Global Alliance Game

GlobalGameIn the Global Game exercise students are placed in groups with asymmetric resources with a task to maximize “points” produced. In order to maximize output, they need to trade resources (e.g., alliances) with other teams. The resources include raw materials (e.g., paper), technology (e.g., scissors and templates), knowledge (of the point system), and even people. They can also merge teams.

The following is a brief overview of the exercise:

  1. Put class into 5-7 random (and uneven) groups as they enter the class
  2. Give each group an envelope with instructions and their initial resources (templates, scissors, paper, information about the point system, etc.). Send them to their assigned meeting places (teams 4 & 5 should be remotely placed so you can discuss the impact of geographic dispersion). Let them plan for 5 minutes.
  3. Let groups trade resources with other teams for 25 minutes. They can trade any of the resources (including people) and can even merge teams if they wish. In the instructions, we simply say that the only rules are to: “a) use only materials from the game to produce output, and 2) no destruction of property or people.”
  4. Assign people to audit the output of other teams and give them a worksheet to tally the output. Enter the totals in the spreadsheet so you can display which team had the greatest gain through trade.

One might use the “Four C” alliance framework to guide the debrief. First, how did they search for complementarities? Second were goals congruent or did they face hazards in working with other teams. Third, were the teams compatible or were some teams harder to work with than others? Fourth, how did things change over the course of the exercise? If there are mergers, you can explore whether the gains could have been achieved with an alliance (e.g., trading resources). Often they merge and trade with teams that are in close physical proximity or through pre-existing social ties — e.g., a haphazard search for complementarities.

Click here to download complete materials for the Global Game here (including roles, spreadsheet, slides, etc.)

*Credit goes to Andrew Ward who kindly shared this exercise with me.

Contributed by: Russ Coff

28 thoughts on “Global Alliance Game

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  2. Hi,

    I’d like to do this in my class. Do you have a total list of materials I will need to prepare or the templates for the Square and Triangles?


    • Hi Ryan. At the bottom of the post is a link to a zip file containing all of the materials needed for the exercise (in particular the instructions and starting inventory for each team). The square and circle templates are the largest size that will fit on printer paper (either 8 1/2 x 11 or A4). Two triangle templates fit in a square.

  3. I would love to do this with my Intercultural class, but the link to the materials needed is not working. How can I go about getting the zip file? Thanks for a great idea!

  4. Great exercise, especially when linked to a discussion of build, borrow or buy options for firms to access the resources they need to grow profitably

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  8. I have been using this the last few years in my corporate strategy class. One thing that puzzled me was why students never “purchased” resources from other teams by using points (e.g., “we’ll give you 20 of our points if you give us a triangle template”). I was wondering whether the lack of “market” transactions might simply reflect the lack of an obvious medium of exchange. So in the last year, I have started giving each team $100 (I give them physical bills as part of the material, but not real money!) and added a line to the instruction sheet of every team noting that each dollar is worth 1 point. It turns out that it has not had much of an effect. I have seen a little bit of purchasing but not a whole lot. I mention this outcome in the debrief and tie it to the difficulty of trading knowledge-related assets via market transactions.

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  10. Is there a fair way to create a performance assessment for participating teams? In the past, I’ve awarded winning teams extra points. I’ve found this approach creates for a more realistic competitive environment, and gets students more excised about the exercise. However, given the unequal starting resources in this game, that seems unfair. Has anyone had any success with some kind of performance ranking, perhaps not a relative ranking, but an absolute performance measure?

    • Hi Goran. You are correct that you really can’t compare the teams since they have different resources. I find that they are still quite competitive so I don’t need to encourage that too much. In terms of metrics, I compare them first by looking at the % gains they achieve (through interactions with other teams). I also look at the % of total points that the class failed to realize. This became important when all 5 teams merged into 1 but failed to create most of the value. The lesson shifted to coordination problems in large firms and the tradeoff between these and incentive problems of coordinating through alliances.

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  13. I played this game for my MBA class on World Economy during the session on comparative advantage and trade. It was very successful. I didn’t allow teams to merge but they can set up joint ventures for individual transactions if they wish. I didn’t relate to the topic of alliances because strategic alliances will be covered in a different course. The students had a great time playing the game even though I had only about 60 minutes in total. I think even if you do not want to address global alliances, this game is good to cover some of the basic concepts in trade such as comparative advantage (arising from technology or resources), complementarity, information, transaction hazards, bilateral or multilateral agreements, etc.

    Thank you so much Russ!


  14. Great simulation, would like to use in my MBA class. Need one help as I am not able to open the doc file “GlobalGameTN”. It shows error message whenever I attempt to open it.

    • I have updated the file to include my most recent slides and spreadsheet. I fixed the TN file but it may not be very useful. Andrew Ward prepared the teaching note originally to use the simulation in teaching negotiation (as opposed to strategy). Nevertheless, it may still give you some ideas.

  15. Hi,

    I would like to use this exercise in my class but the link to the materials is not working. How can I get the GlobalGameF15 zip file?


  16. Has anyone done the game with fewer players? Can you simply reduce the numbers in every team but keep the ratios the same?

    • I have done this exercise with as few as 11 students! It works. Just make one team 4 students and disperse the rest. I had 2 teams of 1. It worked very well in fact.

      Russ – do you have an updated scoring file (globalgame15.xlxs)? The one in the download seems a little confusing. What is the points value for teams that merge? I couldn’t understand the formula for that.

      • IO don’t have another one. In the mergers rows (Merger1 – Merger4), I enter the team numbers that merged. Then I enter their combined output in that column (e.g., record the merger before entering team output). Then the initial max automatically adjusts to reflect the output that they could have created if they merged but did not interact with any other teams. Hope that helps.

  17. I have one more question….the teachers resource mentions a Saturday Night Live Bake Sale Video. I’ve searched youtube and cannot find one. Do you have this video link?

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