If you are wondering why this blog is specific to Day One of the 20 Days of play occurring in Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, it’s because Day One focuses players on the importance of teamwork and strategy for optimizing play.
Getting started in any exercise needs to be memorable and the Dutchman game structure simply stresses that an optimizing team strategy works best, congruent with the overall goal of, “Mining as much Gold as We Can.” The game’s design idea was to reward good decision-making and send a clear message when strategies might be changed. As such, the design of the game board was accidentally elegant for both our board game version as well as our online, virtual framework for the exercise.
Numerous times since 1993, positive comments have been made about the game board layout. It was a little by design and lot by accident that it has turned out to work so well. As we changed some game features and practices, the board game design worked better and better. A casual look shows:
- The Plateau Trail is straight and simple. Seven days to the Mine or seven days back.
- The Low Country Trail looks to be 5 days to the mine, but more risky because of a flooding canyon and potential mud.
- The High Country Trail is eight days to or from the Mine.
Without sharing a bunch of tips and nuances and possibilities around the details of the design, let me just say that ALL the routes take seven days to the Mine. Taking the high risk Low Country Trail even costs a team THREE extra Fuels! They take the High Country Trail to use a Turbocharger. And the Plateau Trail is what it is, while leaving on Day One is a bad decision that will cost the team Gold, most of the time. The rule we added to force teams to take a different route back made the board design work even better. We will save that discussion for another time…
Why does this game board design work so well?
If you look at the first block outside of Apache Junction, with the green water can, it is connected to all three routes!
- After moving out, the team actually has one more day to select their route to the Mine. They can use any new information they get to change their strategy. (And, new information is available if there is collaboration between teams.) They can change their minds without any actual cost.
- If they leave on Day One, the weather is rainy and wet and that brown, lined area turns to mud. Being “in the mud” costs them one extra Fuel. And this is generally not planned for… It generally reduces their time in the Mine.
The features in the design allow a team to leave on Day One, with no information, leave on Day Two with one extra piece of information and some resources, or leave on Day Three with ALL of the available extra resources and planning information.
The teams can collaborate and the teams can share information and resources, if they choose to. The basic game design rewards PLANNING and the game really rewards collaboration and teamwork between the teams.
With the defined role of the Expedition Leader to, “Help teams be successful,” teams can always ask the EL for advice. But DO they? I guess the answer to that is, sometimes!
There are two “Videos” that contain information and resources that they can choose to get, but they give up one day for each and two days for both. These are explained as, “Information teams do not have but find useful.”
Therefore, teams can choose to stay and get one or both of the above videos, which cost one day each. When they leave Apache junction, the starting point, they move into the block that surrounds AJ and connects to all three routes. Note that each of the actual three route signs are in the blocks connected to this first block but it is NOT a part of any of those three different trails. Someone in that first block can still change their decisions as to which route to take.
Leaving on Day One, with the rainy weather pattern for that day, they consume one extra fuel if they leave Apache Junction — they effectively get punished for not planning and getting a Video! They use up this extra Fuel Card and they can see that will happen before they commit to actually leaving. They could still choose to stay and get one of The Videos, but they generally head out anyway. There is no way around that weather — they are OUT and in a block that is “muddy” in how it is drawn with the light brown dirt and the squiggly lines.
The rules say that this Mud does NOT occur on the High Country or Plateau Trails. But if you look at the map, the signs marking those trails start on the NEXT block and not this one.
Having one large surrounding block enables a team to take ANY route on Day 2 — they can change their mind at no cost and simply go a different way. If they had planned to go on the Low Country Trail and Day One is MUDDY, one might expect a logical team to question that decision (they just got some new negative data!!) and take another route. This, interestingly, never happens!!
They could also get information from teams that get The Videos and choose to go up to the Mine using the High Country or Plateau Trails on Day 2.
The weather for Day One is the same for all three routes — Yes. Day One is Day One and they are in a block that is colored muddy, lined as muddy, and is clearly their first step out of AJ. If they stay at AJ on Day One, they consume 1 Supply and 1 Fuel; if they leave it costs 1 Supply and 2 Fuels.
PLUS, there is Rule Number One —
The reality of being in charge is that the weather and the consumption of resources IS what you TELL THEM it is! Some might argue. Some might simply be confused so you explain the rules again. Some might try to cheat and save a fuel. But it is simple: If they leave on Day One, the cost is an extra Fuel Card!
There is nothing “tricky” about any of this. It is very simple and straightforward. It is highly congruent with the game design and the benefits of planning to their individual team success and to the overall success of the group…
Note that the Expedition Leader can always simply do what makes the best sense for the expedition at any time. That is simply good leadership of any expedition in any workplace – do what makes sense. Having a Rule Number One is certainly helpful! (grin)
There are a number of similarly elegant little nuances to the map, like the movements around the Supply Depot near the Mine and the use of a Turbo for movement there as well as the actual number of days from AJ to the mine with the other resources available. As previously noted, some of these features were simply the result of luck and some were thought out — this one with the design of the block surrounding AJ was a planned one!
Dutchman has shown itself to be pretty tight and easy to deliver. Over 30 years of use have confirmed that the rules are, indeed, quite congruent in making it easy to tie to themes of project management, strategic planning, team collaboration and inter-departmental collaboration, and to all sorts of issues around organizational alignment, leadership development and strategy implementation.
Oh, did I mention that a major goal is to also have fun?
ALL this stuff happens on the first three days of the game, after their 15-minute Planning Period. The Introduction gives them all the basic rules, defines the goals and outlines the role of their Expedition Leader. Mining Gold is the challenge, and working together is what works to optimize results. We have run the game with 12 people and we have run it with hundreds and the results and play are very consistent. It is FUN, and it is a challenge. But the debriefing is what pulls all the learnings together to help drive the group toward deciding to do things differently back in the workplace. THAT is the real desired outcome!!
You can find more about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine by clicking on this link that takes you to our overview on Slideshare.
We have a LOT of other blog posts about various aspects and details of the Lost Dutchman game referenced in this blog.
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who is trying to retire!! He now lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.
You can reach Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.
Both the board game and the new, online design of the game generate similar decisions and outcomes. Here is a 2-minute overview of the virtual team building game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE6gDtZymwk