On our recent trip to Mongolia, in winter, I knew we’d be spending a lot of time indoors, with host families and with each other. It seemed like a good idea to take some table-top games to play. I chose games that did not require any understanding of English: Ghost Blitz and Skip-Bo
Both games were a great hit. It seems easy to forget the power of games to connect.
We learnt games from our Mongolian hosts too – mainly games using sheep or goat knucklebones, those things we used to call ‘jacks’. A game of pure luck soon became boring; another game combining luck and skill was a lot more engaging, if often frustrating. A third game – Shagai, also known as knuckle-bone shooting – was surprisingly fun to watch. Teams of six to eight flick a token along smooth wooden tool towards the shagai bones, about 10 metres away, while singing traditional melodies and songs.
More recently my friend Lee arrived with the game Pandemic. Pandemic is unusual in the board game genre in that it is a cooperative strategy game. Four of us (including a real live immunologist) played it multiple times. It’s engaging, and addictive – and hard to beat the diseases, but importantly, not impossible.
Fast forward to the last couple of days where we have hosted our Creative Facilitation Master Class on Designing for Aliveness. There’s a lot of games in this workshop – games we play to understand the different mechanics of games and the effect of simple tweaks on the player/participant experience – and games we designed.
Some people tell us that they hate games. They say they don’t play them, and don’t want to play them. That’s a pity, because there’s much to learn from playing games, and from playing with others. Some of the newer games, like Pandemic, can be a revelation. People enjoy them, and learn something.
The Surf Coast Shire’s Fire Game is another example. It’s a game about a very serious topic – being prepared for bushfire risk.
There’s a very popular board game that’s been around since the 1950s called Risk. It’s a strategy game of diplomacy, conflict and conquest. It has simple rules but complex interactions.
That pretty much describes what it’s like for me as a facilitator to play games in workshops. It’s not so much the game of Risk – more the risk of games. One that I’m willing to take.