Software Quality

December 31, 2010

“Hard Choices” Architecture Game

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Allen @ 1:50 pm

I just downloaded a board game, entitled “Hard Choices” from the SEI’s website at  It is a metaphor for a software development process and the hard choices one must make to balance forces in achieving ones goal.

I played it by myself and liked it. Then I played it with a couple of my seasoned coworkers last week. We had great fun. One of them is our chief architect, the other is a senior business analyst who also teaches while she is finishing her PhD in Computer Security.  She has taught the game to her students, and found it very educational for them.

If you try it and find it weak, then read the facilitator’s guide that has suggestions for variations. I invented my own variation which expressed my theories about tradeoffs. For example, in the initial version of rules, you can take short cuts, but they reduce your final score. You can invest in tools, and they increase your score. In my variation, I believe that shortcuts taken early weigh you down longer than shortcuts taken near the end. Similarly, investments made late, offer less benefit in the end. So in my variation, whenever one takes a shortcut, that reduces the effect of all future die rolls by one (slowing your progress, just as shortcuts in real life do). And investing in tools increases future die rolls by one, accelerating future development. 

To me, the greatest learning occurs when a team of experienced developers gets to introduce their own variations in an effort to model the dynamics of software development as they understand them.

Play it with your friends and let us know what you think. Each round is pretty short and easy. We played two games over lunch without rushing.

1 Comment »

  1. […] my lightning talk I mentiond the game “Hard Choices” that I mentioned in a previous blog post. But mostly, I talked about my experience with the lessons I have recently learned about […]

    Pingback by Minneapolis talks about Architecture « Software Quality — January 5, 2011 @ 11:17 pm

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