SkillsAct4Vet – Training

Module 1 - Before the mobility

Exercise 2

Barnga

Materials needed

Guidelines and rules in play14 website here: https://play14.org/games/barnga

Estimated time needed

2 hours (20 min. for instructions, 60 min. for the game, 40 min. for debriefing)

Description and guidelines

Students form small groups of four-six players each. Each group sits separated from the others. They receive a modified deck of cards according to the instructions and a sheet of rules for a new card game called “Five Tricks.” They have a few minutes to study the rules and practice playing the game. Once everyone has the hang of it, the facilitator collects the rule sheets and at the same time imposes a strict command of “no verbal communication.” This means that players may gesture or draw pictures if they wish, but may neither speak (orally or by signing) nor write words. Clearly, communication, should it be needed, is going to be more difficult henceforth. Since the game is so simple and so short, this artificial communication barrier forces the players, within the simulated scenario, to be as creative and alert as possible. Frequently, at this point there is a little nervous laughter, some stifled last words, and finally a settling in to playing “Five Tricks” without the written rules and in silence. The facilitator then announces a tournament. As in any tournament, some players leave their home table and move to another, some from that other table have moved to yet another, and so on. They sit down at their new table, look around, and begin at once playing “Five Tricks.” Shortly after an almost imperceptible change is felt in the room, then expressions of uncertainty. . . murmurs of frustration. .. chuckles… fists banging on tables. The tournament, with more movement to other tables, continues for another ten minutes or so amidst growing uncertainty, frustration, laughter, banging on tables. Sometimes someone is all ready to claim a “trick” when someone else reaches out and takes it. Sometimes someone makes an effort to draw a picture clarifying an uncertainty. Sometimes whoever was at the table first prevails, sometimes somebody gets irritated.

Assessment and discussion

Debriefing: When, during the debriefing, the facilitator asks how was the game, someone claims another player did not follow the rules correctly. Someone else confesses that she was never very good at cards. Someone speaks about others trying to cheat. And several suggest that each table originally had been given a different set of rules. Some are sure of this; others think it might be true; others hadn’t considered it. In fact, at the beginning of the game each group had received a slightly different version of a basic set of rules to “Five Tricks.” In one set, for example, Ace is high; in another – low. In one set diamonds are trump, in another spades, in yet another there is no trump at all. Virtually everything except one or two aspects is the same for everyone. Here is the beauty of BARNGA–everything appears to be the same, and in fact almost everything is the same, yet great confusion, uncertainty, misunderstanding and misjudgments fill the room because of just a few differences. Even those who understand that the rules are different (and many do) are not necessarily clear about how they are different. And even those who understand how they are different have difficulty bridging the communication barriers to work out a solution. These concepts spark the energy generated by the game and provide the starting point for a group follow-up discussion rich in observations of how what happened can be seen as a metaphor for what happens in real life.

Discussion:

What happened during the game/tournament?

What are the ways 4-H is like playing Barnga?

What does the game suggest about what to do when you are in a similar situation in the real world?

How does this game focus our attention on the hidden aspects of culture?