Learn to Play the Blockchain Game

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: The Blockchain Game!

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 a complete ledger.
  • Transparent but anonymous Ledger
    • The 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.

Game Materials

The exercise leader will want to download the following files (download links are at the bottom of this page):

  • 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, as is a German Translation.
  • Ledger Handout. This one-page handout is used by the nodes to record the transactions. If playing via zoom, I would suggest that you send in advance so students can print it out and have it on hand.
  • If you 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.
  • I

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


Playing the Game

Part 1: Introduction
(slides 1-2)
Part 2:


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?

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  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.

What is Blockchain


High-Level Explanation

More Detailed Explanation

Other Resources to Explain Blockchain

  • Let’s Play the Blockchain Game

Private Keys

Blockchain Explorers

Introduction to Crypto as an investment

Taxes: Crypto as Income

Taxes: Crypto as a Gift

Taxes: Crypto as Property

Taxes: Using Cryptocurrency to buy Goods or Services

Online Shopping

Crypto Debit/Credit Cards

Taxes: Documentation

These sites will convert your crypto trades to IRS Format or a format that integrates with your tax software or consolidate all your transactions by reading a blockchain.

Tax Planning: Loss Harvesting

Tax Planning: Self Directed Roth IRA

Tax Planning: Charitable Remainder Trust

Tax Planning: Location, Location, Location!

Estate Planning: Key Management

Tax Software for Crypto

Referenced or Related IRS Documents

  • Internal Revenue Bulletin 2006-46, Notice 2006-96 – “Guidance Regarding Appraisal Requirements for Noncash Charitable Contributions”
  • IRS Section 1.170A-13 – “Recordkeeping and Requirements for Deductions of Charitable Contributions”
  • IRS Publication 561 – “Determining the Value of Donated Property”
  • IRS Notice 2014-21 – IRS Virtual Currency Guidance