Red/Blue Simulation

Red Blue 2The Red/Blue Simulation is one of my favorite “peace games.”  It was developed out of Pentagon war gaming as the Rand Corporation was trying to deal with the Cold War situation of two nuclear powers viewing each other as enemies yet needing to work together to avoid nuclear catastrophe.  It’s a great game to set up the understanding of Win/Lose and Win/Win dynamics.




Red blue 5Download the instructions here:  Red Blue Negotiation.  Read the instructions carefully and copy instruction sheets to give to each participant.  Basically two groups play with each other.  The goal is for their group to end up with a positive point score.  Each group chooses red or blue without knowing what the other group is choosing.  The choices are noted and scored.  This process goes through 10 rounds.  After rounds 4 and 8 each group can send a negotiator to meet with the negotiator from the other side–if both agree to negotiate!


Red Blue SheetsPrepare the points chart and the scoring charts before the game.  Have small bits of paper or index cards, 10 for each group playing, for the groups to write their decision of red or blue.  Depending on how many parallel games you run (see below), set up circles with teams separated from each other in the middle–A Teams on one side of the room, B Teams on the other.

After going through the instructions give the groups 3 to 5 minutes to discuss and strategize.  Don’t let things drag.  For each round collect the choices on cards or paper.  Then read them out, noting the choices and scoring on the score sheets.  Then proceed with the next round.


Red Blue 3For negotiations invite the negotiators to come to the front where the scoresheets are to conduct their discussions.  Allow only about 2 or 3 minutes.  They don’t have to have reached a conclusion.  Call time when time needs to be called and move to the next round.




Red blue 4Good debriefing is vital.  Debrief one game at a time.  Depending on the dynamics that emerge ask one group to speak first, then the next, then go to the next game.  Save the most interesting game for last.  Then you can debrief about the dynamics that emerged together–issues of trust, difficulties in communication, how awareness of win/win possibilities emerged, etc.

Then you can move to generalization, including drawing the Win/Lose versus Win/Win box.  Other topics might emerge that you would like to discuss.


Some facilitation notes:

Red Blue 1I’ve always found it useful to conduct two games simultaneously.  This allows for more than one dynamic to emerge which enhances the educational value of the exercise and gives more material to discuss in the debrief.  Four parallel games can be done but gets too cumbersome and confusing to run and takes a longer time to debrief.  Two or three parallel games are ideal.

If the group is too small or too large or you don’t  have enough time, Thumb Wrestling can be used instead to set up Win/Lose versus Win/Win in a training.  You need to have at least an hour to an hour and a half to run Red/Blue well.

Many people will feel confused at the beginning after you have gone through the instructions and rules.  Acknowledge the confusion and say that they will be well into the game by the end of Round 2.  In the debrief you can also discuss whether people experience confusion in conflict situations.

Some groups will dawdle about making choices.  Give a bit of time, but if they are taking too long pressure them to decide.  If they don’t, you can choose for them (to their detriment!).

Support creativity and realism.  Everything that happens can be fruitful for debriefing as it will mirror ways people handle conflict.