All Technical Debt is Credit Card Debt

The Software Engineering Game

Players: 1 or more
Goal: Score the most points over 10 rounds
Summary: Each round represents a year, and each die in a player's dice pool represents some some software capability that either generates annual recurring revenue, or a support burden.
  • Gather a big pool of D&D dice, ranging from d4 to d20, or use the Google dice roller.
  • Get a piece of paper to keep score. Write each player's name across the top, and the rounds (1-10) along the left side
  • Pick a random player to start
Game Play:
  1. The current player decides between one of two actions:
    1. Add a new d4 to their "revenue" dice pool.
    2. Upgrade an existing die to the next level (d4 to d6, d6 to d8, etc....).
  2. Players take turns making this decision, passing to the left, until all players have chosen an action.
  3. Once all players have chosen, they roll all the dice in their revenue dice pool
    • For each die that is not a one, the player scores a point. This represents annual revenue. Add this to a running total for the player.
    • Each die that is a one moves into a separate "legacy" pool. A player with dice in their legacy pool cannot add new dice, or upgrade dice in their revenue pool on their turn. Instead they can only move one die from their legacy pool into their revenue pool.
    • If _all_ the dice in a player's revenue pool roll a one, this represents a catastrophic failure. The player's score total is reset to zero.
  4. The starting player position shifts one to the left.
  5. IF ROUNDS < 10 GOTO #1
  6. After finishing the 10th round, add up the scores for all the players


I've play-tested this exactly three times, using three different strategies:

Strategy #1 - Moar Dice!
  1. Add d4, +1 point
  2. Add d4, +1 point, 1 legacy die
  3. Recovered legacy die, +2 points
  4. Add d4 = Catastrophic failure! Reset to zero
  5. Recovered legacy die, +1 point
  6. Recovered legacy die, +2 points
  7. Recovered legacy die, +3 points
  8. Add d4, +3 points, 1 legacy die
  9. Recovered legacy die, +3 points, 1 legacy die
  10. Recovered legacy die, +2 points, 2 legacy die
Total: 14 points
Strategy #2 Minimum Risk
  1. Add d4, +1 point
  2. Upgrade to d6, +1 point
  3. Upgrade to d8, +1 point
  4. Upgrade to d12, +1 point
  5. Upgrade to d20, +1 point
  6. Add d4, +2 points
  7. Upgrade to d6, +1 point, 1 legacy die
  8. Recovered legacy die, +2 points
  9. Upgrade to d8, +2 points
  10. Upgrade to d12, +2 points
Total: 14 points
Strategy #3, Balanced d8 Risk
  1. Add d4, +1 point
  2. Upgrade to d6, +1 point
  3. Upgrade to d8, +1 point
  4. Add d4, +2 points
  5. Upgrade to d6, +2 points
  6. Upgrade to d8, +1 point, 1 legacy die
  7. Recovered legacy die, +2 points
  8. Add d4, +3 points
  9. Upgrade to d6, +3 points
  10. Upgrade to d8, +3 points
Total: 19 points


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