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Building Stronger Teams with Online Strategy Games

Sep 5, 2023

12 min read

Incorporating the Power of Strategy Games into Your Team Building Plan

Every company wants strong and capable employees who can communicate and work together seamlessly.  Just read your company’s Mission Statement.  I bet it says something about how everyone is super focused on achieving the same goals.  But how do you fulfill that mission and create a sense of camaraderie when your coworkers are spread across the globe?  With team building, of course! 

I hear you groaning already. “Oh Chip, that’s so last pandemic,” but I’m here to help you level up your team building game.  I know, I know, you’ve done so much trivia that you dream about 90’s sitcoms, the thought of answering icebreaker questions gives you the chills, and you’ve had so many Happy Hours that’s your liver flinches when you turn on Zoom but hear me out.  To create an effective team building plan you need a strategy, and that means harnessing the power of online team strategy games. 

Three images on strategy games.  chess, poker, cards

What Makes a Game a Strategy Game?

A strategy game is a type of game where players need to plan their moves carefully to achieve specific objectives or goals. Unlike other games that rely on quick reflexes or luck, strategy games require players to make thoughtful decisions based on their understanding of the game’s rules, mechanics, and the potential consequences of their actions.  This doesn’t automatically mean it is a hard game to learn or play.  Quite the opposite really.  Games like Texas Hold’em poker are easy to learn and can be picked up in just a few minutes.  The best games are ones where the basic objectives are achievable but the player who studies the game is rewarded with long term success.

Whether it’s positioning troops on a battlefield, managing an economy, or making diplomatic choices, online team strategy games provide a unique experience because they encourage players to devise a plan to achieve victory instead of just playing along.  What may start out as simply knowing how many cards of a suit you need to make a flush, (spoiler alert, it’s five) can grow into calculating pot odds, reading tells, or being bold enough to go all in.  These are skills that carry over into the workplace.  No one is born knowing how to play Magic the Gathering, although some start pretty young, but every skill can be mastered with practice.  All strategy games help players develop the ability to:  

  • Plan the next move. It seems obvious, but taking the next step is the most important action in any game.  Every player must get past the fear of failure to move forward.
  • Understand the ramifications of your decisions. Chess players often think several moves ahead.  Poker players understand how the math changes with every card.  Knowing what could happen should inform your decisions. 
  • Manage loss. Your opponent is doing their best to undermine your plan and they are often successful.  The ability to remain calm and adjust can be the key difference between winning and losing over the long term.

Strategy, you see, is not merely a vague concept; it’s a living, breathing skill set that can have a profound impact on how we navigate life’s challenges, both at work and at home.  Imagine strategy as the art of orchestrating a brilliant symphony of moves, each note carefully composed to steer you toward a specific goal or conquer a formidable challenge.   Online team strategy games are about more than just having a plan; they are about thinking several steps ahead, like a chess grandmaster contemplating the implications of each move on the board.  They are about a captain’s ability to adapt swiftly and gracefully to the shifting tides of circumstance.  Ok, I’ll stop with the analogies, you get the point. 

Plan your play. Play your plan.

Perhaps the most intriguing facet of strategy is how this kind of game plays into human psychology.  There is a joke in poker that says, “Step One is knowing what you have.  Step Two is knowing what they have.  Step Three is knowing what they think you have.  Step Four is knowing what you think they think you have.  Step Five…” Trust me, it goes on and on and if you play poker, you think it is hilarious.  

scene form the movie Dodgeball with the character White.  Used to talk about online team strategy games

The bottom line is that to excel in the realm of online team strategy games, you must develop an understanding of the decision-making processes.  Both yours and those of your adversaries.   A good player over time will be able to decipher the unspoken language of gestures, expressions, and cues – a skill that proves invaluable not only at the poker table but also in the negotiation table or the boardroom.  (You don’t need to tell anyone that you learned these skills playing online team strategy games.)

These qualities, started innocently enough by simply playing a game with coworkers at a team building event, hold the power to easily transition into the professional sphere.  Individuals armed with a strategic mindset become not just better players but also more effective coworkers and leaders, using their abilities as resourceful problem solvers to help strengthen the overall team. 

Team Building Wasn’t Always on Zoom

Team building is a concept as old as human collaboration.  Back in the caveman days, everyone had to stand in a grid to replicate a Zoom screen.  Just kidding.  They did have to work together though.  And some would say the stakes were even higher than they are today. A good team hunted for dinner and maintained crops.  A bad team literally starved to death.  Team building probably wasn’t a formalized activity then, trust falls didn’t start until the 1970’s, but they were certainly woven into the fabric of the group.  You needed your teammates to live.  Today you need them to finish projects on time, do extensive and accurate research, and come to meetings that probably could have been emails.

cartoon grid of cavemen on a Zoom screen. Having a team building meeting.

The lineage of strategy games traces back to ancient times, with games like chess and backgammon offering strategic prowess. These games, once symbolic of military tactics, have evolved into modern counterparts like Monopoly, Risk, and Texas Hold’em poker.  Themes of finance, global dominance, and calculated risk translate easily into today’s modern corporate landscape.  The advent of online platforms allows players a way to connect players of traditional board games without needing to be in-person.  For a list of online board games and how they best translate to team building, check out our article: Building Stronger Teams with Virtual Board Games.  

