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Rules & Materials for Ceremony of Surprise

This is a self-commissioned party game exploring performativity – the idea that games can directly act on the world. For more background read the blog announcement. For the game rules, read on.

At this time, 21st century culture is more popular then ever before. Recent transcriptions of ancient information networks have provided more insight into those exciting years leading up to the end of mankind. In this simulation you will experience how it was to live in those thrilling days. You will participate in one of the most popular but misunderstood rituals of ancient humanity: “The Surprise Party”.

Scholars still debate the purpose of the Surprise Party. It is a complex ceremony in which the participating humans had to “surprise” one person. To conduct this event, humans created a complex system. By following the instructions below, you can simulate this wonderful ceremony.


Before you can experience a Surprise Party, preparations have to be made.

  • Recruit five to nine participants who from this point onwards will be referred to as “players”.
  • Bring one consumable item that is large enough for all the players. You can choose anything, as long as the food is desirable by all participants. The ancient humans seemed to prefer sugar coated dough decorated with light bulbs.
  • Every participant of the ceremony should bring two objects from his/her home which can be of use during the ceremony. Simple decorative objects such as paper flags and inflatable rubbers were very popular during the 21st century.
  • Humanity used to demolish their oxygen producing lifeforms and ground them to flat sheets which they called paper. On paper humans would use a remote communication technique known as writing. To organise this simulation you will have to follow a similar procedure. Copy the information in the attached files to several sheets of paper. Use a sharp object or similar device to divide all the sheets in nine individual pieces, also called cards. There are three different files: ‘name cards’, ‘action cards’ and ‘vote cards’. Make sure that every participant gets one name card and two vote cards (one yea and one nay). One copy of the action cards is enough for up to nine players.1

Beginning the ceremony

  • Explain the rules and the object of the ceremony (see below), then distribute the empty name cards amongst the participants.
  • Each participant writes its name on a name card. Put these on a pile, shuffle them and take out one without looking at it. Place it out of reach. This is the surprisee, also known simply as “it”. Add the wild card. Shuffle the deck again and hand each participant a card.
  • Shuffle the deck of action cards. Hand out two action cards to each participant.
  • Hand a pair of vote cards out to each player.

Performing the ceremony

  • Participants take turns nominating an ingredient and describe how it will fit in the party ceremony. Then the participants either vote for or against the inclusion of the ingredient. Use your vote cards, and reveal them simultaneously.
    • If a majority voted for the ingredient, every participant that voted for the ingredient gets an additional action card. This ingredient is now part of the party.
    • If it is not elected, the item is discarded and can’t be nominated again. In this case, all those who voted against get an action card.
    • The proposer votes too. Use the proposer’s vote to break ties.
  • Participants can play action cards whenever they wish during the ceremony.
  • Players are not allowed to show their name cards to each other, unless the use of an action card specifically tells them to.
  • When no more ingredients remain, or all the name cards have been torn up, the endgame begins.

Ending the ceremony

  • Stand in a circle.
  • Count back from five to zero.
  • At zero, point to the participant you think is the surprisee and shout “surprise!”

Dividing the cake

  • If the surprisee guessed itself, then it gets the whole cake.
  • If not, the cake is divided amongst all the participants who guessed the surprisee correctly.
  • If no one guessed right, the cake is fed to a lesser life-form, as all humans used to have these around to do their bothersome tasks.



Designed by: Kars Alfrink & Tim Bosje.

Tested by: Wilma Bakker, Hessel Bonenkamp, Zuraida Buter, Carla Gerritsen, Sjanine Hendrikx, Joost Houtman, Julius Huijnk, Wytze Kamp, Simon van der Linden, Janneke Peelen, Richard Ram, Michael Schmidt, Matthijs Verbree & Dennis Zoetebier, our friends at the Dutch Game Garden and Local Multiplayer Picnic attendants.

With thanks to the human information network known as “the web” for card imagery.

Creative Commons LicenseThe Ceremony of Surprise by Hubbub is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  1. Please note that the provided images were found on ancient human information networks. They are believed to be authentic representations of humanity as it performed the Surprise ceremony. []