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Shortcut Game

Below is the first 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!

With this game, you can address the topic of ‘technical or mental debt’. While playing this game, players will have to choose between speeding towards the finish line or going slower but steady.



  • a game board (download)

  • a pawn for every player

  • Two dice

  • 20 penalty tokens

  • 20 point tokens


  • place the game board on the table and put the two dice next to it

  • Put the tokens somewhere everybody has access to

  • Every player chooses a pawn and puts it on the starting spot. 


You are working towards completion of your goal. The faster you get there the sooner you deliver value. Your boss is so proud of you 🙂  If you continue to outrun the others you’ll surely be employee of the month pretty soon. But will you?


The last one who took a shortcut is the starting player. Players take turns, each turn consists of the following action: 

  • Roll two dice. Choose one of those dice. Put your pawn that many spaces forward unless you have penalty tokens (See: Penalty tokens)

Penalty tokens

If your pawn crosses or ends a movement on a space with an orange dot, you take one penalty token. For every penalty token you own you are allowed to move one space less for every die roll.

Point tokens
You may choose to stop on spaces with a green diamond. If you do take one point token. In the end game they are worth points.

For example: Eddy throws a 6 and a 3. He has got two penalty tokens. He chooses 6 and subtracts 2, so his pawn can go 4 spaces forward. 3 places ahead however there is a place with a green diamond. Eddy decides to stop, so he takes a point token from the stock. 

End of a round: The round ends if all pawns crossed the finish line. The player with the most points wins the round. The pawn that comes in first is worth 7 points, the second 5 points, the third 3 points. Every tool token is also worth one point. 

Players now lose all the point tokens


Technical debt
(You could explain ‘The Tech Debt quadrants‘ using the shortcut game)

Overwork (mental debt)

Some questions to talk about during debrief:

  • What do the penalties and tools represent to you? 
  • What if you would play ten rounds and you would have to keep your tokens?
  • How does technical debt influence the value of a feature for the client? 
  • How did it feel to get ‘burned-out’ during the game?
  • What happens when you don’t pay attention to a sustainable sytem and value short term business value of it?


  • Once the game ends, reset the pawns to the starting hex and play another round. What does this say about technical/mental debt? 
  • Decide on a mechanism that allows players to pay off their penalties. For example: return two tools to pay off one penalty. Are there times when it’s worth incurring technical/mental debt and paying it off later?
  • Imagine that the pawns represent features instead of people. How does this change the game for you?
  • If you play multiple rounds, keep track of the tools and penalties per round. In this way, you can visualize the technical debt.


Hard choices game

Elisabeth Hendrickson – shortcut game

TSG online template (Miro bord)

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