In our last post we noted that Sourcing, like many facets of Supply Management, is not as easy as it seems. The skills required are numerous and sophisticated, not easy to come by, and not easy to advance. For example, analysis and trend identification requires advanced mathematical skills; logistics, resource management, and project management requires the ability to not only apply the mathematical skills acquired for analytics to evaluate trade-offs with respect to quantitative and qualitative advantages but to model physical, financial, and information supply chains; and needs identification and negotiation requires sophisticated collaborative skills.
We also noted that these skills need to be practiced if they are to be honed and improved, but that, outside of the job, you have limited opportunity to practice these skills. And while it’s okay to practice these skills on low-dollar, non-strategic categories where a few extra points is not going to add much to the total cost of the buy, you don’t want to be honing your skills on a large multi-million dollar strategic category where a few points translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more, in losses.
That’s where gaming comes in. Strategic European worker placement / pick-up and delivery / tile placement / economic / resource management games give you a great opportunity to practice your skills in a competitive, but non-threatening, forum where the worst that can happen is you come in last in a friendly game with your peers and maybe have to pick up the tab for the “refreshments” consumed during the game as your punishment. Then you get to sit back and think about where your strategy failed, analyze your choices versus the alternatives, and develop new insights and new strategies for the next game.
Moreover, if you’re willing to track down your local Euro-Gaming store, or patronize one or more of a dozen plus online storefronts*, you can acquire games that can help you work on just about any sourcing, procurement, and logistic skill that you can think of. Even if we limit ourselves to the handful of games already covered in this series, we can see how we can improve each of the skills identified in our last post.
Agricola and Le Havre in particular require considerable analysis. There are a multitude of options but in each step you can only take a limited number of actions, which is the best one?
The Village and The Settlers of Catan require complicated logistics — you have to acquire goods to reach cities or trade them at the market in the former and build roads, and ships, to reach new locales in the latter.
- Needs Identification
In Agricola, All Creatures Big and Small, Le Havre, and the Inland Port you need specific resources to acquire animals, buildings, etc. which represent more value to you than the resources you trade.
in Munchkin, you get to choose whether you help or hurt your opponent, and that usually depends on negotiation. Furthermore, you have to collectively decide in Castle Panic the best course of action.
- Project Management
In addition to The Village, Camelot, Carcassone, and Upon a Salty Ocean require significant project management skills as The Village is taking place over generations of workers and each worker can only complete so many tasks before his or her time is up (literally), Camelot is building a castle with a limited set of tiles over multiple rounds, and if projects (roads, towns, and farms) aren’t completed quickly enough in Carcassone, then you lose everything you put into the project.
- Resource Management
In Agricola, Le Havre, The Village, and similar games, the same resources are needed to acquire buildings, equipment, and livestock that contribute to your overall wealth and determine whether you win or lose the game.
- Supplier Identification
In OddVille and The Builders, you have to draft your workforce, and the skills required are similar to the skills required to identify good suppliers.
- Trend Identification
What are your opponents doing? What resources or buildings are they focussing on? What are they likely to do next? What does this leave for you? And what can you do to make the most of this?
In other words, its a great way to hone the skills you need to succeed in your Supply Management job without putting (millions of) dollars at risk. So that’s why, in addition to continuing to review relevant games that you can use to hone your skills (to make sure you find the game that’s right for you), SI is going to show you how to apply, and hone, your analytical skills to, and in, these games, starting with a multi-part series on a great Euro-game by Uwe Rosenberg that lends itself, with a few slight modifications, to solo-play, which allows us to test our theory that analysis will not only improve our game, but hone our skills at the same time.
That means the two-thirds of you who aren’t watching soccer up to 12 hours a day and who take the time to try and follow these long, in-depth, posts, will be a few yards ahead of your peers by the time the World Cup Ends next month, and maybe even a bit of a Dunny rat.