The Rules


The rhetorical quartet is a debating game, meaning a game plays out like a debate, with each player arguing for a different point of view on a topic. These views don‘t need to match the personal opinion of the players and can be switched during the game with the „change of heart“ card.

The topic should be chosen by player‘s familiarity with and interest in it, and/or humorous effect. Points of view should be as contrasting and clearly defined as possible. Writing them down is recommended to prevent confusion when a change of heart card is played.

The game will only get rolling if players can think of arguments easily. Topics from daily life or area of expertise of the players or often discussed current affairs are suited best, especially when either typical or extreme points of view are chosen.

Example: Anna, Bob and Caroline live together and want to discuss how to distribute chores. Anna wants to establish fixed areas of responsibility, Bob favours taking turns and Caroline thinks planning chores is unnecessary and everybody should do their own share.


The players agree upon a topic and choose points of view for themselves. All cards are shuffled. Each player receives ten cards, the others are put aside face-down.

Basic rules

The players take clock-wise turns, starting with the player on the left of the dealer. To play a card, the player presents an argument for their point of view that matches the card description, placing it in the middle of the table (or later on top of the other cards that have been played). The argument does not have to be persuasive or true, as long as it follows the conceptual form of the card. Following cards have to be of a higher set than the last – 6A can be played after 4B, but not 2D or 6B.
At the start of each turn a player may exchange one of his cards for a random new one.

As Anna dealt the cards, Bob starts the game. He uses a suggestion (4D) and declares: „A clean house with a fair chore distribution is only possible if we take turns. That‘s in everyone‘s best interest.“ Caroline makes an argument from tradition (8A): „So far we‘ve managed to clean without making a plan. We can just keep it like that.“ Anna would have liked to counter with emotional blackmail (3A) - after all, she did more than her share of the dishes last week - but has to use a higher set number and decides on egoism (9C): „I‘m sick of doing the dishes, I‘d rather always clean the bathroom.“


When no card can be played, the thread is closed and the player who had the last word receives the cards played in this thread to put aside. They represent their points so far.

A thread is a string of arguments that grows longer with each played card and falls to the player who has the last word. The argument that opens the next thread can still be a direct reply to the former argument(s). Topic and points of view stay the same over the game and don‘t change with a new thread.

Trump cards (XA, XB, XC and XD) always close a thread. They can be placed on any other card; whoever plays one immediately receives the cards of the thread. The player whose turn it is can now start a new thread with any card.

A player can choose to keep a high card for later and close the thread to start another one for strategic reasons.

Bob‘s hand contains mostly low cards and he can only respond with an insufficient sample (15A). He takes a moment to construct his argument: „A bathroom can be cleaned much faster than a kitchen. In all the restaurants I‘ve worked it takes much longer to clean up the kitchen than the staff bathroom. If we don‘t take turns, fixed responsibilities will be unfair to some of us.“
Caroline can‘t play another card, so Bob can take the four cards played so far. Caroline can continue with cards of a lower set now. She refutes Bob‘s argument with hearsay (2A): „I‘ve heard restaurant staff decide among themselves who does the dishes and who cleans the toilets. We can handle things the same here.“


All sets have partnered sets they can be used against as counterarguments (+) or that can be used against them (−). It is irrelevant whether a counteragument has a higher or lower set number. Cards of set 4 (manipulations) are counterarguments for set 12 (delusions), for example - all cards of set 4 can be played on any card of set 12. On cards of set 4 the number 12 is marked with a plus sign (4 counters 12), and on cards of set 12 the number 4 with a minus sign (12 gets countered by 4).

The game continues with the set number on top.

We recommend foregoing the use of counterarguments for beginners.

Anna speculates on nobody having a trump card or, if so, nobody wanting to waste it on a thread with only two cards, so she plays her highest card, a gambler‘s fallacy (15C), next: „We‘ve done that for the past half year. I think it‘s time to try something else.“ Caroline protests that this is not a gambler‘s fallacy because a cleaning policy is not a random event. Anna retorts that there are no random events related to the topic for her to use in her argument, and Bob agrees that she stayed true enough to the idea.

Anna was right in guessing that Bob has no Trump card, but he notices he can use allegations (2) against statistics (15), and he has one of those on hand, a strawman (2C): „You just want to pick the easiest task and leave the rest to us! When we use fixed responsibilities, everyone chooses their favourite and the rest won‘t get done at all.“

Change of heart

A change of heart allows those who play it to make two players switch their point of view. That can include themselves, but doesn‘t have to in a game with more than two players. For the rest of the game the selected players have to argue for the other‘s point of view - or until the next change of heart makes them switch again.

After a change of heart the next player can continue the game with any set. It can save a player from losing a thread, but also draws it out and ups the stakes.

Caroline can think of a good argument of fear (5A), but it would strengthen Bob‘s point of view and attack her own. She decides to play a change of heart and forces Bob to switch opinions with her. Now she needs to wait for a chance to use her argument until it‘s her turn again.

End of game

The game ends when the players have no cards left or can‘t think of another argument. The player (and their opinion) with the most cards collected from threads wins.


Fast round

for 2–6 players, requires a stop watch

As in a normal game the players decide on topic and points of view. The cards are shuffled and placed face down in the middle. The first card is revealed and the stop watch started. From now on the players have ten seconds to think of an argument for their point of view utilizing the concept of the card. A player who can think of one can take the card and has another ten seconds time to present their argument. On success they receive the card and the next one is revealed. If they fail, the card returns to its place and the countdown starts anew. When the time is up without a player claiming the card, it is put aside and the next one is revealed. When a change of heart is revealed, all players now have to argue the point of view of their left-hand neighbour.
When all cards have been revealed, the player with the most cards wins.

Debate bingo

for 1–2 players

The cards without change of heart are shuffled. Each player receives 25 cards and places them face up in a grid of 5 x 5 cards in front of them. The remaining cards are put aside.
Now the players follow a debate they cannot influence themselves, e. g. a talkshow, parliamentary debate or party congress. If a player discovers an argument that fits one (or more) of their cards, they can turn it over. A single argument can sometimes fit several cards. The game is won by the first player to upturn an unbroken row, column or diagonal of five cards, or on end of the debate by the player with the most upturned cards.

For experienced players the players can be assigned opinions or speakers, and only use arguments for/by them.

Debate bingo can be played alone to get more entertainment from a lecture, a meeting or television.

Variations for large groups

Group bingo

The cards without change of heart are shuffled and distributed equally among the players. They now follow a debate (e. g. on video). If a player discovers an argument that fits one (or more) of their cards, they can put it down. In a didactic setting it is recommended to pause the debate and let the player explain how the argument fits their card.
The game is won by the first player who has no cards left, or on end of the debate by the player with the least cards left.
This variant is recommended for analyzing debates and teaching.


The cards without change of heart are shuffled and distributed equally among the players. A topic and at least two points of view are chosen. As soon as a player can think of an argument that fits one of his cards, they can present it to the group, regardless of the point of view it promotes. The card gets taken out of the game and the point of view the player argued for receives a point. The game ends as soon as the first point of view reaches ten points.
This variant is recommended for brainstorming and teaching.