Randomly lay a set of thirteen Fine Line Cards belonging to one common style.
Instruct your group to look for one coherent pattern among all of the cards.
Challenge your group to lay all thirteen cards in one straight line.
Encourage your group and provide subtle clues if necessary.
Video Transcript for Fine Line Cards
presented by Mark Collard
You may need to actually come a little bit closer to see what’s on these. This is a set of cards referred to as Fine Line Cards. They were produced by a group called Adam & Adam in New York.
If you’ve ever done anything through crowdfunding, this was a project that I actually supported several years ago when these guys had a great idea for bringing out a new set of cards, and this is what they created.
I’m only showing you half of the pack at the moment and I’ve separated them into two sets of thirteen cards. They’re both the same problem to be solved but they are clearly a two different sets of cards.
Your object is for each of the two sets of thirteen cards is to identify their relationship to each other in a particular sequence. So when you’re looking at them going, okay, how might this one relate to that one, or that one to this one, and there is only one answer for each of the two sets of cards.
So, to repeat, your object here is to look at the thirteen cards and identify, (a) what is the relationship they have with each other and what is the particular sequence that you would need to create for each of the two sets.
If you happen to knock these two over quickly, I’ve got two others that are even more difficult to work with. My guess is you’ll probably sit on these for a while. These two are not related although at one level they could be argued being related, but just concentrate on the two separate sets at this stage.
If it sounds fairly vague, it’s purposefully vague. Your object is to work out what’s going on. At the end of it you’ll smack yourself going, “Of course,” but truth is obvious to those who know it. Right now, unless you’ve seen these cards before, it will not be obvious to you.
How To Play Narrative
It is highly unlikely that you or your group will have seen these cards before, which adds to their allure.
Fine Line cards are a hand-illustrated deck of cards which feature a picture or phrase that communicates the card’s value in a truly innovative way. Click here to view some of the intricate artwork.
As described by their makers, the cards are “as beautiful for the mind as for the senses, and an intriguing objet d’art” – but, importantly, they also hide a mystery. Take a look at Leadership Tips if you can’t wait to find out.
In essence, your group can be challenged to unravel this mystery in one of many ways. Your language is critical to the unravelling of this puzzle, so be alert.
Start by laying some or all of the cards face-up on a table (or floor) and present one or more of the following initial challenges (easy to most difficult:)
Commonalities: Ask your group to analyse the full set of 52 cards (as presented randomly on the table) and identify and separate the most common styles or groupings. There are four recognised styles – for example, one style features words and phrases – but do not allude to this in your presentation.
Critical Pattern: Present only the cards belonging to one style (13 cards) in a random manner, and ask your group to look for one coherent pattern. The task is complete when all 13 cards have been laid in one straight line. The pattern or sequence reflects a line of cards from lowest to highest value, but again, do not allude to this in your presentation.
Full Deck: A combination of the two above challenges, presented at the same time. Randomly present all 52 cards and instruct your group to make sense of them all. Without knowledge of the four styles, and the critical pattern which binds each style together, this is a tough challenge. Lateral and critical thinking and clear communication will help your group reach a solution.
You can present any one of these challenges which you believe will match your group’s problem-solving abilities. Or, if you have the time, present them in a graduated sequence.
In any case, be sure to allow some time to reflect on your group’s experience. To this end, review the sample questions in the Reflection tab.
Practical Leadership Tips
Spoiler Alert – Fine Line is a functional deck of 52 playing cards that can be used for any standard card game. As your group will soon discover, the pictures and phrases featured on the cards communicate the card’s value (10, Jack, Queen, etc.) Naturally, to reflect four different suits, cards of the same style make up each suit. The four styles are:
words & phrases,
single-line illustrations of every day objects,
double-line illustrations reflecting religious symbols, and
extremely intricate illustrations reflecting life.
The cards are new to most people, so they often pique a group’s attention. I often lay them out on a table as I await my group to arrive at the start of a program. Introduced as a puzzle, small teams quickly form to make sense of the cards, instantly making good use of the time that would ordinarily be wasted waiting for everyone to arrive.
Note, cracking the code can be tough for some groups. Be kind, and be sure to introduce an appropriate level of challenge to your group, lest they quickly give-up. Offering subtle clues is okay.
That said, for some groups, expressly announcing that the cards represent a deck of playing cards will still present a serious challenge to make sense of all of the cards. Sequence accordingly.
These cards are produced by Dear Adam Objects in New York, USA. The brain child of Adam Farbiarz and Adam Thompson, they were created as part of a successful KickStarter campaign which playmeo, among hundreds of other supportive folks, contributed funds to. Go to www.dearadamprojects.com for more information.
Deck of Playing Cards: Once its mystery has been unravelled, these cards serve as a beautiful deck of playing cards that can be used for any standard card game, eg Poker, Black Jack, etc.
Suit Line-Up: This is typically a very simple challenge. Announce to your group that the 13 cards (of one style) represents one complete suit of a regular deck of playing cards, ie 2, 3, 4, through to Jack, Queen, King and Ace. Challenge your group to identify which Fine Line cards represent each of the 13 cards of a suit.
Full Deck Line-Up: As above, but present the full deck of Fine Line cards. This is a more challenging task, but given that you have unlocked the critical mystery hidden within cards’ design, most groups will quickly solve this puzzle.
Playing Blind: Distribute one card to each person in your group. Each person may view their own card, but they are not permitted to view or hold the card of any other person. Invite your group to make sense of the cards by describing what they see on their cards
Blind Categories: As for Commonalities or Critical Pattern options (described in Narrative tab,) but each person is not permitted to view their own card. That is, everyone can see the card belonging to every other person, but not their own. The objective is the same – the group is challenged to (a) separate into the four distinct styles or (b) form one straight line according to the value of their cards. Naturally, throughout the exercise, no one is permitted to tell another person the value of their card.
Invisible Connections: Distribute one card to each person in your group. Challenge the group to form one complete circle whereby the object on every person’s card is somehow connected (or has something in common) with the cards of their left-and right-hand side neighbours. This variation leverages the theory that everything is connected to everything else somehow. Once complete, dive a little deeper and invite each pair to engage in a quick conversation to discover what the two of them have in common.
Face-Off: Split your group into two even teams, and issue them with half of a shuffled deck of cards each. Ask each team to stand on one side of a line, and simultaneously, start flipping cards. For each round, the team which flips the highest value card wins one person for their team. If the two cards are the same value, flip again.
Series of challenging team puzzles for small groups.
Mathematical group initiative using a deck of cards.
Challenging group initiative to test patience & focus.
Useful Framing Ideas
It’s not often you see an entirely different expression of something you are very familiar with. I have in my hands a great example of just this…
Here’s a small handful of cards which I doubt any of you have seen before. When you look at them, do they mean anything to you? As I lay more on the table, can you make sense of any of them? [ … continue until all cards are laid out randomly …] Do you see anything yet? Take a closer look…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing with these innovative set of playing cards:
How long did it take for you to make sense of the cards? Why did you struggle?
How many different theories or attempts to form a coherent pattern did your group make?
What might this challenge say to you and your group?
Do we view others in the same way we viewed these cards?
Fine Line Cards are produced by Dear Adam in 2014. Many of the ideas for their use beyond a unique set of playing cards were inspired with reckless abandon by Nate Folan and Chad Littlefield, both valued Contributors to playmeo’s activity database.