Planning Poker is one of the most popular estimation techniques — and with good reason. It’s a fun, collaborative process that gives everyone an equal voice, resulting in more accurate estimations.
As you might have guessed, Planning Poker cards are key to Planning Poker. You can use regular playing cards if that’s all you have to hand, but a set of cards that have been specifically made for this Agile practice really makes the difference.
What to look for with Planning Poker cards
A friendly tip » If you’re new to the concept of Planning Poker, then quickly hop over to our other blog (‘A beginner’s guide to the Planning Poker estimation technique’) to brush up your knowledge. What we cover below will make so much more sense once you do.
Planning Poker isn’t your typical game. When done right, it’s actually a hugely beneficial project planning technique — and one everyone needs to know the rules to as they participate. If your team members are always asking, “Wait, what does the Queen of Hearts represent again?” then their head isn’t in the estimations.
That’s why simplicity and single-mindedness are essential for a deck of Planning Poker cards.
You may also notice that most Planning Poker cards are based on Mike Cohn’s original deck. These cards will have values such as 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, and 100. Those values represent whichever metric your team uses to estimate with. There are plenty of variations available on the internet, but as long as the cards you choose have the same values, you’ll be fine.
Fibonacci & Planning Poker cards
Recognize the Planning Poker values above? They are based on The Fibonacci sequence — a well-known set of numbers that mathematically describe the “Golden Ratio”. The sequence is built by starting with 1 and then generating the next number by adding the previous two together. So 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8 and so on.
You’re probably wondering “Why not just use standard numerical increments?”, and that’s a fair question to ask. It might appear simpler to code your tasks as 1, 2, 3, but that narrow band can create issues once everyone has voted — after all, the resulting figures may be far too close together to deliver any real insight.
Using a scale that offers bigger increments helps the group reach a consensus quicker.
Where to buy Planning Poker cards
You don’t have to look far for Planning Poker cards, most places offer worldwide shipping or even sell through Amazon (simply search ‘Planning Poker cards’) for extra convenience. To avoid a never ending list, though, here are a few of our favorite decks:
Mountain Goat Software and its owner Mike Cohn hold the trademark for Planning Poker, with the majority of other companies basing their decks on this set. Cohn was the first to introduce the Fibonacci sequence to Planning Poker and shaped the practice into what it is today.
Mountain Goat Software offer their Planning Poker decks at cost price and are printed by one of the world’s leading card manufacturers. The only problem is they exclusively deliver within the US.
To make up for the lack of shipping options, they offer a royalty-free license for companies who wish to create their own decks.
They may not be the prettiest cards on the market, but Agile42 offers a wider range of shipping options. They also bundle in their ‘Business Value Game’ with their cards, a variant of Planning Poker that includes stakeholders and can be used to identify the true business value of features.
Agile Stationery’s Estimation Poker cards are a streamlined version of the Planning Poker deck. The values in their deck range from 1 to 21, still following the Fibonacci sequence but with the higher (and lesser-used) cards taken away.
With the higher values removed from the pack, Agile Stationery had space in the deck to expand from the traditional 4 player deck to a 6 player game. Perfect for larger teams!
Worldwide shipping is available, with same day dispatch in most cases.
Crisp offers a set of clear, easy to read cards with no extra bells and whistles that could confuse matters. The order process is quick and easy, with EU shipping within 2 weeks.
Planning Poker cards to download and print yourself
One of the downsides to Planning Poker is that it’s not quite as simple to play if you’re working remotely. PlanningPoker.com has been designed alongside Mountain Goat Software to give the closest thing to an in-person game, but not everyone gets on with playing through the screen.
Likewise, you may need to host an in-person game, but don’t have the cards yet. If so, don’t fret. You can simply download and print out Planning Poker cards and here are some of our favorite templates to try out:
This template offers every value increment and includes both front and back designs, ready for you to print out and laminate. It does not include a coffee break card.
The Teamworx template includes t-shirt cards ranging from XS to XXL, providing an extra way to gauge the size of a task.
Of course, you don’t have to settle for someone else’s pre-made templates. You can create your own Planning Poker deck in a few simple steps, offering a way to customize the cards to your team, project, or business.
Now you’re ready to go with Planning Poker, it’s time to get to work!
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