21 Jedi is a game that shows players the value of teamwork (transparency and collaboration) and autonomy and how those dynamics affect their ability to play a shared hand form of Black Jack using a deck of playing cards.  Timing the performance of the team helps them understand the pain of delay caused by lack of autonomy which is simulated in the game by rolling dice waiting for doubles to come up.  The game progresses as players play in different Star Wars themed roles.

Timing: 20 – 40 minutes for 5 to 7 players (depends on amount of time for debrief after the game)


  • Deck of Playing Cards (no Jokers)
  • 6-sided dice (2)
  • Sharpie (or something to write with)
  • Post-It Notes


Pre-Game Preparation

Reproduce the 4 different play templates on Post-its

It is also helpful to have the number 21 on a Post-it that you put in the middle of the table for the players as a visual reminder of their shared goal.

In-Game Setup

Explain to the players that their goal is to get to 21 points (without going over…if you go over you lose) as fast as they can, using the four Star Wars themed play styles.  They will play a combined hand as a team.

For the most part we use Black Jack card values: number shown…self explanatory, face cards (J, Q, & K) are worth 10, and Aces are worth 1 (simplifying…no 11 for you Black Jack Players).

The players will get a maximum of 3 iterations or rounds to build their collective hand up to 21.  They can stop after a single iteration if they feel like they have achieved enough points and don’t want to spend the time on another iteration (you might even suggest it if they have 17 points or higher).  If they “bust” with 22 or higher that immediately ends that round.

You (or a helper) will be keeping time on how long it takes them to finish.

Tell the players they will be playing as 4 different types of groups (don’t explain them yet) …after checking for understanding of the basic rules of the card values begin the game.

Playing the Game

Sith – ↓ Autonomy & ↓ Team Work

Tell the players that the first group they will play as is the Sith.  The Sith are not team players at all, and so when playing as Sith you will not share ANY information with other players.  Sith also have a very rigid chain of command and have low autonomy and are required to get approval before making decisions.  For this reason, we roll dice to simulate awaiting the decision from an outside source.  When the dice rolled are doubles (same value on both die) the decision has been reached and the player can act.

Deal 1 card face down to each player starting with the player to your immediate left.  Tell them to look at their card but do NOT share any information with other players.  Tell the player to right of the player on the left to begin rolling the dice and start a stop watch.  As the second player is rolling coach the first player to think about what they are going to do:  Are they going to push their card face down in the middle of the table to be counted toward getting 21 or pass…remind them that they can only act when doubles have been rolled.  As the players are waiting…you can make comments about how painful it is waiting for that decision to come from outside.  When the dice roll doubles get the player to push their card in FACE DOWN or pass.  Then repeat that pattern with all the player until they have all had the opportunity to pass or play.  When the last player has made a pass or play decision stop the stopwatch.  Then one by one flip the cards over.  It is very likely that they will bust (get over 21 points) …if that is the case write down Bust and the time it took on your score post-it for Sith.  If the team wants to go another iteration, keep the existing cards face up and deal all players a new card face down and repeat the process (Important: resume the count on the stop watch so you have a cumulative time that includes each iteration.  The game ends when you have performed 3 iterations, or they bust.  Write down points score and the time it took to get the result.  Make sure to celebrate with the team if they get close to 21 without busting…because that is quite an achievement under these circumstances.

Do a quick recap of how much the lack of autonomy delayed the team from making decisions…and the danger and risk they faced in not sharing information.  Then tell them that things are going to get a bit better for the next round as they play as Bounty Hunters.  Clear the stopwatch resetting to zero.  Clear the cards away.

Bounty Hunters – ↑ Autonomy & ↓ Team Work

The good news is that Bounty Hunters are VERY autonomous…they make their own decisions in the situation, so we won’t be needing these dice (take the dice and move them aside).  However, Bounty Hunters are definitely NOT team players so they do not share information at all…so we are going to be playing with cards face down.  Deal a card face down to each player, ask them to look at the card making sure no one sees their card and no information is shared.  Explain that you are going to countdown from 3 and tell them to push their card to the center of the table immediately when you say go.  Start the stopwatch…count down 3…2…1…GO!  Now Bounty Hunters are sneaky….if you see anyone do a “late” push waiting to see who else is going to push their cards in you can gently tease them calling them a sneaky Bounty Hunter while pushing their card back to them out of the hand.  Stop the stopwatch and then reveal the cards for the iteration and see how close they got to 21.  If they got close to 21…celebrate their achievement and you can comment about how lucky they were that they didn’t bust based on their limited info.  Ask them if they felt afraid they were going to bust?  If they didn’t get close…. ask them if they want to go another round.  If yes…RESUME the stopwatch, deal them each 1 card face down and do the countdown again.  The game ends after the 3rd iteration or they bust.  Write down their score and the time it took.

You can do a quick recap and ask them if how they liked the speed of greater autonomy.  While they are telling you…reset the stopwatch and collect the cards.  Tell them they are now going to experience the game in a new way as Storm Troopers!

