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Board Games for Training Inspiration

Games are a great way to help learners learn and apply content. The thing about games, however, is that they can be deceptively tricky to create.
Harry Potter game and cards as training game inspiration

Games are a great way to help learners learn and apply content. The thing about games, however, is that they can be deceptively tricky to create. At least the good ones are.

We’ve previously shared instructions for a great training game, “Elimination”. As a team, we’ve been frequently meeting up in our local board game shop to study game elements as we work to develop a cooperative deck-building game for an upcoming train-the-trainer session. With a little manipulation, you too can turn a well-known game into your next great training opportunity. 

Training Game Building Level: Easy

Some of the best-known family games can be an excellent template for your next training game because the game mechanics are usually quite simple. In addition, game rules can be notoriously confusing (and frustrating) to pick up the first time that one plays a new game. If participants are already familiar with the game-play, they will be more easily able to focus on the content that you’re trying to reinforce (or introduce) in your game.

  • Go Fish – The basic objective of this game is matching. Create your own match cards and you’ll be ready to go. Lots of things can match such as a Customer Profile + Sales Strategy, Product + Correct Packaging, or Problem + Solution.
  • BINGO – Manipulate BINGO to be a check-for-understanding game. Set up player boards to have various answers. Ask your questions and have participants mark what they believe the answer to be. We’ve actually used BINGO to make observation/peer evaluation forms more engaging. Regardless of how you set up your BINGO cards, when someone calls out BINGO, make sure they share how they achieved BINGO. 
  • Apples to Apples – At its core (excuse my pun), apples to apples is a game of describing things. Manipulating this game to your content can be a fun and engaging way to check participants’ prior knowledge on a topic by simply creating your own category and description cards. 

Training Game Building Level: Medium

Some popular adult party games work as a great template. It will take a bit more creativity to get these games ready for your next training, but it will be well worth it when you put these to use as a mechanism to spice up a curriculum that you facilitate repeatedly. 

  • Wits & Wagers – Love pub trivia? Wits & Wagers is a trivia game mixed with a little bit of a poker flare. Players guess the answer(s) to a question and then bet on how solid their answer is. Simply modify this game for your training by writing your own question cards. 
Wits and Wagers
Simply buy this game and use all of the gameplay elements. All you’ll need to create is your own question & answer cards tailored to your content.
Wits 2
Write your own question cards.
  • Concept – In this cooperative game, players work to guess a word or phrase based on a series of picture icons. The great thing about this game is that you can use the concept picture game board to describe ANYTHING – including important words or phrases vital to your training. Modify this game for your training by creating your own concept (word) cards. 
Concept 2
The gameplay is quite simple. Just follow the clues marked by the green elements: A tool that is mechanical and cuts wood – It’s a chainsaw you’re describing!
Concept 2 1
Create your own word cards to match your content. Increase the difficulty of the game by having players guess a phrase.

Training Game Building Level: Difficult

For the most part, all deck-building games follow the same general gameplay concept. Once players become familiar with the play order, playing these games in a group is a great way to understand how situational factors affect a person’s ability to accomplish a goal. Manipulating these games to develop your own training game will be a more time-consuming process, but your learners will appreciate the extra effort. 

  • Dominion, 7 Wonders or Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle – These games follow a structure of acquiring resources that allow you to perform actions. Ultimately these resources and actions enable one player to more effectively accomplish the mission. Using this format, create your own card deck containing resources (such as a train-the-trainer class, SME, etc.), actions (secure time, describe need, give a demonstration, etc.), and mission goal (win the sale, build a process, etc.) to build an awesome deck building game that will allow participants to apply their learning in a whole new way. 
Dominion
Follow the card format of Dominion to create your own card deck. (Yellow cards are resources, white/blue/purple cards are actions, and green cards are points earned toward accomplishing the goal.)
Harry Potter
The action cards from Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle follow a similar design where you gain coins (resource), lightning bolts (to accomplish your action), or hearts (to stay alive).
7 Wonders 1
Add dimension to your game by adding coins, tokens, or player profile mats.
  • Settlers of Catan – Catan follows the same gameplay as above (resources, actions, mission) but adds in the extra element of a game board and physical building development opportunities. In this gameplay, players will use their resources to build towards what they are trying to accomplish (in this case, a civilization). Adopt this gameplay style by building your own game pieces, game board, and play cards. This game style would be ideal for a situation where resources and actions are limited and repeatable (such as money), but there are multiple strategies by which you can apply your resources or actions to accomplish a goal. For example, we’ve used these elements to overhaul new employee onboarding. Players were able to experience the mission of our organization and see how limited resources impacted the decisions that were made.
Catan
To use this gameplay template you’ll need to create your own cards and game board.
Catan 2
Collect and spend resources to accomplish your goal (to develop a civilization).
catan 3
This game has only 5 possible resources (cards) and limited actions (building costs). Yet there are multiple strategies to employ to achieve your goal.

Have you used gamification in training? Tell me what games you’ve adapted (or would like to adapt, now that you’ve read this post) to fit your content, in the comments below.

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