As a co-founder and team leader we were always looking for ways to bring the team together in new and fresh ways. I was tasked with coming up with a new idea to get people creatively working together and building relationships with our fully remote teams. I came up with the idea for us to break the team into smaller groups and create a casual board, card, or casual experience that could the be used within our weekly happy hours.
One of the challenges we had for our weekly optional happy hours was that not everyone was a gamer or had a system that allowed for the games that we often played. Some team members preferred just chatting or playing simple games vs. first person shooters, rocket league, etc. Some didn't like video games at all.
With that knowledge at the front of my mind I created a very simple but challenging brief that contained the following constraints.
We split our entire company of fifteen or so including co-founders and leads, in to teams of 4-5 people and provided the simple brief to them. We tried to match up team members that did not know each other very well or typically didn't get to work together on a daily basis. For our company that typically meant mixing up the developer team a bit as they were are biggest team.
Teams then used optional happy hour times over the next 4-6 weeks to create a concept, play test it, and then present and play it with the rest of the team.
It was a pretty big hit overall. Just like everything, it wasn't for everyone but I believe even those team members found value in spending time with a smaller group and being creative together and all teams expressed a positive experience when the experience was complete.
We found that teams who had members that were excited about the exercise create and play test at home and off the clock with friends and family.
Although the brief was pretty straight forward and simple it created some very challenging problems that needed to be solved due to the nature of the intended deliverables.
By the end of the six week creation time we had three very different deliverables from each team. Some teams were able to really drill in and solve the challenges and some blew past them altogether but had a great time doing it. We saw three different games emerge.
The first was a casual board game where the board had a start and finish. Players would draw cards and move their player piece the distance the card mentioned and then answer the question on the card. Questions ranged from, "what is your favorite movie?" to "who was your first love?". No question was overly heavy and the game had no strategy and was focused on learning about team members through fun, random, and pretty harmless question. You could pass on any question if needed.
The second game turned out to be a really complicated hex based board game in which you were trying to get to the center of a mountain in the board. You had to get and manage resources, be aware of your pathing, know where other players were, and have a specific strategy. Although the game was pretty great it struggled with the time allotted when there were more then five or six players.
Lastly, and with full bias because it was my team, we created an area control board game with simple classes that would impact movement and counter drops. The center of the board contained a Kings of Tokyo like area that when controlled was a multiplier for the pieces that were places throughout the board. With a limit of only ten turns the goal was to get enough counters on the board and increase your multiplier as many times as possible. There was simple combat that would impact your multiplier and give you the ability to move other players. It was a fast and simple game with a lot of strategic options and never the same due to the classes being able to be different for each player each and every game.
Teams mentioned the benefit or bringing smaller parts of the team together and working with team members they typically would not get to work through problems with. Seeing how different teams worked and who stepped to the front to make suggestions and then see how the suggestions varied was amazing. Defining and finding the fun for four to five people was fascinating and each bringing their own element of fun was rewarding. Even as co-founder I look back at that experience and my team specifically and have fond memories of the game. I have since played the game with my family and have plans to continually improve it and maybe make a digital version moving forward.