Storm Troopers – ↓ Autonomy & ↑ Team Work

You are now getting ready to play the game with a completely new dynamic.  Storm Troopers work as a team.  Because of that…we are now going to play with our cards face up.  You are now free to collaborate, talk, and strategize together on how to play your cards as a team.  One small problem…since Storm Troopers are in the Empire…we are back to getting decisions from outside the team, so we are going to need to use the dice again.  Deal out the cards face up to the players…give the dice to the player sitting to the right of the player on your left.  When they begin rolling start the stop watch.  Make sure the players are talking about how they are going to play the cards.  However, make sure that they only play their cards into the middle of the table when the player on their right has rolled doubles.  They also have to wait their turn and cannot skip a player.  This is delightfully frustrating when players 1 – 4 have low number cards and players 5 and 6 have face cards worth 10.  That is when you make comments about how painful it is to wait for those doubles to come up for a decision from high command…. especially since they can see the solution right in front of them.  As always…if after the first round they want to perform another iteration, they can choose to…but make sure to keep the stopwatch running. If the players make a move that causes them to bust…allow them to take it back and make a comment about how math is tricky, and Storm Troopers are not known for their accuracy.

Quick recap to ask them if they felt less nervous since they could collaborate and see what was going on.  Then commiserate with them about how terrible it is to not have autonomy and assure them that they are getting ready to play in the final configuration as Jedi!  Reset the stopwatch and collect the used cards.

Jedi – ↑ Autonomy & ↑ Team Work

Since they are all connected by the force, when we play as Jedi we play with our cards face up and we are free and encouraged to collaborate as a team.  Jedi also have a very high degree of autonomy and are able to use the force to guide them in quick decision making.  We don’t need to wait for commands outside the team….so we won’t be needing these dice anymore (remove dice).  When I finish dealing out your cards, I’m going to start the stop watch and say Go…when I do…let me know when you are done by moving your cards to the middle and saying done.  If you need to run a 2nd iteration or 3rd let me know and I’ll get the cards to you as fast as I can.  Are you ready?  Let’s go!

Pass out cards to all players and start the stopwatch as soon as the last card is dealt to a player.  Be ready to quickly deal out another round of cards or stop the stop watch…this round is going to go really fast!  If for some reason they accidentally put in too many cards…you can make a comment that math is tricky even for Jedi but they can use the force to resolve the defect and quickly adapt to the situation and move cards out.  The result should be a super fast round with a near perfect 21 or at least 20 score.

Celebrate the victory of the team commenting about how fast they can make decision when they have high autonomy and they can share information as a team.

Learning Points:

The purpose of the game is to help the team to experience the difference in working together adjusting the amount of teamwork (which really is transparency and collaboration) and autonomy.  Here are some questions you can ask after the game:

  • What did it feel like playing with the low teamwork groups (Sith & Bounty Hunters)?
  • Were you afraid to make mistakes with the low teamwork groups?
  • Did you like playing Bounty Hunter more than Sith?  Why?
  • What was the transition like going from Bounty Hunter to Storm Trooper?
  • How did the game feel different for you as a Storm Trooper?
  • Were you surprised at the difference in result when you played as Jedi?
  • When you look at the results…could you imagine a situation where you wouldn’t want to play as Jedi?
  • In your work…what changes could you make tomorrow to be more like a Jedi?
  • What impediments do you see that prevent your teams from functioning as Jedi?

21 Jedi was created by Blake McMillan & Jay Bartholomew.  We would love to hear your feedback on how the game worked for you in the comments below.  May the Force be with you!

13 thoughts on “21 Jedi”

  1. Does anybody has a recording of the played game and would like to share this?
    I am lecturer at a university and In nowadays remote teaching we can’t play it on-site anymore. But it would be great to show the game to the students.

    1. Hi Martin, I don’t have any videos of us playing it. I’ve also been trying to think about how to convert the game to a virtual format and haven’t come up with anything yet. The game mechanics are pretty simply in person but are pretty tricky when people are geographically dispersed.

  2. Fantastic!, we played yesterday with four teams of computer science students (about 20 of them) that won’t forget the importance of automony whe you have to work in a team

  3. This is a really Fun game which teaches us how collaboration is one of the most important part of Team’s success. I enjoyed the game while learning the importance of team work. It was good to see how a slow team can block road of success to all the downstream teams.

  4. Today’s game provided key insight and methodology into the benefits of autonomy and strong teamwork. It highlighted how a siloed environment or every-man-for-themselves strategy was less effective. As the game was played scores, times, and results clearly showed a pattern of time saved and successful outcomes when a team is given “Autonomy & Uses Teamwork.” As an extra bonus, it was a really fun time and we all enjoyed ourselves as we learned. I am a person that does not like games but I LOVED this game! What a fabulous way to prove the theory and show undeniable proof of concept.

  5. Hi AK, one way to scale this game for a large group is to break into teams of 7 or less (using additional decks of cards). You can also get some competition going between the groups by synchronizing the start times and posting and comparing finish times. It will also give the large group the benefit of seeing the results of multiple games. The last time I played the game I arrived with multiple decks in case we had too many players for a single group but didn’t end up needing them. Let me know your experience if you try the multi-deck multi-group variant.

  6. Looks like an interesting and helpful game for teams to understand the importance of Autonomy and Teamwork.
    Does it work with in a group of around 9 people ?
    I didnt understand how we distribute 13 cards (suit in a deck) between 5 -7 people ? If I have to give only one card per person, how should I distribute ?

  7. Really Innovative and Original Game. This game really helped us reflect on our Team Dynamics and channel that energy into our Scrum. Thank you Blake and Jay.

  8. Nice Game !!

    Really good to have practical understanding of teamwork / autonomy importance with team

  9. Fun game!
    It was a good tool to get our team talking about teamwork and autonomy.

    Even if you are unfamiliar with Star Wars, you can understand the differing roles and where your team may or may not be operating.
    If you are a Star Wars fan which I am, you can help the others understand who are not as strong in the Force!

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