This activity is from the book, Team Building From the Toy Aisle, by Matthew Broda, Michelle Cummings, and Trevor Dunlap.
For the road warriors out there, many of you must have visited a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store ® along your journey. One of our favorite things about Cracker Barrel is that you most certainly will find peg games on their dining room tables. One of the classic pegboard games that have been with Cracker Barrel since the beginning of time is called just that on their website – Peg Game. Albeit, the name is boring, but the game is far more than that. This game is described as a great way to test your I.Q. by jumping the pegs to remove as many as possible from the board. As described by Cracker Barrel: “Practice until perfection, or follow the strategies included with the game. Mastering the peg game is sure to keep you occupied for hours on end!” Many iterations of this game can be found online.
From Toy Aisle to Team Building:
Peg games have been around for over 300 years and are often considered as classic solitaires. As with many old school puzzles, the story of their origin is as vast as there are storytellers. One of the myths is that solitaire was invented by Pelisson, a French mathematician, to entertain King Louis XIV. Another is that it was devised by a French nobleman who was imprisoned in Bastille. Regardless of where these games were created, they are still relevant today.
Notice in the description above, these games are considered solitaires. This is great when you are alone to pass the time, but what happens when we are together? We have spent countless hours looking at the classics and have found new iterations that include group play. The Peg Game Solitaire Puzzle is one that really stood out to us as we were thinking about moving from the Toy Aisle to Teambuilding.
So how did we change the classic? Instead of holes in a board, we used poly spot markers to represent the holes. Instead of pegs, we use humans and cones. What we like is that with this new format, the classic becomes kinesthetic and a bit more challenging. Unlike the classic where you have a bird’s eye view of the board, the team becomes the board. The question is, “What get’s lost when you can’t see the whole picture?” Let us introduce you to The Human Peg Board Challenge. The Original Version of The Human Peg Board Challenge as described below was created by one of our colleagues, Jason Picking. Thanks, Jason!
Cracker Barrel Nightmare
Objective: Work together as a team to solve the classic pegboard game from Cracker Barrel, using human participants as the golf tees.
Original Game: Peg Game
Required Materials: Poly Spots, Humans & Cones
Purpose/ Focus: Communication
Grouping: Groups of 9
- Gather poly spots and cones. You will need ten poly spots per group.
- Place poly spots on the ground with about 2 – 3 feet between the poly spots as illustrated below:
- Place a stack of cones in the middle of the playing area as a resource.
- Ask players to begin by standing on the poly spots formed in a triangle as illustrated below:
- If the team has less than nine players, ask the participants to use the cones provided to represent the extra human pegs.
- If the team has more than nine players, have one participant stand outside the cones and lead the movements of other team players.
- Leave one peg open as illustrated above.
- Tell participants that team members will jump the human pegs to remove as many as possible from the board.
- Ask participants to think of jumping as if playing a game of checkers. Cones can be jumped as well. Once your team has successfully ended up with either a person or cone free standing then task is complete.
- Greetings Friends! I am so excited to share a fun challenge with you! How many of you have ever been to the Cracker Barrel? (Pause) Don’t you just love that place! Grits for everyone! Sorry, I digress but the Cracker Barrel is relevant here. Do you remember that game that is on most Cracker Barrel tables? Yep, that is right, the game in the shape of a triangle with pegs.
- Well today, we are going to play the human version of this game. How many of you have ever played the tabletop version of this game? (Pause) Awesome! If you haven’t played, no problem the people around you can catch you up to speed. But let’s give everyone a refresher on how the game is played.
- Okay, what we want you all to do is to stand on a poly spot. Leave one spot open. Here is how this game works; let’s begin by thinking of this game like checkers. Imagine that each person is a checker piece. It doesn’t matter who goes first, but the goal is to jump over another person or cone into an empty space. Once jumped that person is removed and they can coach from outside poly spots.
- Pretty simple right! The goal is to figure out the strategy where only one person is let on a poly spot! Does everyone understand? (Pause) Great, let’s see how you do!
Tips for Success, Troubleshooting, or Modifications:
- If you are working with large groups, this exercise is one that you can manage multiple groups at the same time as a facilitator so don’t be afraid to set up multiple poly spot boards at the same time. It is often fun to see multiple groups working on the same problem at the same time. We as humans do what humans do and will look to other groups for clues or as competitors. This in its own rite provides opportunities for reflection.
Possible Reflection Questions:
- After the rules were unveiled, did your team jump right into the exercise, or did you pause to discuss strategy? Unpack your response and reflect upon what happened.
- Trial and error is important here, so what did you learn as you tried to solve the puzzle over multiple sessions?
- Talk to each other in regard to your team’s performance, what steps or strategies were effective to achieve the desired result of getting down to just one person?