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How board games may help people to learn and use Agile

By Renato Dantas
Renato Dantas
IT professional since 2004, board game enthusiast since 2010, and father since 2011. Always with my Adidas sneakers.
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How board games may help people to learn and use Agile
I've been playing board games since my childhood, but when I became an adult I thought that board games were no longer for me.
Then one day, I found a pub in São Paulo that has a lot of modern board games, not the old fashioned games like Monopoly, Risk, and Life. There were games like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Puerto Rico that helped me to understand that there were so many funny and challenging games that I had never seen before.

Two years ago I had my first contact with Agile, and after studying it, I realized that I’d found a fun way to learn, practice, and explain some of its concepts.

Agile concepts may help to win board games and board games may help to learn and use Agile concepts!

Ticket to Ride

In "Ticket to ride”, the player’s goal is to connect the most train stations as possible, accomplishing objectives. But if the player gets objectives and does not accomplish them, he will lose the same amount of points that he would have earned. 
Example:  You have an objective to earn 15 points by connecting San Francisco to New York but the game ends without you accomplishing that, so you lose the 15 points instead.

Suggested Agile Concepts to use

  • WIP (Work in Progress)
You must control how many pending objectives you have, and control the game-ending. 
  • Throughput
You have to check if you are scoring as many points as your opponents
  • Iterative development & incremental delivery
One way to win this game is to accomplish objectives that help you to accomplish new objectives

Others games like this:
  • Takenoko
  • Potion Explosion
  • Stone Age

Black (or other colours) Stories

Several crime scenes for the players to find out how they happened.
Black Stories are fiddly, morbid, and mysterious riddles for teenagers and adults, where a player tells a story and the other participants try to reconstruct the crime by asking questions and making guesses.   A spooky card game just right for any party.

Suggested Agile Concepts to use

  • Facilitation 
A player must lead the team to the case reconstruction by only saying "yes” or "no” while controlling the time of the match/case. 
So, the storyteller player has the mission of splitting his wish to reconstruct the case and the facilitator role (that’s hard work).
  • Active Listening
The easiest way to reconstruct the case is all players listening actively to each other, paying attention to the questions and train of thoughts.
  • Kaizen & Kaikaku
When a new question is made, the team has reached a new status quo. It may not be the solution, but a step forward (Kaizen). When a new question in another point of view is made, the team has a possible new status quo (Kaikaku). 

Others games like this:
  • Mysterium 
  • Mr. Jack


"Zombicide” is a collaborative game in which players take the role of a survivor – each with unique abilities – and harness both their skills and the power of teamwork against the hordes of unthinking undead!

Find weapons, kill zombies. The more zombies a player kills, the more skilled he gets; the more skilled he gets, the more zombies appear.

Suggested Agile Concepts to use

  • Collaborative Working
As a cooperative game, the players have to accomplish the mission with the participation of all the players (even if one or more have to sacrifice themselves). So each player must help the team to accomplish the mission leaving aside any pride.
  • Empiricism 
As you don’t know the size of the problem (how many and what kind of zombies) you are going to face. The empiricism may help you to work with what you have and prepare yourself and your team for a possible new scenario. 
  • Facilitation 
If there is an experienced player (a player that has played this game many times), maybe this player must be a facilitator instead of being an ordinary player. 

Others games like this:
  • Pandemic
  • Dead of Winter
The games I mentioned in the article may also be used as group dynamics to analyze the way that the team members organize themselves and also to help them see how an Agile Mindset may help each person to reach new goals outside the work environment. 
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