Scratch My Back was designed in
Japan by Leon
Butchers and is published by AGO Educational Ltd. For contact information, please visit the AGO card game website
How Scratch My Back Came About:
In English, there are many
expressions involving playing
cards. Some common examples
To be dealt a good
To play your cards
To have an ace up your
To keep your cards close
to your chest.
To lay your cards upon
expressions make the comparison between the game of life,
and a game of cards. In life as in cards, there is luck
(you don't always know what cards you will be dealt).
There are things you do not know, there is risk, and of
course, your actions affect the outcome of an event (so you'd
better play your cards right)!
My idea was to use this
'cards = options in life' metaphor quite literally, and
create a game where the cards themselves provide the
options for dialogue within the game, so
that players may use these cards to interact with each
other in interesting ways.
This flash of
inspiration hit me one day as I considered my 'options' after
an unusual conversation with a friend who needed me to help out
at his language school. There was just one problem: he
needed me to start work at 8:00am on a Sunday! Working Sunday
mornings is not really my cup of tea, so I made a simple excuse:
'Sorry, but that's a bit too early for me a Sunday.' Yet, he was persistent, and asked
what I was doing.
said. 'I've got plans to be up late on Saturday
'It's only for a couple of
hours. It's easy money', was his
'If you change the start
time, to 1pm, I'm in!' I joked.
'Why don't you go back to
bed after the lessons?' he replied.
'Why don't you ask
somebody else? I asked...
continued on and on like this for a while. He was determined,
and it seemed that no matter what excuse I made he always had a
better reply. Eventually I told him I would 'get back to
As I thought over the
conversation in my head later that day, it occurred to me
that it really was like we had just been playing a game of
I wrote down a bunch of strange
requests, excuses, reasons, questions and chores upon an old
deck of playing cards. The next day, I took the cards to school
and used them in my classes. It worked great! We played cards for half of the class, and the
students got a lot out of it, too! At the
end of the year, when I asked students what they liked most
about classes that year, the card game was mentioned again and
Although it has changed and
evolved a lot since then, it's perhaps thanks to their initial
encouragement that Scratch My Back came to be, and from there also grew all the other AGO card games as well.
We hope you have fun playing
Scratch My Back. Most of all, if you are a language student, we
hope that you learn something new and become a better English
speaker and communicator as a result.
Buy Scratch My Back