Moving Towards the Future

Leaving the confinement of board games behind, technology offers a myriad of options for online connectivity.  Titles like Offworld Trading Company, Starcraft, and Age of Empires, combine strategy and interactivity, offering a diverse landscape for online teams to collaborate and compete.  However, one shouldn’t stray too far from traditional games like poker.  Some of your coworkers might not be that familiar with today’s space-based battlefronts.  I’m still excited that the Millenium Flacon made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs.  Overly complex games don’t really lend themselves to a good team building experience.  Whether you are playing trivia or an online team strategy game like poker, remember that all team building games still need to be inclusive.  It is important to keep in mind that the game you choose should be able to be played by everyone on the team equally.  Always choose games that:

  • Can be learned quickly.  You don’t want to waste half your allotted play time with overly complicated rules and explanations. 
  • Are accessible online without a download.  Getting to the game should not be the biggest challenge.  Work computers often have a VPN or other firewall restrictions against downloading apps. 
  • Are culturally appropriate.  Take a minute to think about how each member of your team will feel about the game, their roles, and what is expected of them. 

The whole point of a team building game, whether you are playing an online trivia game, an in-person board game, or an online team strategy game with the whole office, is to have fun as a group.  To spend time together and enjoy it.  If you want to find out what games are out there that are not necessarily considered online team strategy games, check out: Virtual Team Building Games – The Complete Guide from A to Z.

Using Online Team Strategy Games for Productive Team Building.

It’s no secret that millions of employees around the world work from home.  As of 2023, 12.7% of full-time US workers work from home.  Another 28.2% are hybrid, and while some companies push their employees back into the office, those numbers are unlikely to go down.  Projections recently published by Forbes magazine foresee a staggering 32.6 million Americans embracing remote work by 2025.  With fully 16% of the world’s companies remote and more joining that list every day, the need to make those employees feel valued, heard, and rewarded has never been greater.  The industries with the largest percentage of remote workers include:

  • IT and Computer. With more engineers coming out of universities daily, the tech sector is growing rapidly.
  • Marketing. Companies with a worldwide audience can use remote marketers to create an authentic voice anywhere in the world. 
  • Financial.  Fintech is projected to be a 1.5 trillion-dollar industry by 2030.   

As lucky would have it for those of us who offer virtual team building poker games, the industries most likely to have remote workers are also the industries with the most Millennial and Gen Z employees.  Woo hoo. The average age of a remote employee is 24 to 35.  As a group, they grew up playing video games, using cell phones, and embracing technology.  The leap to virtual gameplay at work is a short one.  Online team building strategy games are right in their wheelhouse.

Unlocking the Benefits of Online Team Strategy Games.

In the world of remote work, staying connected is absolutely vital no matter what cute little nickname your generation has.  When we take the time to get to know our colleagues, it builds bonds that turn into camaraderie and trust, two crucial ingredients for a harmonious and productive work environment.  Plus, people really like it.  According to a Forbes article, remote workers rank their top three job perks as:

  • Flexibility.  Employees want to be able to work from home, work their chosen hours, and work from a variety of locations as their needs change. 
  • Company-provided equipment.  Workers need the proper tools to do their job and effective IT support when those tools go awry. 
  • Team Building.  Yes, remote employees know they need each other, and they understand the value of building work friendships on the clock and online. 

Keeping employees happy is not just a nicety; it’s a strategic imperative for any organization. Offering fun options for online team strategy games is not just fun and games for the companies bottom line.  Happy employees are engaged, motivated, and loyal. They bring their best selves to work, which translates into higher productivity and better performance. Moreover, content employees tend to stay with their employers longer, reducing turnover and the costs associated with recruitment and training. They become advocates for the company, positively impacting its reputation and attracting top talent.  This is not an accident.  Companies with consistent top performers invest in their employees’ well-being. 

Three images of different age workers participating in an online strategy game via their laptops

Effective Team Building with Online Strategy Games

Picture team strategy games as a playground where players make choices freely and get to understand the consequences of their decisions in a low-impact environment.  This playground is the best place to make mistakes because you learn far more from failure than you do from success.  I’ve been playing games my whole life, and oh boy, have I failed, uh, learned, a ton!  Everyone in the professional world benefits when they are good at:

  • Time management.  What better way to stay on task than to understand the real-world impact of falling behind when your coworkers are depending on you?
  • Working independently and working together. The ability to finish your section of an assignment and have it meld with the group’s overall goals is what sets your team up for success. 
  • Planning. The ability to craft plans based on both long-term and short-term goals is pivotal to accomplishing both work and personal goals.  Very few people were accidentally successful while just wandering around.

These games offer more than escapism; they nurture skills with a tangible impact on professional growth.  As online team strategy games mold players into adept decision-makers, collaborators, and long-term planners, they also lay the foundation for effective remote teams.   The lessons learned in virtual battles traverse the digital divide, translating into an environment where collaboration and unity flourish.

