Timing: About 30 minutes should be sufficient.

This exercise requires between 3 and 7 people.
In this game, each player represents a fishing operator (or fishing nation if you
feel like getting political).


You will need tokens for fish and boats.

All relevant materials are available on the VFQ website either here or in the Additional Resources area.


Objective: The object of the game is to become the most successful fishing operator. A good score tends to be 40 fish or more.

Beware: If the game plays for the full 10 rounds then boats you have bought will be ADDED to your score. If the game ends early then boats will be SUBTRACTED from your score.

Banker/Facilitator: Nominate someone in your group who will serve as the Banker. The Banker is NOT a player in the game. The Banker should begin by reading the instructions to the group.

How to catch fish:

  • A boat permits a player to catch ONE fish per round.
  • Each player begins with the number of boats allocated by Table 1 below.
  • At the end of each round, a player can choose to trade fish they have caught for extra boats (prices are also given in Table 1).

How to begin:

  1. Cut out all the boats and fish.
  2. Give each player the number of boats shown in Table 1 below.
  3. Place the starting population of fish indicated in Table 1 on the table.
  4. The banker holds on to all remaining boats and fish.

Each round:

  1. Every player must write down his or her plans on a note which is handed to the banker:
    • How many boats he will send to sea.
    • How many new boats he wishes to acquire at the end of the round.
  2. The banker announces how many fish each player has caught and hands them out.
  3. The banker allows each player to exchange some or all of their catch for the appropriate number of new boats as written in their plans.
  4. The banker ‘restocks’ the fish population on the table by adding 50% of those remaining i.e. if 10 remain on the table, the banker adds a further 5.
  5. The banker then announces the start of the next round and the players write down their new plans.

The game continues for 10 rounds, or until all fish are gone. If during the final round there are fewer fish than demand, the players must agree how they will be distributed. At zero fish, the game ends.

Scores are then calculated according to how many fish each player has. Remember – after 10 rounds, add the boats you acquired to your score (at their purchase price), but if the game ends early, subtract them.

Players Initial boats per player Cost of boat Starting population of fish
2 3 3 20
3 2 3 20
4 2 3 25
5 1 2 20
6 1 2 20

Learning Points:

Who won? Did you make through all 10 rounds or did the game end early? Discuss as a group how the game went and how people acted.

The game did two things at the beginning – it asked you to be successful, and it gave you a ‘benchmark’ of 40 fish as a ‘good’ score. This isn’t unlike how companies act when they set revenue goals.

Usually, players fish as much as they can and invest their catch in order to fish more. What happens with this strategy?

Collapse. The stock is quickly exhausted and everyone loses – not least, of course, the invisible customer who can no longer eat any fish! This is a classic example of a zero sum game which is actually encouraged to become destructive through careless target-setting.

What is the strategy that will enable high scores?

Collaboration combined with restraint is almost the only way to score well on this game. By allowing stock to increase in the early rounds there are more fish for everyone.

The Gone Fishing game has been designed and developed by the Value, Flow, Quality® team.

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