The Blockchain Game




Introduction: The Blockchain Game

About: Most days, I am an Assistant Teaching Professor at the University of Missouri and a small business owner with decades of experience in project management, information security and videoconferencing technology.…

Blockchain technology is being applied—or attempting to be applied—in many new areas including law, shipping, contracts, government, healthcare, etc. Putting aside the issue of whether all these applications are really a good fit for blockchain technology, more people want to know how a blockchain works. As an educator, I am very interested in how to teach students about blockchain technology without overwhelming them with technical details. So I set out to develop a hands-on exercise that could be used with any group of students from high school students to adults. This is my effort, and it seems to be working well enough for wider use. It is also time to see how other educators use this exercise and get some feedback to make it better!

Basics of the Game:

  1. A hands-on exercise. Like MIT’s “Beer Game” which demonstrates some supply chain principles.
  2. Simulation centers around a blockchain for student grades (discussion at the end of the simulation about why this would not be a good application for blockchain).
  3. No computers. Participants are the computors and calculate blocks.
  4. As such, some aspects are left out of the simulation but may be brought up by participants or discussed at the end of the simulation.
  5. The game seeks to teach core concepts about a distributed ledger, but can be modified to take in whatever direction the educator wants (smart contracts, supply chain applications, etc.)
  6. Additional elements could be added if you want to play the game with a computer.

Blockchain concepts taught by the game:

  • Distributed Ledger
    • No central authority to hold ledger or be attacked.
    • All people (aka nodes) have complete ledger.
  • Transparent but anonymous Ledger
    • Ledger can be public while concealing identity.
  • Append-only Ledger
    • Each entry (aka block) is linked to the previous entry via some math (aka hash).
    • Some nodes (aka miners) are paid for performing calculations (aka proof of work).
  • Immutable Ledger
    • Attacks to ledger are impractical due to the need for a majority of nodes (aka 51% attack) to agree to a change and the computational power required.

Step 1: Game Materials

The exercise leader will want to download the following files:

  • The Blockchain Game. This is the slide deck that you will use to lead your audience through the exercise. Apple Keynote and MS PowerPoint versions are provided.
  • Game Printouts. These are handouts that you will want to print out and have for your participants. If you are playing with six main players (all nodes, but three of them are miners), and seven students, then you can just print the entire file and you should be ready except for the ledger. Apple Keynote and MS PowerPoint versions are provided.
  • Blockchain Ledger. This is an MS Excel file with a ledger that has already been calculated along with a blank ledger.
  • NEW: Attendee Handout. This allows those who are not miners or nodes to follow along and understand better what is happening.

Teaching Materials Needed

  • Pencils
  • Student key pair sheets (one for each student (total of seven students in this version))
  • "Node Packets" consisting of:
    • Node instruction sheet (print from Game Printouts)
    • Blank grade ledger (print from Blockchain Ledger)
  • "Miner Packets" consisting of:
    • Miner instruction sheet (print from Game Printouts)
    • Blank grade ledger (print from Blockchain Ledger)
    • 6X Miner Worksheet (print from Game Printouts)
  • Prizes for Miners (at least six nice prizes)

Other suggested windows to have open and ready to view:

  1. Blockchain Ledger. excel file
  2. Blockchain scanning tools such as: etherscan or blockchain explorer


I have not tried this, but one could have a couple of "plants" who might be bad actors trying to hack the ledger, one a faculty (node) and another a student who might try to bribe a node.

Step 2: Playing the Game

The embedded YouTube video provides a walkthrough of the basics of The Blockchain Game with my comments on how to conduct the game and with some video from student volunteers. This should give you a good idea of how to run the simulation. .

A couple of notes on modifications that I am thinking of doing:

  • It is important to make sure they understand the calculations of the blocks. Depending on your audience, I think it might be best to make the calculations for the first block and then ask the nodes and miners to all verify your work.

Step 3: Pre and Post Exercise Surveys

By using a pre-exercise and post-exercise survey, the instructor can see how effective the simulation is for teaching the basic concepts. Qualtrics and word files of the surveys that we have created are provided here.

Step 4: Next Steps

Instructor Survey
If you do use this exercise, please complete the post-exercise exercise for instructors and let me know how it went!

Enjoy this instructable?

Here are three more things you might like:

  1. Monthly Missive: My monthly list of resources, useful apps, book reviews and must listen to podcast episodes. Subscribe here.
  2. YouTube channel: I post lots of technology talks and useful videos for teaching technology. Subscribe here.
  3. Keynote speaking: Hire me to speak to your organization or team about Thinking Critically About Artificial Intelligence or FUD and FOMO on the Blockchain. Contact me with your requests here.

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    8 months ago

    I'm working with a very small seminar class--6 students. Do you think this is still a good activity? If so, do I make all 6 miners? 3 miners, and the rest just nodes? Etc. Any suggestions are appreciated, thank you.


    Reply 8 months ago

    Yes, I think it is. I have just been letting everyone be a miner. That seems to work better. Also I have made some modifications for doing it over video (zoom, webex, etc.). My email is and I can send to you. Also if you want, and it fits my schedule, I would be happy to run through it with your students as a guest to the class.


    Reply 8 months ago

    Thank you. Actually, our class met last night, and it went very well (even though we met synchronously online). Instead of handouts, I gave them copies of the instructions and blank ledger via Google Docs, and then we walked thru the first round. I made them all miners/nodes, and we talked about consensus once one calculated the nonce. Even remotely, they clearly gained understanding of the basics of the process. Thank you again for sharing this!


    Reply 8 months ago

    Awesome. So glad to hear it. With students it is probably not important to do it on paper. I find that having the paper version for older adults works better since it reduces the anxiety of not having to do it with a computer


    Question 1 year ago on Step 3

    I don't have Qualtrcs so I can't open the QSF survey file. The WORD file you've posted is missing questions 8 & 9. Can you please share them in TXT or DOCX format??


    Answer 1 year ago

    Sorry, Question 8 is "If a private key is lost, it can be retrieved from the central server." T/F. I think we deleted Question 9 for some reason,
    BTW, If you are interested I am working on a couple of other projects that are similar (one involving machine learning). I send out updates and new projects via my newsletter, the free-range technologiest: