Skip to content

Black stories

Below is the latest version of the facilitation guide. Since it is online, it might evolve and enrich over time. Good luck in facilitating this serious game and wishing you all the playful learning!

Black stories are riddles that help your team to improve and open up for lateral and critical thinking. This is useful to refine pieces of work and get a better understanding of a topic you are working on. For instance requirements gathering and how to (technically) come to a solution based on requirements.


  • You will need a deck of black story cards.
    • You can buy them from your local or online game store and will cost you around 10 euro’s.
    • has most Dutch versions.
    • Amazon has several English versions.

Invite & Goal

You are detectives that together have to find out what terrible thing has happened and why! Luckily you will get help from an oracle that will answer all your questions. As long as they are closed questions that is.

How to play

  1. As a facilitator first pick a black story card and read the front and the back. You now know what riddle is there to solve and what the answer to the story is.
  2. Now read out loud the front of the card and show the picture to the group of detectives
  3. Explain that you act as an oracle that knows the solution to the riddle. The participants can ask you questions to solve the riddle.
    • You will only reply with yes, no or irrelevant to the questions they ask.


Facilitator tips

In order to make the pace of the game a bit more pleasant the facilitator can play give subtle hints that will help the team to solve the riddle. We try not to play longer than 10-15 minutes. Especially if you are using Black stories as part of a refinement or creative session.

  • You could reply with ‘maybe’ to a question.
  • Ask them to summarize what they (think they) know.
  • Don’t get caught in the details. If they are 90% right about what happened. tell them they solved it.
  • You could visualise / map how they investigate or encourage them to organize this.
  • Use your intonation in your answer to give a hint. ‘hmmmmm nnnoooo’.
  • Answer with a bit more detail. ‘no, not that particular thing happened’ (hinting on they might be close)
  • Encourage them when a crucial hint is found ‘Yes, now you are getting on to something!’


Critical thinking

Here’s a video from James Bach on 3 simple questions that make you a critical thinker right away.

Lateral thinking


Questions to debrief

  • What were your process and tactics to solve this case?
  • What did the game facilitator do to help you?
  • What would be your performance if you play this alone?
  • Did you use tools to record and structure your investigation?
  • What use could these tactics and processes have in refining a piece of work?

Common tactics mentioned
(only provide this list after you have gathered some answers from participants first)

  • Summarize what you (think you) know (as a group)
  • Visualise (to structure)
  • Diverge and converge (try to ask less specific questions first and than drill down when you hit in the right direction)
  • (Know when to) question your assumptions

Have you attended one of our sessions on black stories before?

Here you can find the PDF of the presentation. You can also download the Miro bord here. Go ahead now play the game yourself! Further explanation of how Black Stories can help you in your refinements can be found in a blog post from Jordann.

Wil jij meer serious games gebruiken en leren?
Kom dan naar één van onze Serious game labs en leer zelf hoe je serious games faciliteert en evalueert.

See Eventbrite workshops

Do you want games to make more impact in work? Mail us at