Creative Team Building for Small Businesses

Despite its reputation for being, well, lame, team building is one of the best investments you can make to improve your workforce. Good team building exercises foster employee communication, morale, motivation, and productivity; help employees to get to know each other better; and learn about strengths and weaknesses. Even the best teams can benefit from quality team building exercises, and as most business owners and managers know, great teamwork is a key factor in any company’s success.

Quality team building includes four major components: 1) communication, 2) problem solving/decision making, 3) adaptability/planning, and 4) activities that focus on building trust. A mixer/lunch out at the local restaurant or pub isn’t going to magically make all that happen. But if your company is fairly small, shelling out a lot of money on expensive off-site activities might not be in the cards. Budget team building, often cobbled together by well-meaning HR employees, is full of DIY party games, lackluster mixers, and well-worn icebreakers like “Two Truths and a Lie.” Groan. Not another boring team building game.

There is an efficient, inexpensive, and valuable alternative! It helps your work force build unity, strategically analyze each other’s skillsets, and allows them to have genuine fun in the process. Enter the modern tabletop game. Employees get to have fun, challenge themselves, and enjoy each other’s company with the side effect of building teamwork skills that can vastly improve performance and productivity at the office.

Traditional board games have undergone a revolution in the past fifteen to twenty years, with familiar titles like Monopoly, Clue, and Battleship replaced by huge hits like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride and Dominion. Where many older games are based on luck – dice rolls or card draws – modern tabletop games feature planning, logistics, cash flow, and even teamwork. These games will enhance your employee relationships, building institutional knowledge and communication gateways that your employees will bring back to work.

Six Tabletop Games to Rock Your Workforce


Players form two teams of at least two players each – red and blue. On each team, a spymaster gives one-word clues in the hope that his team can find their own spies, while avoiding the other team’s spies as well as the assassin. Codenames is a classic communications conundrum: what word choices could help your team while avoiding the other? Lateral thinking, creativity, and knowledge of the spymaster are all in the mix as players get to discuss their choices. This game is a terrific teambuilder in larger groups, particularly if their jobs coincide.


Players take the role of researchers and scientists in this combination board and card game. The board looks like Risk, but players don’t compete against each other – they battle new viruses together in an effort to save humanity. Easy to understand and play, this game rocks the problem solving and adaptability goals as players must debate and decide where to spend their valuable time and resources for greatest impact. If the game reaches seven epidemics before the players reach four cures, it’s all over for this world.


Yes, it’s the classic party game. Try to get your team to guess “baseball,” but you can’t say “sport,” “game,” “pastime,” “hitter,” “pitcher,” or any combinations of those. A timer and buzzer, provided to the other team, ensure fairness. Adaptability and language skills are key to winning this boisterous party favorite!

Forbidden Island

Fun to play as well as a challenging resource management exercise, players try to locate four archaeological artifacts on a sinking island. That’s right – all four players pit their best problem-solving skills against a piece of geography. During each turn, parts of the island begin sinking. Will the players use their turns to shore up portions of the island, explore new locations to dig for treasure, locate or rescue each other? Choose wisely and adapt quickly, as this cursed island sinks from beneath the team.


It’s just like Clue in that your team has to figure out who dunnit, in what room, and with which weapon. The twist? The murder victim is helping you, but can only speak in psychic images in a game that relies on subtextual clues and ramping up communication skills. Six psychics try to interpret the visual clues, presented on cards by the seventh player, the ghost. Correct guesses move them forward, while incorrect guesses waste time. In the final round, all six psychics join forces to choose the correct answer – and the entire group wins or loses based on their understanding of the ghost.

Forbidden Desert

Save this resource management game for your best teams – it’s a tough nut to crack. Players have crash landed in the desert; they will use special skills – but most importantly teamwork – to survive. To win the game, the team must locate all four parts of their flying ship. Each round, players race to excavate locations, provide each other with water or sun protection, and struggle to reach the landing pad in time. But wait. Wells are few and far between, sand is constantly piling up, and the storm makes things worse. For three to five players, this game requires cool decision making, adaptability, and a clear head.

You may notice that we haven’t brought out any “trust” games; trust is a crucial element of successful team-building. A team without trust isn’t really a team – it’s a group of individuals working together and not always making great progress towards an end goal. Turning that statement on its head, every tabletop game is a trust builder. Every game helps that group of individuals evaluate each other’s strengths and weakness, display capabilities or talents, and learn to work in an effective cohesive group is one that breaks barriers and builds trust.

Don’t Go Without a Guide

Decks, Dice, and Meeples’ extensive library includes 95 titles – many of which are cooperative or can be played in team mode. In addition, our staff of Game Guides is familiar with the rules, capabilities, and challenges of each and every title. We can select a series of games to fit the need based on complexity, strategy, or skill set. We’d love to bring a carefully selected set of tabletop games to your workplace and we think your employees would enjoy a memorable team building event, disguised as a fun day of games.

Break the mold and try a new team building exercise. Join us at any Decks, Dice, and Meeples game night event, call 585-343-7742, or email, for more information.

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