It is important at the outset to think about WHO should be involved in the Play process of your exercise. Is it an expert group or can it also be your participants themselves? Our advice is tailored to a project manager who runs the exercise, whether it uses a top-down or bottom-up model.

Following the general guidance below, we have identified three basic play formats within this guidance which provide a starting point for your own adaptation in line with your exercise goals. Read some of the case studies to learn about different approaches used in Play mode.

Department of Communities and Local Government event (February 2014)

Generic guidance for all games

This guidance has been based on our experiences with designing and playing games with our partners and other groups. Again, these need to be evaluated within your own resources and timetables.


  • We recommended that sessions last no longer than 2.5-3 hours at any one time.
  • We recommend 4-5 questions at most, with entrance and exit tasks used as appropriate.
  • It may be helpful to plan who sits at which table to ensure that a range of different interests, agencies or viewpoints are present.
  • Each table should have 5-6 people (max) plus a separate facilitator.
  • Dice should be used to move around the board; the throw of the die determines the question to be answered and discussed.
  • Each table usually plays their own separate game to enable cross-table comparisons and discussions afterwards, although nothing stops everyone playing the same game if that is what is desired.
  • One player reads out the question (from the separate question folder) which is then followed by a table discussion usually of around 10 minutes.
  • The way answers are recorded will depend on the type of game being played. However, in general, it is important that a facilitator ensures that after group discussion:
  • individual answers are logged including a justification; or
  • one group answer or decision is logged, with justification.
  • The entrance/exit impact may lead to further discussions according to the goals and time resources of your exercise.
  • There should be a feedback session (‘debrief’) across the tables and a report capturing the key outcomes.


Play Options

For the following options, the generic guidance can be used with the addition of the following steps. Select an option to see more:

1. Individual

This is where people play the game in its traditional format with group discussion proceeding to individual views and responses.

The guidance above is followed. The key feature here is that the group discussion leads to each individual person writing their own answer in response to the discussion that has occurred.

2. Role play

This is where the game is played with people adopting alternative roles to their professional or public roles and is valuable to help them understand conflicting positions on an issue

  • The entrance task should normally provide a context to the purpose of the role play exercise
  • Each player chooses a role play card from the card bank. This may be assigned at random or deliberately engineered
  • Someone rolls the dice and then each table answers the question they have landed on using only the character and values identified within each card
  • Players can then share their results and reflect on their roles as appropriate to the exit task
  • As a table, consider the different perspectives from the different roles and the insight gained

3. Consensus

This is where you want each table to reach some agreed viewpoint rather than to make individual based decisions. This reflects the political reality within which much decision making usually takes place. However this is likely to be a longer process and you will need to reduce the number of questions or extend the session.

  • One player reads out the question from the separate folder which is then followed by a table discussion ideally of around 10 minutes
  • Then the group is required to write down an agreed position or majority position with supporting justification - 10 minutes
  • The facilitator for each table should make sure that the group has recorded an agreed answer on the card or post it notes with a justification creating a formal record
  • The group reflect on the approach to consensus on the questions and overall findings
  • As a table, consider the different perspectives from the different roles and the insight gained
  • This type of exercise can be done using the role play version described above


Play Evaluation Key Prompts

1. Design a simple evaluation questionnaire for participants to complete after the exercise.

2. Design a simple questionnaire for the project team (including facilitators) to complete shortly after the event.

3. Consider holding a team meeting to capture reflections after the event to capture short-term impacts and reflections; if appropriate, repeat after some weeks or months to assess longer-term/decision-making impacts.