How to Play

What's in the box?

  • A game board
  • Instruction manual
  • 173 Exposed question cards
  • 55 Ruthless cards (that you want to avoid at all costs)
  • 52 Spanner in the Works cards to really shake things up


The Basics
  • Each player takes turns pulling a card, reading and answering out loud.
  • Questions must be answered quickly and honestly (we won’t let you get away with being vague).
  • If a player successfully answers the question, they keep their question card and the game continues to the next player on their left.
  • After everyone has answered their first Ruthless Card, all players revert back to pulling from the standard Exposed deck for the remainder of the game, unless directed otherwise. 
  • If a player can not answer their question as it’s not relevant to the group (e.g. ‘which player’s parenting style do you admire the most?’) then their card should go to the bottom of the deck and they draw a new card. 
  • If a player says “I don’t know” or simply can’t/won’t answer - their question needs to go back to the bottom of the pile and they need to pick up a Ruthless card.
  • If a player takes too long to answer or doesn’t answer a question fully and honestly (e.g. gives a vague or generalised response), the question needs to go to the bottom of the deck and they must pick up a Ruthless card and answer immediately).

  • Some Spanner in the Works Card need to be actioned immediately, and others you can hold onto. (See Spanner in the works description)
    If you choose to not immediately action a Spanner in the works card (i.e. you want to save the card and use it later), you are required to have another turn by picking up an additional Exposed card and answering a question immediately. If you pick up a second Spanner In The Works card it must be actioned immediately and can not be saved to use later. 

how to play with 2 players

Although Shadow Play is designed to be played in groups, by adapting a few rules for a more intimate setting, it can also be enjoyed with just 2 players.

The set up of the game is the same, i.e. ensure the Exposed and Ruthless cards are separated, shuffling both decks of cards at the beginning of the game. Then, place each deck in the appropriate spaces on the board. The youngest player starts the game by pulling the first card from the Ruthless deck.

If a player draws a card and it contains an irrelevant question, place it at the bottom of the pile and draw another one.

For ‘Which player’ questions, interpret them as 'Out of the two of us, who is more likely to…'. 

Alternatively, some 'Which player' questions can be modified to 'Who in your life…'.

Remember, the goal is to have fun learning more about each other whilst simultaneously learning more about yourself, so feel free to adapt the questions in a way that suits the dynamic between the two of you!


How much you get out of the game will depend on the individual players and the overall environment you create together. Each individual player must be willing to be uncomfortably honest when sharing their answers. At the same time, everyone in the game has a role in making others feel comfortable being uncomfortable. 

Each player influences how safe, honest and close everyone can be during the game. The more honest and comfortable everyone is, the better the experience will be. Read below to learn how you can get the most out of this game through setting up a supportive environment.

Lead with the standard you expect from others:

If you want others to be vulnerable, brutally honest and reveal their f*ckedup-ness… you need to lead with vulnerability, brutal honesty and f*ckedup-ness.

Keep the game a vault:

What’s said during Shadow Play, stays in Shadow Play. Anything that is shared by a player is NOT yours to share outside of the group. Players should not have to lead with “please don’t tell anyone this but…”. Players should set the expectation at the start of the game that confidentiality is a given.


Being able to read people’s body language for when to make light of a situation VS. avoid using shaming ‘that’s fucked up’ language.

Hold space for people’s responses:
To "hold space" for someone involves creating a non-judgemental environment, actively listening and refraining from imposing one's own opinions or solutions. You can do this by being fully present while someone is talking, maintaining eye contact or giving a nod in understanding. Avoid interrupting or responding too quickly. Allow the person to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement or dismissal.

Give people time to go deeper:

Sometimes when people stop talking and appear to have ‘finished’ their train of thought, our automatic response can be to jump in, share our thoughts, start talking or make conversation instantly. We encourage you to try to hold off from talking for an additional 20-30 seconds. This can feel uncomfortable and even awkward at first, however, you’ll often find that when people are given the space and opportunity - there is often more there for them to share, they just need the time and space for it to come up. You can also ask questions that encourage them to go deeper into consideration. 


  • “Is there more you want to say on that?”
  • “How does it feel sharing/acknowledging that?”
  • “What other thoughts or feelings does that bring up for you?”

Support people to find clarity:

Sometimes (often), you’ll find yourself or other players being met with “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure”. This is often a cop-out. Look at this as someone attempting to use a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It takes no effort, intentionality or patience to say “I don’t know” as a response. What DOES require effort is not having the answer to something, but having to sit with yourself and sit in contemplation until you find it. You can support people to find articulation for their responses through giving them the time to do so. However, if you notice someone is really stuck, you can support them by either re-wording the question for them in another way or asking them questions that may prompt their thinking.


  • “What’s the first thing that comes to mind, even if it seems small”?
  • "Can you think of any experiences or memories related to this question?"
  • “If you had to guess, what do you think your answer might be?”

Calling bullsh*t:

If you think someone has given a superficial or evasive response, you can call bullsh*t. You can ask for clarification with questions like "What do you really think?" to encourage them to be honest.

Prioritise connection over answering just to answer:

Allow the conversation to open up further with the group AFTER the player has answered their questions. E.g. Maybe each player has something to add or wants to contribute or share their response as well. Let this be organic and allow the conversation to flow. 