Choosing the Right Virtual Strategy Game for Your Team

When considering the best options for online games with coworkers, there are a few factors that must come into play, and you don’t want to just roll the dice.  (See what I did there?)  At the heart of team bonding lies the idea of letting individuals who work together also form authentic relationships beyond their work roles. It’s about more than discussing work-related tasks on a video call; it’s about sharing stories of vacations, exchanging favorite recipes, proudly displaying adorable pet pictures, and enjoying the occasional online team strategy game together. These moments humanize us, allowing us to view our colleagues as people rather than just another name in our email inbox.   The five key elements to good team building are:

  • Starting the game on equal footing. Make sure the activity is accessible to all and doesn’t favor a specific skill set or position in the company.
  • Setting clear goals. The activity has an obvious pathway that is easy to follow.
  • Making the experience enjoyable. The activity must be fun!
  • Keeping things unscripted.  A clear starting point is a must but after that, let the team create the flow.  
  • Remembering to follow up. Activities don’t take place in a void.  Get feedback to inform the next event.

Many companies have discovered that having a schedule of monthly team building games has a significant impact on their bottom line.  Their employees work together more effectively, and turnover is reduced.  If you want to learn more, please explore our article Building Stronger Team: Best Practices for Virtual Team Building. 

What is the Best Online Team Strategy Game?  Poker. 

Now, you may be shocked to know that I believe that playing poker is the best choice for online team building strategy games but hear me out.  I have really good reasons.   Learning the game is simple.  You only need a short list of what-beats-what and anyone can pick up the game in a few hands.  Poker is a game that serves as an excellent microcosm of strategic thinking.  It’s not just about having a good hand, it’s about knowing when to bluff, when to fold, and when to go all-in.  The best part is that anyone can pick the game up and really enjoy playing right away.  Poker lessons are easy and fast.

Once you start to play poker as an online team strategy game you will discover that it has layers.   You can use the game as a practice space for strategic thinking and still be able to relax and enjoy the company of your fellow players.  Even at the professional level many poker players are an eclectic group.  They have nicknames, wear outrageous attire, and don’t take themselves too seriously.  Personally, I think it is a side effect of playing weird hours.  The best ones display a remarkable skillset that’s applicable far beyond the poker table. They are masters of reading their opponents, analyzing situations, and making decisions based on incomplete information – things you already know are valuable skills in both online team strategy games and real-life situations.

Whether you are playing with a pro or just with a bunch of coworkers, poker is a fantastic social activity. It brings people together around a table. Okay, it is a virtual table, but they are still together and still communicating freely.  Even a newcomer will find that poker can be filled with laughter, friendly banter, and the joy of shared experiences.  

Playing poker as your choice for an online team building strategy game offers an experience that is unique.   One of the best features of poker is that the pace of play depends on the participants.  You can’t pause to tell a joke or share a recipe when everyone is focused on being overrun by their battlefield opponents.  And that’s the point.  When you are using poker as virtual team building, the goal is not just the game, it is the experience that happens organically during the game.  Leveraging the power of poker as an online team strategy game is effective because it:

  • Provides equal footing. Each player faces the same decision during their turn no matter what position they hold in the corporation.  Depending on the game, you might bet or bluff or go all in.  Or both!
  • Adjusts the pace to you.  There is time to tell a story, finish a joke, or participate in a little good-natured trash talking. 
  • Allows for individual expression. Poker has a set structure, but how you choose to play your cards is up to you.

Virtual team building poker tournaments offer a convenient platform for beginners to learn and practice the game without the need for physical gatherings.  Companies like The Poker People offer curated online team building poker tournaments with live dealers.  No one needs to know how to play, and everyone will benefit from learning. 

Picture this at your next monthly meeting: your coworkers, all playing poker and acting like modern-day Sherlock Holmes’, gathering clues, scrutinizing expressions, and deciphering the subtlest of tells – all while the game unfolds around them. They bet and bluff and trash talk and have a great time.  All the while, building business skills that will help the team reach its goals when away from the table. 

In conclusion, strategy games, and poker in particular, offer a pathway to team building that not only brings colleagues closer but also equips them with valuable skills. The dynamics of strategy games, with their emphasis on decision-making, resource management, and human psychology, provide fertile ground for professional growth. Whether you’re navigating a virtual poker tournament or a corporate project, the skills learned in these games lay the foundation for effective teamwork and success.

FAQ Section

If you just want to hit the highlights to find about the best online team strategy games check out the FAQ’s below.

What makes a game an online team strategy game?

Strategic games encourage the player to make independent decisions but at the same time teach them what the consequences of those decisions are.  For example, going all in against a strong opponent in poker will cost you all your chips. 

What makes poker such a good team building strategy game?

Poker is a unique game because the situation changes with each new card.  While one player seemed like a sure winner in the beginning a different player might take the pot in the end, depending on what the final card turns out to be.

Is poker too hard to use for virtual team building?

No.  It is actually very simple to learn, and new players can have a cheat sheet if they’d like.  Our games always offer poker lessons beforehand and have live dealers to make sure no one is ever left behind.


For your next Poker Team Building Event