Red and Black | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
July 2018

Red and Black

By Sam Halverson

Sometimes we end up competing against the people with whom we should be partnering. When this happens within a team, it can be devastating. This simple game helps students explore the urge to compete and how they can let go of that urge and partner together.

Start by dividing your group into an even number of teams with three to seven students in each team. (This is designed for two teams per game, but there is an option listed where you can play four teams against each other at once. If you have more than four teams then have multiple games of two teams playing at the same time.) Make sure you have areas for teams to talk away from the other teams where teams cannot be overheard or seen by opposing teams. A separate room for each team or far ends of a large field is generally best.

How to Play

  • Explain that you will play the game to ten rounds. At each round the teams must decide a color they will “play.” The choices are red or black. (There are no “items” to play – they just choose red or black.) Teams decide in secret what they will play and announce the choice by writing it on a piece of paper and handing it to the game facilitator. The decision must be unanimous. Tell the teams that they will be awarded points in the following way:
    • If both teams choose black – each team receives 300 points.
    • If team A chooses black and team B chooses red – team A loses 300 points and team B receives 500 points. (The reverse is also true: if team A plays red to B’s black then A gains 500 points and B loses 300 points.)
    • If both teams choose red – each team loses 300 points.
  • Help the teams understand they have two choices:
    • A team can play black and hope the other team plays black, too, resulting in each team getting 300 points each turn or you would lose 300 and the other team would get 500 points.
    • A team can play red, either gaining 500 points and making the other team lose 300 or, if both teams choose red, both teams would lose 300 points.
  • The goal of the game is to accumulate the most points you can in ten rounds.

What to know:

In most every situation one of the groups decides to throw a wrench into the process and chooses red, hoping to make the other team lose points. This often ends in both teams eventually getting negative points. Either way, it means they don’t reach the goal of “most points possible in ten rounds.” Teams most likely believe this is a competition, but in actuality you will do the following.

After ten rounds:

  • Have the teams come together. Show them the points of each team, and then add the two scores together. Explain that this is the final score.

Team building debrief:

  • How could you have made more points?
  • What stopped you from reaching the goal?
  • Did you think you were competing against the other team? Why?
  • What would it have taken in order to receive the most points possible?
  • Why did that not work?
  • Did anyone think of doing that?
  • Did anyone suggest it?
  • How is this like the way people live in the world today?
  • How can we, as a group, learn from this and make the most out of who we are as a whole group?

Sam Halverson has served as a youth minister in the local church for over 35 years. He is an ordained United Methodist elder currently serving as Associate Director of the Office for Congregational Excellence for the North Georgia Conference, directing and resourcing youth ministries for the conference. Sam is author of three books for youth ministry; the most recent is One Body: Integrating Teenagers Into the Life of Your Church (The Youth Cartel). Sam and his wife, recent empty nesters, live in Canton, Georgia.