The simulation game “The Fontanian question” at the German Economy Foundation

Curse or Blessing? – Oil resources as a source of conflict

Is it a curse or a blessing if an unstable state discovers it has oil resources that are large enough to remedy many economic difficulties? In two simulation games played in parallel, a total of 60 young people on a scholarship with the German Economy Foundation (swd) experience just how great the potential for conflict around oil can be.

Who benefits from resources and what are the consequences in relation to security policy that natural resources have for the dynamics of domestic conflicts? Actors in this simulation game range from private and state-owned oil companies to national and municipal governments as well as sub-state opposition and rebel groups.

The simulation game is perfectly suited as an introduction to a general discussion on worldwide energy resources and the conflicts their distribution might provoke. Using the example of the fictional state of Fontania, the conflicts around the oil are simulated. The participants can influence the situation through action. Depending on the interests of the role they play, they will either act to escalate the conflict or to contribute to a peaceful solution. The end result is – as always in simulation games – open.

During the evaluation, the fact that the central characteristics of the simulation game dynamic are distrust, incomplete information on how the situation is developing as well as structural disadvantages of the moderate forces (money, arms etc.)

We have played “The Fontanian Question” more than 20 times and in various countries, and rarely has it ended in a peaceful solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, the many conflicts that currently remain unsolved show just how close to reality the game is. Being able to better understand the breaking out of violent conflicts in the fight for vital resources is one of the most important learning objectives of this action-oriented simulation game.

Facts + Figures

Target group

Scholars with the German Economy Foundation

  • Understanding the dynamics of conflict
  • Understanding the challenges of peaceful conflict resolution

Stiftung der Deutschen Wirtschaft e.V. (sdw)/German Economy Foundation


1 day

Number of participants








  • planpolitik came to an academy on “Humans and Energy” and we played a one-day simulation game on energy conflicts for 60 scholarship fellows of the foundation. This academy has been offered four times in total, and planpolitik were part of every one of them. The simulation game was developed by planpolitik members especially for the event series and was improved and developed after every academy. Apart from being a lot of fun, participants found the simulation game very helpful for a gaining a better understanding of energy conflicts. The trainers always brought extensive background, experience and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing. A very rewarding cooperation!”

    Dirk Schmittchen (German Economy Foundation, Berlin)