Ready, Set, Go: Red Cards in Dunedin

Ready, Set, Go: Red Cards in Dunedin

A red card is a sacred institution, a legacy bestowed to us from our ancestors. Much like oral sex, it’s a delight, but only if you know what you’re doing. There are rules you must follow - both as giver and receiver - to ensure that everyone has a good time. No one likes too much teeth, and no one likes the guy that bails. Once you’ve been invited to the red card, there is no escape. Once you have arrived at the destination, you have to complete the red card’s mission before you can even think about leaving. These are hallowed grounds you’re walking on.

Red cards entered the psyche of Scarfies in about 2004, and became a staple of Otago party culture by 2006. An anonymous OUSA employee said that as an Otago student in 2007, he and his mates had a red card that sent them to Australia. No matter how wild or basic the theme, there is no denying that red cards are incredibly formative to the flatting and party experience of young Otago Uni students.

According to Critic’s survey of 100-something students, most students learn about red cards in first year (44.3%), but won’t attend one until they have left their hall or parents’ house and headed to Studentville. Meanwhile, 4.3% of respondents have no idea what the fuck a red card is. The following is a breakdown of the rules, behaviours, and best red card ideas of Otago Uni students.


General red card rules:

  • Don’t pull one during exam times. Unless you and everyone you know is a BA student.
  • Don’t be a dick.
  • If you’ve already pulled a red card and you want to pull another one, you must drink a whole box (12 for girls, 24 for boys) in a shared or public space without anyone seeing you. Must take a picture after each drink for proof. This rule only works once.


If you can’t make a red-card:

  • A red card is compulsory, so if you miss one then your red card is not compulsory.
  • “$50 fine to Trump’s re-election campaign if you can’t come (great incentive)”


Firstly, the theme. The theme must be interesting and ideally something personal to the host. A red card is NOT just a costume party. You can’t put on a Halloween theme and call it a day. The theme requires depth, it requires actual structure to the event. You, the red cardee, hold the power to command your friends and flatmates to do whatever the fuck you want. Think long and hard about how this power ties into your theme. If you have a Mamma Mia 2 theme, consider karaoke with penalties for messing up the words, and sculling everytime Pierce Brosnan opens that beautiful mouth of his. If you have a #FreeBritney party, how are you going to enact meaningful change for Britney?? THINK. Repeat after me: A red card is not just a costume party.


If you’re in want of some ideas, here are the best submissions Critic received:

  • Avatar State:  You have to master the four elements: Water = A box, Air = Cones, Fire = Darts, Earth = Gear. Over the course of the red card the flat has to master the four elements. (Mixing all of that stuff is dangerous af though. We'd recommend keeping the concept and changing the rules). 
  • Thermal lock-in: Put every heater you can find in the smallest room, and insulate any gaps in the door or windows with towels. No one leaves until everyone has finished their beverages.
  • Shower: Get all of your flatmates into the bathroom of your flat. Have a beer under the running shower. Once the flat has all finished one beer in the shower, towel off and walk to another flat and have a beer in their shower. Repeat x12.
  • Bondage vs Blackout: “I asked each of my flatmates to choose between bondage and blackout, without them knowing what their choice would correspond to. If you chose blackout you were blindfolded and if you chose bondage you were tied to the keg with a short bit of rope. No one could remove their blindfold or untie themselves until the keg was finished.”
  • Centurion: One shot of Billy Mavs every minute, for 100 minutes.


Overused/boring themes that you should avoid:


  • Love Island theme.
  • Lock ins (No one leaves the flat until they finish their alcohol anyway. At least add something extra to it).
  • David Bain theme (okay so what, you have an ugly jumper. That’s called just going to a party).
  • Wine and Cheese night (not a red-card and you know it).


Red card submissions we received that you should NOT do. Don’t be fucking dumb:

  • “Stuffing as many grapes as possible in the foreskin and recording it.” (But if you do happen to ignore all common sense, commit such an act and record it, send the video to
  • “Acquire something inflatable from Kmart. Acquire box. Find a river/lake/large body of water. Float into the middle. Not allowed on land until the box is finished. Littering incurs severe penalty.” (Just like, anything that involves swimming and drinking is a bad idea, don’t do that shit).
  • “We all seduced each other's boyfriends to see who was loyal... NONE.” (Are you okay??)

Now you have an idea of the theme, when should you pull that precious red card of yours? 46.4% of students think you should pull one on early-mid Semester 2. It makes sense, you’ve got a good grasp of uni and your flatting dynamic, but none of the serious assignments have started to roll in yet. Early-mid Semester 1 was the second favourite, with end of Semester 1 coming in third. Generally everyone thought having one end of Semester 2 or in the mid-year break was fucking stupid. As to when exactly you pull one, 52.2% of students think anytime is good, whilst 23.5% prefer weekends and 17.4% love a weekday pull.


General things to think about when throwing a red card:

  • Tell one person the wrong theme just for laughs. Hilarity ensues.
  • A red card should be smaller than your average flat party, so you can control your participants. Forcing people to attend your party and follow your rules requires the kind of loyalty that you won’t get from that random girl you met in the Maccas bathroom last Saturday.
  • Obviously, consent. If someone really doesn’t want to drink, or has had enough, then don’t force them to keep going; a trip to A&E would break all the rules. Also you could really fuck them up.


If you’re invited to a red card:

  • Get off your phone, be a good guest.
  • Commit 100% to the theme. If it’s a costume-theme, turn up in costume. The gods demand it.
  • Rethink what alcohol you’d normally bring to a party. The host might provide the alcohol or ask you to bring a certain box, but if they don’t, then it’s up to you to be practical. Don’t bring wine or a spirit, you’ll either drink it too quickly or you’ll fucking die. You cannot, never, go wrong with a box of beer or RTDs. You’re gonna be drinking a lot of liquid: think smarter, not harder.


Other themes students recommended:

  • All American
  • Tradie’s Night (hi-vis mandatory)
  • Olympics (form a team, pick a country. You drink based on how many and which medals your country has won).
  • Scrumpy Hands (oldie but a goldie - tape a Scrumpy to each hand and you have to finish them before you can free your hand).
  • Fear Pong (the number of your flat denotes how many standards need to be split between the attendees. The attendees then do a huge group game of beer pong, like we’re talking eight-way beer pong or higher. Bonus: putting a truth or dare challenge at the bottom of the cup so you not only have to drink, but then do some random shit. Shout out to the gals on Union Street who did this).
This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2020.
Posted 1:24pm Sunday 26th July 2020 by Caroline Moratti.