, but the mechanics reward players who specialise rather than those trying to collect a little bit of everything.  

This is a golden rule in business too. While it’s tempting to diversify and grab every opportunity, true success often lies in focusing on a few key areas and excelling in them.  

In my own field of product innovation this is particularly important – you must identify the specific job to be done that consumers care about, and ensure your product delivers on that. Totally delivering on one need is usually much more valuable than half delivering on multiple needs.

Get in touch

Hopefully this has provided some insight that will help with your next strategic challenge, (or maybe your next board game meetup!)

Reach out to us at enquiry@strat7.com if you’d like to discuss in more detail.

Check out our latest blog posts and stay tuned for more on how we approach strategy projects at STRAT7.


Joe Lockey

Senior Analyst

Joe joined us after completing rotations across our consumer, services and health sectors, whilst gaining exposure to both qualitative and quantitative research techniques.


Alice Hedlund


Alice has experience in customer-centric growth, brand strategy and innovation at global scale. She specialises in brand transformation journeys, bridging the gap between business and brand strategy to create holistic and actionable plans for impactful growth.

Helen Donald


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Tom Carvell


Tom has a science background with a PhD in Materials Chemistry. He has spent most of his career working on in-house front-end innovation where he delivered mid/long term strategic projects for brands such as Durex, Scholl, Veet and KY. He is focussed on delivering pragmatic but provocative innovation strategy for CPG categories.

Manick Pratheeban

Senior Principal

Manick is a brand strategy and consumer insight specialist with 15+ years’ experience helping to grow some of the world’s biggest brands. He has a proven track record of translating trends, consumer, and market data into actionable insights to formulate growth strategies.

Kate Jones

Senior Principal

Kate has over a decade of experience in creating transformative strategies for customer-focused businesses. With a background in consumer insight and behaviour change across consumer health, packaged goods, leisure, banking and other sectors she focuses on elevating the customer experience to create human-centric innovations and foster impactful growth.

Jacob Gascoine-Becker


Jacob specialises in leveraging consumer research to inform investment strategy and business case development. A management consultant since 2014, he previously spent eight years working in ecommerce and digital marketing.

Ines Achabal

Senior Analyst

Ines is inately curious and creative. She is known for her expansive thinking when exploring client challenges and elevating the visual quality of outputs to maximise their impact.

Helene Mills


Helene has 20+ years’ experience advising business leaders and investors on growth strategy based upon consumer and market intelligence. Her particular specialism lies in leisure, retail, food and beverage sectors.

Helen Donald

Helen Donald


Helen has consulted businesses at different stages of growth across a variety of sectors, specialising in consumer packaged goods and consumer healthcare. She is an adept strategist, bringing clarity to the most complex of situations and connecting dots to create rich, future-proofed platforms for innovation, brand positioning and growth.

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Allan Chen

Senior Principal

Allan’s core skillset provides an analytical and commercial lens to address client challenges. He started his career as an actuary, and since then has held a broad range of strategic roles, improving performance across the private and public sector.


Björn Dufwenberg

Managing Director​

Björn has 15+ years’ experience in insight-driven transformation, across management consulting, as well as brand and innovation agency roles. Most recently he headed up the Customer-Led Transformation practice at PwC Sweden, until joining STRAT7 in 2021. He’s worked on global projects covering consumer goods, durables, spirits and beverages, retail, banking, and private equity.

Kamilla Dala

Senior Principal

Kamilla has 10+ years’ experience leading and implementing insight-driven transformation within global matrix organisations in durable and consumable goods. Areas of expertise cover segmentation, uncovering and translating actionable consumer insights within innovation, product development, brand positioning, strategy and marketing.