Bring it to the Table

This is the theme of the 2018 Annual Conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA). With my friends Matt and Esther, I am facilitating a session called Twenty-Two Templates for Tabletop Training. During the first part of this session, we provide an interactive introduction to 22 tabletop training activities. During the second part, we conduct appropriate activities that are selected by the participants.

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Here are brief descriptions of the 22 activities:

  1. Board Games borrow structures and play materials from popular recreational games to create highly motivating training events. Board games typically use game cards and dice to encourage individuals and teams to demonstrate their mastery of concepts, principles, skills, and problem-solving strategies.

  2. Card Games involve pieces of information (such as facts, concepts, technical terms, definitions, principles, examples, quotations, and questions) printed on cards. These games borrow procedures from traditional playing card games and require players to classify, sequence, and process pieces of information from the cards.

  3. Case Method involves a written account of a real or fictional situation surrounding a problem. Participants work individually and in teams to analyze, discuss, and recommend appropriate solutions and to critique each other’s work. In some cases, the facilitator may recount the actual decisions implemented in the real-world situation on which the case was based.

  4. Cash Games are a special type of simulation game that involves actual cash transactions. They are not gambling games. Nor do they focus on accounting procedures or financial management. Instead, they explore interpersonal skills (such as negotiation) and concepts (such as cooperation). These games use cash because it effectively simulates the real world and brings out natural behaviors and emotions in participants.

  5. Consensus Decision-Making Activities involve a list of items to be arranged in order of priority. Participants complete the task individually and then reach consensus in teams. Then they compare their priority rankings with expert rankings. In the process, they learn more about factors that contribute to the importance of items and also factors that influence making decisions and reaching consensus in teams.

  6. Creativity Techniques provide a structure that enables participants to solve a problem or to utilize an opportunity in a creative fashion. These techniques are useful not only for learning new skills and knowledge but also for improving the performance of a team.

  7. Debriefing Games encourage reflection and dialogue about an earlier activity. These games require processing of a common experience to extract key learning points from it. They encourage participants to identify and express emotions, recall events and decisions, share lessons learned, relate insights to other real-world events, speculate on how things could have been different, and plan for future action.

  8. Double Exposure Activities enhance the instructional value of training videos. In a typical video vitamin, participants watch a video and then play one or more games that help review and apply the new concepts and skills.

  9. Instructional Puzzles challenge the participant’s ingenuity and incorporate training content that is to be previewed, reviewed, tested, re-taught, or enriched. Puzzles can be solved by individuals or by teams.

  10. Interactive Storytelling involves fictional narratives in a variety of forms. Participants may listen to a story and make appropriate decisions at critical junctures. They may also create and share stories that illustrate key concepts, steps, or principles related to the instructional topic.

  11. Jolts lull participants into behaving in a comfortable way and deliver a powerful wake-up call. They force participants to re-examine their assumptions and revise their standard procedures. Jolts typically last for a few minutes but provide enough insights for a lengthy debriefing.

  12. Magic Tricks incorporate a relevant conjuring trick as a part of a training session. Magic tricks provide metaphors or analogies for important elements of the training content. The tricks are also used as processes to be analyzed, reconstructed, learned, performed, or coached for training participants in appropriate procedures.

  13. Object Lessons incorporate physical objects and equipment as the main source of training content. Working individually or in teams, participants explore the components and functions of the object. As a result, they master different skills and knowledge associated with effective use of the object.

  14. PC Simulations use playing cards to reflect real-world objects and processes. The rules of PC simulations typically encourage participants to discover principles of interpersonal interaction and inductive thinking.

  15. Photojolts use a deck of high-resolution, high impact, immersive, varied, and intentionally ambiguous photographs. The cards are used in a variety of engaging activities that start conversations to provide clarity and creativity to the participants.

  16. Roleplay Activities involve participants assuming and acting out characters, personalities, and attitudes other than their own. These activities may be tightly or loosely structured and may involve a participant assuming multiple roles or reversed roles.

  17. Structured Sharing is a special type of activity that facilitates mutual learning and teaching among participants. Typical structured sharing activities create a context for a dialogue among participants based on their experiences, knowledge, and opinions.

  18. Table Activities help participants to learn from reviewing tables of information and recalling useful facts, discovering interesting relationships among variables, identifying key trends, and predicting outcomes. Some table activities require participants to organize information from other sources into structured tables.

  19. Textra Games combine the effective organization of well-written documents with the motivational impact of games. The participants read a handout and play a game that uses peer pressure and peer support to encourage recall and transfer of what they have read.

  20. Thought Experiments are mental role-plays that involve guided visualization. Individual participants mentally rehearse new patterns of behavior or hold imaginary dialogues. Combined with self-reflection, these activities result in increased self-awareness and mastery of new knowledge and insights.

  21. Top-Ten Tips is a combination of training content in the form of a checklist and an activity in the form of a training game. The games require the participants to organize and process information contained in the checklists.

  22. Values Clarification uses engaging activities that raise provocative issues and confront participants with their inconsistencies. The methodology helps individual participants decide among alternatives and determine what has personal meaning. The process (ass does not force one set of right values, but encourages discussion and exploration of alternatives before choosing, prizing, and acting upon a specific value.

Your Assignment

A quick caveat: Each of these tabletop activities is not completely different from the others. For example, we can conduct a Top-Ten Tip activity for Values Clarification. We can conduct a Thought Experiment to visualize the consequences of selecting and applying a specific value.

If you are planning to attend our NASAGA session, we are looking forward to playing with you. If you are not at the conference, we still encourage you to explore these activities. Just to make sure that you do this in an active fashion, here is an assignment for you:

Browse through the back issues of the GameLetter and sample games in the Resources area. Identify an activity that primarily represents each of these 22 different types of tabletop activities.

If you want immediate reinforcement, send your list to