Catena game


Сatena is an entertaining word game that helps develop creative thinking. Catena trains a free, associative style of thinking, and assists in observing both dominant patterns and vertical thinking. It also has many other uses (see below).


  1. The game consists in connecting two words with a chain of associations. The resulting chain is called catena.
  2. Only nouns are allowed.
  3. Elements consisting of two words are only allowed when they are stable, e.g. bell tower, and cannot be used separately (e.g. the transition «bell tower — tower» is not allowed).
  4. There can be any number of players. The winner is the one who builds the shortest and wittiest chain.
  5. Allowed kinds of associations are:
    • Associations which are essentially characteristic for the object (e.g. Russia — vodka).
    • Analogies (rain — fountain).
    • Metaphors (bell tower — candle).
  6. Forbidden kinds of associations are:
    • Vertical associations based on hierarchical systems: deduction, induction, classifications, categories (e.g. horse — mammal).
    • Associations which are not essentially characteristic for the subject or are characteristic for multiple objects (e.g. beer — water, because there is water in beer).
    • Arbitrary, personal associations (cherry — love, because I love cherries).
    • Associations by opposition (water — flame).
    • Subcultural associations — slang, anecdotes, movies etc, e.g. mother — atom, because there is a song by Pink Floyd called Atom Heart Mother.
    • Associations by alliteration.
    • Synonyms.
  7. Criteria for catena evaluation:
    • They should conform to the rules.
    • The shorter, the better.
    • Wittiness, humor.
    • Two-way links are better. An example of a two-way link: game — rules; one-way link: repairs — building, but not vice versa.
    • Strong links are better. An example of a strong link: game — child; weak link: game — emotion.

Some examples:

  • market, mist:
    market — forecast — mist,
    market — morning — mist
  • mother, atom:
    mother — nature — physics — atom,
    mother — warmth — energy — atom
  • Prague, stool:
    Prague — bar — stool
  • euro, eternity:
    euro — coin — circle — eternity
  • ticket, thought:
    ticket — road — crossword — thought

Catena Uses

  • For everyone: entertainment and development of mental abilities.
  • For creators and artists: brainstorming and personal creativity development.
  • For HR specialists: the game can be used for assessment, as it demonstrates both intellectual and emotional capabilities and shows how flexible one’s thinking is.
  • For psychologists: the game can be used for testing; further research needed.
  • For language teachers: it’s possible to use the game for learning not only words, but entire groups of connected words.
  • For inculturation: games involving both natives and newcomers to help the latter better understand another culture.


Catena is a version of word association game developed by Vitaly Kolesnik in 2005-2012. The name comes from philosophy — the term «Catena Mundi» was used by Descartes for describing a mystical chain connecting all things in the world.

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