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I was introduced to this technique by Xavier Quesada Allue who told me he learned it from Tobias Mayer. A reference to this can also be found in Jean Tabaka’s book: Collaboration Explained (p207) entitled “Pass The Cards”


10-15 minutes


A minimum of 8 people, and an even number of people

Anything that you want to prioritise, written on separate cards

One card and one pen per person


This exercise only works with an even number of people and has a total of seven rounds

Give everybody a card with a Product Backlog item on it and a pen

In each round everyone finds someone to pair up with and they discuss the two cards they have in front of them:

  • As a pair, you have 5 points that can be allocated between the two cards based on the relative importance of the two cards
  • No half numbers are allowed so the points must be split 5:0 or 4:1 or 3:2
  • It is not about each person trying to convince the other that their card is more important than their partners card
  • The two people must agree on the scoring split
  • Once the scoring split has been agreed, the pair swap cards with each other and hold their hands up to indicate they have finished the round
  • Once everyone has finished with the round, the facilitator indicates the start of the next round where different pairings will take place, repeating the above process
  • A total of seven rounds are run and then the total of the 7 scores on the card are totalled up.
  • The cards are then laid out in order with the highest scoring cards at one end and the lower scoring cards at the other

Learning Points: 

  • It is easier to prioritise when only comparing two items
  • It is a quick way to prioritise
  • It is a democratic, inclusive process
  • If you have stakeholders who are attached to lobbying for one particular feature, this literally requires them to give it away to someone else


  1. Try more rounds to decrease the likelihood of spurious results and cards with the same total score
  2. Try a bigger scoring range to increase the spread and reduce the impact of people unwilling to use the extremes i.e. 9 points instead of 5. While you may still not get many 9:0’s you may get more 7:2’s

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8 Responses to "Thirty-Five"
  • Tobias Mayer (@tobiasmayer) October 24, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Thanks for the credit. I actually learned this game from Matt Smith ( who used it to set the vision for the Scrum Exchange event in 2006. The form I learned was for setting a vison statement for an event:
    1. Each person writes down their ideal learning outcome.
    2. Swap cards as described
    3. Score out of 7 points (7-0, 6-1, 5-2, 4-3)
    4. Swap five times.
    5. The top two or three cards are then merged/combined to form a vision for the group, which is written up big and acts as the focus for the rest of the event—unless reconceived later (which may happen).

    I like the variation of using this to prioritize backlog items—sounds like Xavier did a “yes-and” on the game 🙂

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  • Jef Cumps October 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I played this game several times, and also with an odd number of people. In case of an odd number of people, there’s always 1 group of 3 people. I ask them to distribute 10 points (instead of 7) over the 3 cards. (I play Tobias’ version with 5 rounds and dividing 7 points each round.)

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  • Geoff Watts October 25, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Thanks for the extra information guys – I really appreciate it.

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  • Tobias Mayer (@tobiasmayer) October 25, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I case anyone is interested…
    apparently the game originated here:

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  • Sabine Canditt July 14, 2013 at 7:14 am

    I use this game to prioritize the 12 agile principles. In addition to learning about prioritization it also makes the players familiar with the principles.

    Kind regards

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  • Geoff Watts July 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Great idea Sabine


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  • Debriefing an Agendashift survey | Agendashift February 14, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    […] get generated and everyone gets a chance. Prioritise again, using your preferred tool (dot voting, Thirty-Five aka “pass the cards”, […]

  • Ellen Gottesdiener January 31, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    A point of interest, @tobiasmayer is right (and i so appreciate you Tobias for accrediting this to the master: Thiagi). Thiagi is /the/ world’s master in games and simulation:
    [years ago (1994!) this was part of a pilot framegames training].

    Thiagi has it published it on his website, you can see it in the archive: and an express version is here:

    like all of his framegames, there is so many content adaptions you can do w this lovely, enliving framegame.

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