Play the Cards

Larp design by Tyra Larsdatter Grasmo, Frida Sofie Jansen and Trine Lise Lindahl
Larpscript by Frida Sofie Jansen, Katrin Førde and Trine Lise Lindahl

OMG! I’m so psyched about being the first one to have a home-alone class party! It will be totally AWESOME! I just hope everybody will show up for my birthday…
- Julie, 15 (today!)

Play the Cards is a larp about being a teenager, about fitting in and about knowing your place in the hierarchy. You’re in high school; you know who you are, what your social position is and most importantly, who you want to be. This is your first real house party. No parents. It’s the important party where everyone shows up and anything might happen.

We use a deck of cards to indicate high school’s unspoken, but oh-so-public popularity rating. The Hearts are the popular girls led by their queen. The cool guys are The Spades. The Clubs are the alternative people that are engaged in politics or culture. And lastly you have The Diamonds, the outsiders and nerds whom no one likes and who stick together because they have no one else.

The gist of this larp is to give the players the opportunity to re-live both the good and bad feelings of their teen years, to see the situation from different perspectives and most of all: to remember when emotions and the small events of everyday teen life were the most important things in the whole wide world.

The idea for this game came from a fifteen-year-old in the midst of the awkwardness and social dealings that dominate the high school experience. Because the game designers grew up in three different decades, we feel we’ve found some of the essence of teenage life. We want participants to play the teens of today, but they are welcome to bring the emotions of their own youth — whenever that was — along with them.


Number of players: 20-32 (including organizers)
Number of organizers: 2-3
Time: 5-6 hours, where about 2,5 hours are spent in play
Genre: Awkward realism
Workload: Medium
Venue: Can be played in a seminar room or a private home. The venue should have room for everyone to gather in a single space and should also have the possibility of conversation in more private corners.

Downloadable material


  1. (posting twice?)
    I'd like to leave this link here to a New York Times article about social anxiety in adolescents, as I think it's apropos for anyone playing the cards: http://nyti.ms/1mrqYbf

  2. Play the Cards is awesome !

    I've played it last weekend in Cergy-Le-Haut, France. I was Andrew (Eight of Spades).

  3. Happy you like it, Francis! Who organized it?

    1. I did. I will write a few lines about this first run of the game in France on this page. Francis offer us a beautiful flashback (I add a black box to the game) between Andrew and MariaH.

  4. A friend of mine, from a french group called "Rôle, TSMB" who organise LARPS near Paris.

  5. « Play the Cards » was the fourth game of the Larps from the factory project I organize (After « Fallen Stars », « Oh Dear... »and « AFC »). My mistake was to choose to organize alone (I took the card of « Matt »)...for an entire cast of 31 players...and to add a black box...which was great for the game, but made it even harder for the lonely organizer I was. Follow the advice in book, three organizers/NPC (Mat(hilda), Rachel,Tessa) is a reasonable choice. For the black box, I use the « bathroom wall » : players write their name and the name of the players of the scene they want to play on a post-it and put it on my character sheet. I take the post it and, as the organizer (glasses off : Matt, glasses on : organizer), show it to this players. This is the signal for them that they were « invited » to follow me in the black box.
    Don't forget to explain to your players that the cards are metaphorical and must be « feel » more than seen (except, of course, if they are switch).
    For most of my players, it was the first game with full transparency they played, and I understood during and after the game, that the use of this transparency was less obvious than I think. Remind your players before the game that they must distinguish the information they (the players)have and those their characters have.
    Finally, you should be cautious with your casting : some characters are hard to play...
    Hope this can help you in your organization. It's a great game, and I will run it again later. If you want to discuss it, you can send me a message on facebook : cedric barbatruc.