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'Sprint' - the card game

17 February 2015

Written by 

Russ Hill

Now bear with me here, as this is a slight detour from our normal engineering-focused posts - this one is about a card game we made…

Talis hack days

We’ve posted before about how here at Talis we like to host internal hack days so it should be no surprise that this game came about through one of those. See these articles for some of the other projects that have evolved from hack days: Distributing the Build Token, Video Wall & Got Milk? & for more general info Hack Days

As usual everyone was asked to try and contribute ideas, this time we drew them up on one of our blackboard walls. It got quite full, it has to be said.


“Make a board game” was the simple suggestion submitted during the ideas gathering phase of the hack day process. Perhaps surprisingly, this suggestion received a high number of votes - high enough for it to be one of the selected ideas.

I think this idea resonated more with the non-developers at Talis as it was clear it could be done without needing a technical background.

Ordering supplies

After ideas are submitted and then voted on, the top ideas are chosen and some time and a budget is given to order any items needed. So, just in case they where needed, and also to act as inspiration, we ordered some blank playing cards from Amazon and some sheets of stickers to go on them.

Where to begin??

The teams were decided and the hack day arrived.

On the day itself along with the supplies we had ordered we also gathered dice, playing pieces and even a copy of Fluxx a well known card game, to use as inspiration.

…err…so now what? Where do we start with this?


We all sat down on the Talis sofas (colour-matched to the brand colours, of course) and with the help of a flipchart, threw some ideas around.

We had a disparate group of people, from sales, marketing, support and development, so naturally we had a wide range of ideas. The common theme was that we should “do something we know”. Some of the ideas started to center around the sales process including financing, but on exploring these they felt a little dry, thematically and also complex. We wanted a game that could play in a lunchtime (30-60 minutes) so needed to shed complexity where we could.

After a great deal of deliberation and back and forth, things came round to the development process, and more specifically the process of how we use Scrum within Talis.

From this humble beginning the idea for “Sprint” was formed.

What is Sprint?

We drafted some initial rules to get the ball rolling - these are not 100% final and each time we’ve played we’ve revised them slightly. This iterative approach is helping us speed up the game and iron out any wrinkles.

Essentially we took the concept of mobile application development and decided that each player would play the part of a development company using Scrum for building apps. We came up with a selection of around 20 apps that would go into the “backlog” (the draw deck) and would be revealed one at a time.

Each app would have a certain number of “story points” needed to develop it, so we added a “burndown chart” which could be set to indicate the story points for the current app.

burndown chart

Each player would then indicate how many story points they would dedicate to building the app this round. The total of the story points committed would be added up and subtracted from the remaining total on the burndown chart.

story points

The player who “develops” the app is the one who played the final number of points needed to bring the burndown chart to zero for that app.

The game ends when one player has developed 3 apps and the winner is the person with the highest amount of total revenue from the apps they have built (this might not necessarily be the person who was first to build 3 apps).

We decided we’d add in some special cards that could really mix things up and turn the tide for the player - mostly by screwing up the other players plans!

special cards (not all special cards are shown above)

These are:

  • PM Rage: the player claims the app being built, regardless of how many story points are left
  • Angels Touch: the player receives angel investment and the card counts as 100 points towards the app development
  • Anonymous Touch: hackers break in and cause damage setting the development process back - add 150 points back onto the app
  • Power Loss: electrical problems reduce productivity - halve the total number of story points played that round
  • Poach a Developer: the player who uses this card can steal the points contributed by another player this round
  • Be Square: the developers put their heads down and increase their efforts - double the story points for the round. The player who played this card is deemed to be the highest contributor

Just like testing software before release, we playtested the game when we had a spare lunch break.

playing the game

Going forward

Our plans for the game are to have a couple more playtest sessions and really iron out the rules to make this thing play as well as we can, then draft in the services of our ace UX designer to replace our placeholder graphics with something a lot better.

We are then going to prepare and send off all the components to be properly printed by The Gamecrafter so we have a proper “finished” product to play with.

We’re also considering creating a print & play version and making this publically available for anyone to download.

Other than that, we’re thinking what else to do with the game next. Any ideas, let us know!

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