Maintaining pressure (how to not get lost in responses for an hour):

To maintain pressure in the game whilst prioritising connection, ensure that players stay on topic. After a player answers, allow the conversation to open up naturally, letting other players contribute or share their responses. Use brief follow-up questions to prompt deeper thinking if someone gets stuck. This ensures everyone participates and fosters meaningful connections, keeping the game engaging, dynamic and flowing smoothly.

Glossary/Key Terms

Haven’t you heard of Google you lazy fuck? But anyway… here’s some terms.

Conspiracy theory - An explanation or belief that events or situations are the result of a secret, often sinister, and usually deceptive plot by a group of people or organisations. 

Embezzling - To steal or misappropriate money placed in one's trust or belonging to the organisation for which one works.

Emotions - Really? You’ve come to the glossary to read the definition of what emotions are? 

Handouts - A person receives assistance or resources, often in the form of gifts, favours, or support from others, with minimal effort or obligation on the part of the recipient.

Minority view - A perspective or opinion held by a small percentage of people within a larger group.

Pattern - The repetition of certain actions, reactions, or characteristics that form a recognisable and consistent sequence. 

People pleaser -  A person who puts others' needs ahead of their own.This person is often seen as agreeable, helpful, and kind, but has trouble advocating and standing up for themselves.

Pet peeve - Something that a particular person finds especially annoying.

Petty/Pettiest -Excessive concern for trivial matters, minor details, or insignificant issues.

Red flags - Warning signs that indicate unhealthy or manipulative behaviour. Not always recognisable at first, however, they tend to grow bigger and become more problematic over time.

Religious practice - A set of activities, rituals, customs, or behaviours associated with a particular religion or belief system.

Scandalous - Actions, behaviours, or information that is morally offensive, disgraceful, or shocking, often causing public outrage or controversy.

Spoon-fed - Providing someone with so much help or information that they don’t need to think for themselves.

Standards - Criteria, principles, or expectations that an individual sets for themselves in various aspects of life. These standards serve as a guide for behaviour, decision-making, and evaluating situations.

Superficial - Something that is on the surface, lacking depth. A superficial relationship or conversation may lack depth or meaningful connection.

Tight ass - A person who spends as little money as possible.

Tiptoes - A person carefully avoiding discussing or dealing with a difficult or sensitive subject.

Total dick - Someone who is a complete asshole! Does spiteful acts and has little respect or empathy for other people.

Toxic relationship - Behaviours, interactions, or dynamics that are harmful, damaging, or detrimental to the well-being and happiness of one or both individuals involved. This may include patterns of manipulation, control, disrespect, dishonesty, or emotional and sometimes even physical abuse.

Trigger - Something that causes a strong emotional reaction of fear, shock, anger, or worry in someone, especially because they are made to remember something bad that has happened in the past.


  • For every successful question answered (fast, honest & specific), you keep a card. 
  • 1 card = 1 point (for both Exposed and Ruthless cards)
  • Spanner In The Works cards are NOT worth any points. 
  • Any response that the group deems as NOT fast, honest or specific = unsuccessful. The question card goes back to the bottom of the deck and no points are earned.
  • If a player has 2 unsuccessful responses back to back, that player must forfeit ALL of their previously collected cards from earlier in the game (i.e. they lose all of their points).
  • Those who access honesty quickly, are most likely to win the game!
Winning & Ending The Game
  • The game can conclude in two ways:
  1. The group can set a 60 minute timer at the beginning of the game and conclude when the timer goes off.


2. The group determines that the game feels near completion.

  • Once the timer goes off OR the group voices that they’re feeling complete, the game ends with a RUTHLESS FINALE. Each player’s FINAL question must be a RUTHLESS CARD.
  • Once the game is finished, players count their collected cards (how many questions they successfully answered) and tally the points.

The player with the most cards at the end of the game, wins.

Spanner in the Works action cards

Spanner In The Works Cards

Throughout the Exposed deck, there are hidden ‘Spanner In The Works’ cards. 

These include the following:

TWIN PLAY**: Pick any other player to answer a question with you. The player who uses the card must go first. This card can be saved and used at any time during the game. 

ALL PLAY**: Every player must answer the question. The player who uses the card must go first, going clockwise around the group. This card can be saved and used at any time during the game. 

SKIP PLAY**: Choose a question you’d like to skip. The question will be passed on to the player on your left (you cannot earn a point for a skipped question - the point goes to the person on your left).  This card can be saved and used at any time during the game. 

RUTHLESS PLAY*: Pick up a Ruthless card immediately. This card cannot be saved and used later in the game.

MYSTERY PLAY**: Create your OWN question to ask another player of your choice - you keep the card and the point for their answer. This card can be saved and used later in the game. 

DEADLY PLAY*: Uh oh. Pick up Ruthless cards for the rest of the game. This card cannot be saved and used later in the game.

See simplified version for the dummies:
* Cards that must be actioned immediately 

** Cards that can be saved and used at any time during the game.

Note: If you choose to not immediately action a card (i.e. you want to save the card and use it later), you are required to have another turn by picking up an additional Exposed card and answering a question immediately. If you pick up a second Spanner In The Works card it must be actioned immediately and can not be saved to use later.