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Updated: Feb 26, 2021

There are so many games to choose from. But which ones are really worth the effort? Of course, being the Happy Scrum Master, I have quite a few favourites which I'm more than happy to share with you. After hacking our way through last month’s game, we are continuing our descent into silly laughter and madness, in order to lift our team’s spirit.

This month’s game is: COUNT TO 33

What is it?

It’s a drinking game! Or, it started out as a drinking game anyway. And now that I’m being honest, I have to admit that quite a lot of Serious Play games started out that way. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, now is it? Aside from the hangovers the day after and the ‘alcohol and health’ issues that I definitely do take very seriously, believe-you-me, drinking games can be incredibly fun and do bring people together even if they have trouble remembering the day after.

But…..I really believe that this game is even more fun if you play it while remaining sober. Because it’s trickier than it seems and it’s absolutely hilarious. You’ll want to be able to remember playing this game.

So what is it? It’s a counting game designed to trip people up and have them fail. Why? Because failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Incorporating failure into your team is important. Let’s face it: everybody fails every now and then, so the best thing you can do is make a celebration out of it. Make failure FUN and give people the confidence to fail instead of making team members who failed believe they’re doomed and it’s the end of the world. This game is a good way to create that positive atmosphere and celebrate failure together.

How does it work?

Before I explain the rules of the game, I would like to give a big shout-out to Pierre Neis, that weird but o so funny and incredible man who taught me so much, including this game. Thanks, Pierre!

And now: on with the game!

The basic rules are really simple: Start by forming a circle facing each other. In these corona times you can also do this online without the circle part, of course. The idea is to count from 1 up to 33, with each next person saying the following number out loud. But, you didn’t think it was going to be that easy, now did you? You’re not allowed to name the numbers with a 3 in them or those that can be divided by 3. When it’s your turn and one of those numbers comes up, you have to clap your hands instead.

So, Person 1 says ‘one’. Person 2 says ‘two’. Person 3 claps hands. Person 4 says ‘four’. Person 5 says ‘five’. Person 6 claps hands. And so on….all the way up to 33.

If a person fails to clap or name the correct number, they break the chain and will have to start over again. Every time someone fails, the others applaud them. You can add to the fun by making the one who failed do silly things, such as running a ‘lap of shame’ around the circle while the others give them a standing ovation, or…. I’m sure you can come up with some other awesome suggestions.

What makes this game so interesting?

First of all, it’s a great way of levelling people out. It doesn’t matter what your position within the company or job description is, everybody fucks up at ‘13’. So it a good way to break through any self-imposed hierarchies that might exist in the workplace.

Secondly, it is a great tool to help people realise that they, as a team, can decide for themselves what works best for them. As a Facilitator, I deliberately speed up the pace. After a couple rounds I will ask them who decides the pace. To which they usually reply: ‘well, Nancy, that’s you, of course’. But is it? What I want them to realise it that that isn’t necessarily true. I want to create a ‘Fuck the Management!’ sort of aha-moment, as a younger, more rebellious version of me used to love to shout. As a team, you can decide the pace that works best for you, that’s not necessarily a manager’s task. It really isn’t.

And finally, it’s a great tool to help people remember what teamwork is all about. Because they’ve all received the same instructions at the same time, people tend to stand in the circle, just looking at each other and expecting the others to know exactly what to do. And because of those expectations, they’re not really inclined to help each other. So after the third round, in my role as Facilitator, I remind them that it’s OK to step in and help each other. Success is a team effort.

And why is this one of my favourite games?

It’s a short game that really showcases the value of Serious Play. For teams, it’s a great warming up game. Everybody is standing up while playing this game, so it helps connect the brain to the body and makes people be here in the present. It’s a fairly safe game to get people to open up and create that positive and inclusive atmosphere that is essential when working with a team.

And, it’s a very useful game for me as a coach, because it clearly demonstrates the team dynamics of the group I’m working with. You instantly know who like or dislike each other and I can adjust my strategies accordingly and make the most of my sessions.

So, ready to play? One, two, …….

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