Russell Healyʼs getKanban Simulation Game
Russell Healy of getKanban Limited in New Zealand has created a fantastic instructional board game called “getKanban.” You can read more at the game website.
This game is easily the most efficient way I know for people to learn Kanban at the next level of depth. I find players learn in three hours what would otherwise take more than a day to learn. Such is the instructional power of a very effective simulation, which the getKanban game definitely is.
Last time I checked, the newest version of the game was priced at $450 per set. Each set can support 1 to 6 players, with 3 to 4 being the sweet spot. It is best to play competitively against at least one other team, so ideally you should buy at least two sets.
Healy generously made print files for version 2 freely available long ago, and continues to do so. Even the free version costs around $70 per set after you pay for printing costs and supplies. The newer version is indeed slightly better, yet for many the price difference is hard to justify—especially if you need a large number of game sets.
If funding is not an issue, please consider buying the commercial version. Although $450 per set sounds steep, Iʼm sure the price is easily justified in terms of Healyʼs development costs.
Producing the Free Version
Producing a copy of the free version of getKanban v2 involves printing and laminating the board and pieces and assembling a variety of off-the-shelf office supplies. With the information below, you should be able to do this in far less time than the day or so it originally took me.
Printing the Board Set
Economically printing and laminating the print files is the most challenging and time-consuming part of producing the game. Expect this to be a bit fussy.
The v2 print files can be found at https://getkanban.com/pages/free-version. Remember, you are looking for version 2, as Healy only provides a complete set of print files for that version.
You will want to have all of the game pieces and the board laminated. Although dry-erase marker laminate is better, it is relatively pricey. As long as you have dry-erase cleaner, normal laminate is much cheaper and works almost as well.
I recommend you ask the print shop to print the blocker card on pink paper and laminate it along with everything else. You will only need one of these per game set.
An online print shop is likely to have the lowest production cost, but is also likely to be the most difficult to work with. The challenge is finding one which has both large-format printing and lamination capability and is willing to take the time to understand the order.
If your company has a sufficiently capable, cost-effective in-house print shop you can visit in person, I strongly recommend you take advantage of it.
Without a prototype example, a print shop will initially struggle to understand the order. I recommend you print and cut a copy of all the letter-sized print files yourself. Showing your limited prototype to the print shop will go a very long way in helping them understand the order.
Ordering Everything Else
Identifying and collecting the additional supplies required for each game can be tedious and time-consuming. With the following list, you can quickly order everything you need in just a few minutes.
EXPO Low-Odor Dry Erase Markers, Fine Point, Assorted Colors, 12-Count
You will need one per game set. The colors in this specific Expo pack align with the color codes used in the getKanban game materials.
- EXPO Product ID: 86603
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000J0B2YY
EXPO Low-Odor Dry Erase Markers, Fine Point, Black, 12-Count
You will need two additional black markers per game set. This box of twelve will therefore be enough for six game sets.
- EXPO Product ID: 86001
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006HXJFK
EXPO Whiteboard / Dry Erase Board Liquid Cleaner, 8-ounce
The small 8-ounce bottles work well in a classroom setting. I have learned that dry-erase cleaning liquids are not all created equal. Assuming your game pieces are laminated with the more economical standard laminate, using better dry-erase liquid cleaner and better paper towels makes a noticeable difference.
16mm d6 Dice: Red, Blue, Orange
Each game set will require two orange dice, two red dice, and three blue dice. Standard 16 mm six-sided dice work great. Since people will lose them and mix them up across sets, I recommend you buy a few extra of each color and ensure consistency of brand and style.
- Chessex Dice d6 Sets: Opaque Red with White - 16mm Six-Sided Die (12) Block of Dice
- Chessex Dice d6 Sets: Opaque Blue with White - 16mm Six-Sided Die (12) Block of Dice
- Chessex Dice d6 Sets: Orange with White Translucent - 16mm Six-Sided Die (12) Block of Dice
Gallon-Sized Plastic Freezer Bags
You will need something to collect the various game pieces for each game set. A transparent gallon-sized plastic freezer bag per game set works great. The freezer bags have thicker plastic and usually hold up better than the standard versions.
Envelopes for Charts and Game Instruction Sheets
You may want to group the charts and game instruction sheets for each game set. String-tie closure envelopes work well for this.
Bounty Select-A-Size, Absorbent Paper Towel Roll
One roll will be more than you need for a large number of game sets. Any brand of better kitchen paper towel will obviously work. The hard paper towels you find in the average office kitchen and restroom donʼt work well.
ScotchBlue Painterʼs Tape, Multi-Use, 0.94-Inch by 60-Yard, 1 Roll
The main game boards the print shop produces will inevitably curl up a bit. Painterʼs tape is fantastic for taping the game boards down to the table.
Duffle Bag or Industrial Case
You will also want a container to keep all your game sets together. An old suitcase works well. An appropriately-sized duffle bag should also work well. A laminated game board is a little under 19 inches tall. You are therefore looking for a bag or suitcase which can easily hold several rolled-up laminated game boards approximately 5 inches in diameter and 19 inches long. You will also need room for the various laminated letter-sized sheets and a freezer bag of small stuff for each game set.
The tightest I have been able to roll a stack of a dozen game boards without creasing them is 5 inches. A smaller number of boards will roll up tighter. The thickness of the paper and laminate also makes a difference. My collection of game sets were produced at different times by different printers. For whatever reason, some are much thicker than others and far harder to roll tightly.
Industrial cases hold up much better than a normal suitcase when flying with heavy training materials. Either of the cases listed below should work. The Seahorse is less expensive, yet the Pelican Air is lighter and slightly larger. With a dozen game sets and a few other supplies the older suitcase I have been using comes in just below fifty pounds.
- Amazon: (Seahorse SE920): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XREH2GQ
- Amazon: (Pelican Air 1605): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EGDWMP2
Whole Foods sometimes carries an inexpensive shoulder bag which works well, although it is not stylish and frequently comes in very limited colors. You can probably find a better one on Amazon with enough searching. Please let me know if you find an ideal choice.
- Rolled game board length: 19 inches
- Rolled game board diameter: 5 inches
- Laminated sheets: letter size (8.5x11)
Using the Free Version
To help facilitate the game, I have also produced a slide deck which makes it easier to walk people through the initial game round (Day 9). Russell Healy has generously incorporated my derivative work into the print file download bundle. You can therefore find it at https://getkanban.com/pages/free-version along with the print files.
Cheryl Hammond provides an interesting perspective on using the getKanban game. My experience has not been the same as hers. In my experience, “Evil Carlos” has not adversely affected learning outcomes at all. I suspect your experience will vary based on the skills and background of the game participants.