Cool Beans! Design Your Own Tabletop Game!

What’s Cool Beans!?

Cool Beans! is a table top game for instructional designers who are just testing the waters of game thinking. Whether you design gamification (with the goal of motivating people to do behavioral change) or game-based learning (where you learn while playing a game) or a game-based assessment (where you assess existing knowledge or skills via gameplay), you MUST know about game mechanics. Knowing how game mechanics work will not make you a good game designer, but not knowing them will bring guaranteed failure.

Cool Beans! helps you explore game mechanics, and their application in learning in a fun way. It is a social activity. This is how it works:


The team who first collects 2 of each of the colored (green, blue, orange, purple) game mechanics cards, along with 1 black card wins. The game starts with the initial hexagon on the table and each team’s marble. In this case, white and purple marbles.


It’s Team Purple Bean’s turn: they pick the top hexagon, flip it and place it somewhere on the table connecting to any existing hexagons.


Team Purple Bean got a blue hexagon. The numbers represent the score the player needs to roll with the dice in order to move from one hexagon to another. In this case, Team Purple Bean has to roll at least 2 ( 1 + 1) to move to the blue.

Team Purple Bean rolls 2. Just enough!! But it works. They move their marble to the blue hexagon. Since it is a blue hexagon, the team receives a game mechanics card from the blue deck.


It is Customization. The team can keep the card only if they can come up with an example of how customization could be used in learning. For example, they might say participants can customize the coach in an elearning course. Other teams may challenge them to elaborate. If the example is accepted by the majority of teams, they say Cool Beans! and it’s the next team’s turn.


Team White Bean places the next hexagon on the table. It’s green. Based on the current formation, they need at least 2 to move to the blue OR at least 3 to move to the green.


They roll 3 and move to the green hexagon. As you can see, with every turn the choices are getting bigger which way to go.


The team gets Challenges as a game mechanic. After a successful example of how they would implement it in learning, they keep the card. So far the teams are neck to neck. And more importantly, they’ve collected two examples.

But what happens next? Team Purple Bean gets a blue hexagon again, and instead of adding it to their own, they place it next to Team White’s hexagon. Are they trying to help them?


Not really! Do you see how they placed the hexagon? The black obstacle now blocks the white bean to go that direction. Team Purple Bean rolls 2. Well, there’s nowhere to go, except back to the original spot. They team decides to go nowhere. In that case, they get a card from the color they are standing currently. However, the team fails to come up with a good example for the game mechanic. They do not keep the card.

img_4041Team White Bean gets an orange hexagon. They place it right next to their current hexagon in a way that two of the black obstacles now form a “bridge.” And that’s good news. If your marble is standing on a hexagon that has two black obstacles back to back as a bridge, you’re allowed to throw with both the blue and the black dice!

img_4043Now that the team can use the black dice as well, they have a better chance to move forward. They roll 10. You can move as far as you can (through multiple hexagons) as long as you have a high enough score. Team White Bean decides to go through the initial white and then to the orange. It costs 2 + 1 + 1 +2 = 6. They pick an orange card:

img_4045The teams give Cool Beans! to the example of how to incorporate social fun into a learning event.

Meanwhile, Team Purple Bean gets another blue hexagon. This time, they place it in a way to form a black bridge. Bring out the black dice as well!



They roll 4. Bad luck. They can’t go anywhere with only 4. At least they get another blue card, an Easter Egg.

As time goes by, both teams collect game mechanics (and with that, examples of how to implement them). They only need two of each color. But remember, to win, a team also needs a black card. To gain a black card, you must turn in two extra color cards that you do not need.


Team Purple Bean is just about to do that…

The game ends with a sophisticated hexagon city, lots of cards but most importantly, tons of good ideas shared among the teams.


Of course, there are mystery cards as well… But they remain a mystery. At least for now. And did I mention throwing 7? Oh, no. You don’t want to do that!! Cool Beans!

I designed the cards and hexagons as images. Then I uploaded to the game I created in, where they actually make this happen. You can also get dice, marbles and other pieces there.


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