eXPlanations

Posted January 24, 2001 by Joshua Kerievsky

eXPlanations is a game that challenges players to grapple with real-world problems and solutions that occur on Extreme Programming (XP) projects.

The game is played with a deck of Extreme Programming Playing Cards. The game gives you a chance to practice with these situations, which are based on real experiences doing XP.

eXPlanations will help you learn about:

  • customer and programmers problems
  • problems arising from unresolved problems
  • XP solutions
  • XP values

Your job in this game is to explain problem/solution scenarios, as explained in the Rules section below.

eXPlanations is appropriate for

  • people or teams learning XP or thinking about using it
  • people or teams that are doing XP and want to get better at it
  • XP coaches or coaches-in-training

Rules

eXPlanations has some strict rules and some subjective rules.

The strict rules, such as the types of moves you can make, are easy to follow.

The subjective rules challenge you to explain your ideas to your fellow players, who will either accept them or not. You may need to defend your ideas, and in the process, everyone may learn something.

For individuals or teams who are new to XP, it will help to have the XP Literature by your side as you play.

Players

There are two ways to play eXPlanations: with physical cards or electronically.

If you play electronically, you can project the eXPlanations board on a large screen or wall and play the game with an audience divided up into 4 teams.

If you play eXPlanations with physical cards, you can play with 2 to 10 people. With 5 or fewer players, each person plays individually.

If there are 6 or more players, it is best to form teams.

Time

Game duration will vary from group to group, but usually eXPlanations takes from 30 minutes to a few hours to play.

Flow of the Game

The following instructions assume that solo individuals are playing eXPlanations, though the same rules apply to teams.

  1. Deal The Cards. Each player is initially dealt 6 eXtreme Programming Playing Cards, face down. Each player studies their cards. The remaining stack of cards is placed in the middle of the table.
  2. Play A Problem Card. Each player must select one problem card from his hand. He must eXPlain his problem card by telling a story that sheds a little more light on the problem. Stories can come from real or imaginary projects. Once each player has a story in mind, he will place his card on the table, face-up, and eXPlain his story to all players. If a player does not hold a problem card, he may pass his turn.
  3. Arrange The Cards. Once every player has laid down and eXPlained one problem card, all problem cards on the table are positioned side-by-side in the middle of the table. As the game proceeds, players will place each successive card in the lower right corner of the previous card to form a stack in which the statements on each card are visible.
  4. Make A Play. Once the initial problem cards have been laid down and eXPlained, each player must make a play, which could be any one of the following:
    • Play A Problem Card: Choose a problem card from your hand, lay it down on a related problem or problem stack, and eXPlain how the problems relate. There are two outcomes to this play:
      • Play Is Accepted: If all players agree that the problems relate, the card may remain on the problem or problem stack and the player may pick a new card from the group pile.
      • Play Is Not Accepted: If all players do not agree that the problems relate, the card must be reclaimed and the player may try to make another play.
    • Play A Solution Card: Choose a solution card from your hand, lay it down on an existing problem, problem stack, or problem/solution stack, and eXPlain how the solution solves the problem(s). If more than one solution card is already on the stack, the combined solution cards must solve all problems in the stack. There are three outcomes to this play:
      • Play Is Accepted: If all players agree that the solution or combined solutions do indeed solve the problem(s), the player may take all cards in the stack, including his solution card, and add the cards to his personal pile of cards. The player may then pick a new card from the pile.
      • Play Is Not Accepted: If all players agree that the solution card doesn't help to solve any problem(s), the card cannot remain on the stack. The player must reclaim the card and try to make another play.
      • Play Is Partially Accepted: If all players agree that the solution card or combined solutions cards only partially solve the problem(s), the solution card may remain on the stack, but the player cannot claim any cards for his personal pile. The player may pick a new card from the group pile.
    • Play a Value Card: Choose a value card from your hand, lay it down on an existing problem, problem stack or problem/solution stack, and eXPlain how the value addresses the problem(s). There are two outcomes to this play:
      • Play Is Accepted: If all players agree that the value does indeed address the problem(s), the player may take all cards in the stack, including the value card. The player may pick a new card from the group pile.
      • Play Is Not Accepted: If all players agree that the value card does not address the problem(s), the card must be reclaimed, and the player may try some other play.
    • Move Card(s), Then Make 2 Plays: This is a power play. You move a problem card or stack on to another problem card or stack, and explain how all cards relate. In order to do this successfully, all players must agree that all moved cards do indeed relate to all cards at the destination. If the move is accepted, the player may make 2 additional plays. After successfully making this play, the player may pick 2 cards from the group pile.
    • Choose A Card Then Play A Card: If the player cannot make a play with the cards in his hand, he may select a card from the pile and attempt to play that card. If the player still cannot make a play, he passes to the next player.

    The above plays are repeated for each player until there are no cards left in the pile.

  5. Determining A Winner. Once all cards in the group pile have been used up and no one can make any more plays, it is time to determine a winner. To do this, each player will count up the cards in his personal pile. The player with the most cards wins.

Variations & Feedback

We'd love to hear about your variations on this game or any feedback you might have for us. Enjoy playing...

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