This game is a nice alternative to the ball point game, especially when you are travelling. The goal of this exercise is to create and improve a workflow using some of the well known agile techniques like Sprint Planning, Timeboxing, Retrospectives.


  • Two card decks of 52 cards that have identical backs (same colour, same pattern, etc.)
  • A stop watch


  • Space for the team to gather (e.g. some tables or some space on the floor)
  • A table on a flipchart or whiteboard with the following columns - estimated time - actual raw time - number of errors - actual time with penalties

How to play

The goal for the team is ordering the 104 cards as follows:

  • 8 stacks of cards sorted by the respective suits
  • The Ace needs to be on the bottom and the King on top
  • The intervening cards need to be in rank order

Start a round by giving 2 minutes for discussing the strategy (“planning”).

After this time

  • ask for an estimate for achieving the goal (“How long will it take?”). In the first round you might not get a quick answer, just go ahead and start anyway.
  • ask for a single person to give you the stop sign. You’re not supposed to listen to anyone else but this person.

When you got the above answers

  • drop the shuffled stack of cards face down on the table or the floor and start the time
  • watch the participants use their strategy but don’t interfere

As soon as the dedicated person tells you to do so

  • stop the time and write it on the flipchart
  • check the resulting stacks for mistakes (“review”). Each mistake in the ranking will result in a penalty of 5 seconds. Add these seconds to the time on the flipchart

Get the team talking (“retrospective”) about how their approach worked by asking a couple of open questions like

  • How did it work?
  • Can you improve it? How?
  • Do all of you see it the same way?

After that give the team 2 minutes for planning, ask for a new estimate and start the next round. Play the game for 3 to 5 rounds as long as the team thinks there’s improvement possbile (or you reach the end of your timebox).


Nancy Van Schooenderwoert introduced and facilitated this interesting exercise at the Play4Agile 2011 Conference in Rückersbach, Germany.

Original blog post by Sven Röpstorff