I don't think I'm giving anything away here, as the syllabus
specifically states that the game is unaffected if some participants
have played before and understand the underlying concept.
I've facilitated this game three times, and seen three very different
outcomes, from outright hostility during the game, one where an
entire team quit, to a "perfect" game where everyone voted for the
team all the way through and there were no betrayals.
Oddly enough, the better courses were the ones where there were
betrayals, as it allowed the team to reconcile and bond afterwards.
The course with the perfect game never really meshed as a troop.
I can say that the facilitator is important and needs to be into the
game and "drive" the group to a certain level, but even more
important is the role of the rest of the staff. Everyone else should
be there, looking for signs of emotion, so they can be headed off
before they get too bad. If we see participants that are a little
vulnerable going in, we try to warn them that the upcoming
presentation may be emotional, and to sit back and let it slide past
When I ran this game, I had at least one person who would stand at
the back of the room and give me a thumbs up or down, meaning that I
needed to raise or lower the competitive drive in the room through my
"game show host" personality. People get wrapped up in the energy of
the presenter and get carried along with it, so it's possible to
manage the game pretty well--provided there is an objective control
that can manage it. The facilitator cannot manage that alone. This is
NOT an opportunity for staff to catch up on sleep, read a book, stand
outside and chat, or otherwise abandon the troop! It is vital that
EVERYONE participate and UNDERSTAND the game completely. You may have
one presenter, but it is not a one-person presentation!
At the Course Director's Conference last year, we heard a lot of
great ideas about this game, and there were some interesting ideas
that I had planned to incorporate in the next course I was a part of.
(Well, except for the council that said they didn't like it and
decided not to include it...)
1. Everyone seemed to agree that the facilitator should be a "guest
presenter" and not a part of the regular staff. They usually brought
them in at dinner that night and introduced them, they stayed for the
game show, then ran the Game of Life. By not being a part of the
regular staff, there was no animosity towards the facilitator.
2. One council had the facilitator come in wearing a referee uniform
with a Scout patch on the breast, and a Scout cap, complete with a
whistle. They said that it established the facilitator as an
authority figure and Scouter, whose decision was final and
indisputable and fair. The whistle was helpful in keeping control.
3. One thing we learned last year was that you need to monitor the
room, but just as importantly the team representatives need to be
monitored, too. In 2004 the crisis came in that group, when three
male members excluded a female member because her team had betrayed
in the prior round. She became emotional and her team stuck up for
her by quitting--coming up to the front and turning in their game
cards. (I assigned a troop guide to play for them.)
4. We *never* play the game as patrols. If you do, it's the patrols
that betray one another. If they're random teams, they exist for the
duration of the game and then dissolve. They're anonymous and you
can't pin blame on the individuals for the behavior of the group.
Nobody remembers everyone that was on what team, and there's a good
chance that at least one patrol mate was on "that team".
5. After the debriefing, stand outside in the dark, form a circle and
sing Scout Vespers beneath the stars. "Have I kept my Honor Bright,
Can I Guiltless Sleep Tonight..."
6. There need to be at lest two people whose sole responsibility is
to keep score, and post them visibly.
In '04, when one team quit, we had one team that was the "big loser".
I asked their "leader" how he felt. He was in his early 20's, a
former OA region chief. He said, "I feel great." "But why," I asked,
"you lost by xxxxx?" "We voted beads every time. We voted for the
troop, regardless of what others did. We feel great because we'll all
sleep soundly tonight."
At the next morning's assembly, as we started to sing the Wood Badge
Song, the patrols (nicely lined up in a three-sided formation) began
to slowly advance on the staff. At first, it was like a mob coming at
us, and I'll confess to being concerned. But they embraced one
another, and we ended up singing in a circle, staff and participants,
arm in arm. Turns out that it was spontaneous. They hadn't planned it
or discussed it at all.
It was THE most cohesive, effective troop/team I've ever seen. There
were no patrol rivalries. The patrol duty schedule went out the
window--nobody would allow the quartermaster patrol alone prepare and
clean the dining hall, and the service patrol was never alone in
tidying the restrooms. The troop ended up doing TWO, significant,
service projects--clearing fallen trees at one end of camp, and
putting flood control in a stream at the other end by digging up and
moving several tons of rocks.
This presentation, "Values, Vision, and Mission", and "The Greatest
Leadership Secret" are my favorites on the course, and the things I
miss most about Wood Badge. Maybe it's because they're the most
emotional for me personally, or because they seem to have the
greatest impact on the participants--these are the three sessions
that cause people to look into themselves more than any other, and
realize the good, the bad, and the wonderful potential within
Bill makes an excellent point that the great leaders never needed to
resort to such tactics, but I can also appreciate the idea that as
children we sometimes only learn the hard lessons by getting a little
hurt. As leaders and parents, we will sometimes let our kids make
small mistakes in order to see the consequences of poor planning,
like forgetting to bring buns for the hot dogs on a campout (or vice-
versa). If we can control this game adequately, it can be a learning
experience for participants. The key is running it well.