Tragedy or Comedy Cards

Ramp up the drama — and the fun! — in your review time with a hefty dose of Tragedy or Comedy. These entertaining cards transform an ordinary drill session into a rousing game of chance that keeps all your players guessing until the very end.

What Tragedy or Comedy players are saying:
Let’s Get Down to Business

How to Play

Will the final outcome be a tragedy… or a comedy?
No one knows until the last card is turned — and it’s different every time!

Supplies Needed:

  • One deck of Tragedy or Comedy cards
  • Flashcards (or another source for questions: textbook, notes, etc.)
  • Dice (10-digit dice are ideal, but any will do)
  • A timer (for timed challenges)
  • Scoring sheet & pencil
  • A calculator (just in case!)
  • Mystery Envelopes (optional)

Basic Game Play


Divide the group into equal teams (usually two). Roll the dice to determine which team goes first.


Ask a review question, such as: “Name the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” or “Recite the 8s times tables.”


If the team answers correctly, the instructor draws a card from the top of the Tragedy or Comedy deck. The team may choose to “Pick or Pass” this card:

  • “Pick” — the team keeps the card drawn and lives with the tragic or comedic results.
  • “Pass” — the team passes the card to the other team (or the next team, if playing with more than two teams) and the other team must live with the results.

Points won/lost for either team are recorded on the scoring sheet.


If the team answers incorrectly, no card is drawn, and the next team takes their turn.

Ending the Game


The instructor determines the end of the game at his/her discretion: by time, number of questions, or any other method.


The winner is the team with the highest point total at the end of the game.


The instructor is the final arbiter of the rules of the game, and may change the rules at his/her discretion.

Special Cards

Each TOC card may include points to be awarded or lost (sometimes by multiplying, dividing, or converting negative values into positive, etc.), or a challenge to perform (for example, a certain number of points for each sit-up completed). Other special cards may include:

  • Sudden Death Final – Teams answer questions in rounds, eliminating any team that answers incorrectly. The last team to answer a question correctly is declared the winner. (Alternatively: only one more question is asked and then the game is over.)
  • Immunity Card – The team gets immunity from the next tragedy card (either by drawing or having it passed to them).
  • Steal a Player – The team may choose a player from another team to join theirs.
  • Switch Points with Another Team – Swap scores with the team to your right (or left).
  • Take Another Turn – Other teams are skipped, and the current team answers another question.
  • Mystery Envelope (2nd Edition only) — team chooses one (or more) sealed envelopes containing points won or lost, a challenge of some kind, or any other consequence the instructor deems fit
  • Wipeout (2nd Edition only) — all scores are reset to zero but game play continues
  • Physical Challenge (2nd Edition only) — instructor provides a physical challenge appropriate for the class (lapping the classroom on one foot, sit-ups, planks, balancing a pencil on one’s nose, etc.)
  • Team Shuffle (2nd Edition only) — all teams are dissolved and reformed based on an arbitrary factor (eye color, birth month, middle initial, matter of opinion, left-handed or right-handed, etc.) or instructor’s choice

Modification Ideas

  • Add or remove cards as needed. Keep students guessing which cards are in the deck, and how many cards of any one type there might be.
  • Add mathematical operation dice to the mix. When asked to multiply or divide points, first they must solve the equation rolled.
  • Instead of two equal teams, divide teams differently, or try individual play. Modify the cards to suit as you go.

Additional Resources

Printable Rules

Click the buttons below to download a printable list of rules for Tragedy or Comedy. You can choose a PDF version, or an editable document format.

REMEMBER: The instructor is the final arbiter of the rules of the game, and may change the rules at his/her discretion.

Scoring Sheets

You can use any blank sheet of paper to score a game of Tragedy or Comedy. A printable Scoring Sheet is provided for your convenience. The Scoring Sheet can be used horizontally or vertically, and adapted for almost any number of players or teams. Examples of how to use the Scoring Sheet are also included below.