23:26 Wed 21 Feb 2007. Updated: 09:03 23 Feb 2007
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On Saturday night I was shown a new game, Set. Played with 81 specially-desigend cards, it’s a pattern-recognition game. It hurt my brain to play it, but I also found it rather addictive, and bought it on Monday.

Each card has four characteristics:

  • Shape (squiggle, diamond, oval)
  • Color (red, green, purple)
  • Number (one, two, or three shapes on a card)
  • Shading (hollow, cross-hatched, solid)

The cards are randomized and laid out 12 at a time. The object is to spot a set of three in this layout. A set is defined as three cards where each card is either the same as the two others or different from the two others in each one of the four characteristics.

So these cards make a set:

  • Three Solid Purple Squiggle
  • Three Cross-hatched Purple Squiggle
  • Three Hollow Purple Squiggle

So do these:

  • One Solid Purple Squiggle
  • Two Cross-hatched Purple Squiggle
  • Three Hollow Purple Squiggle

And these:

  • One Solid Purple Squiggle
  • Two Cross-hatched Green Oval
  • Three Hollow Red Diamond

According to the instructions, there’s a one in 33 chance of getting a 12-card layout without any sets in it. When this occurs, you put out another three cards, and the odds of not having a set in a 15-card layout are one in around 2500. Brian and I apparently found one of these layouts early on in our games, although I’m not convinced that someone better at the game won’t glance at it and find a set immediately:

15 cards from Set that didn't cough up a set that we could see

It’s a rather addictive game, it’s really simple and elegant, and it feels like mental exercise, in a good way. Go buy it.

I’m wondering if it’s possible to create a version of the game using MTG cards, substituting the following characteristics:

  • Converted Casting Cost (e.g. 3, 4, 5)
  • Color (e.g blue, black, white)
  • Set (e.g. Ravnica, Time Spiral, Mirrodin)
  • Type (e.g. Sorcery, Instant, Enchantment)


  • Casting Cost (e.g. 2U, 3B, 4W)
  • Rarity (common, uncommon, rare)
  • Set (e.g. Ravnica, Time Spiral, Mirrodin)
  • Type (e.g. Sorcery, Instant, Enchantment)

The problem is, you’d need combinations in every direction, and finding out whether or not 81 MTG cards fulfil those conditions might not be so easy. That would be fun to use, though!

6 Responses to “Set

  1. Frank Says:

    I have Set also, and I think it’s a great game. And it looks like you got lucky — no sets here. I looked it over and couldn’t find one, then checked here: http://www.stevenolte.com/set/set.html

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Heh, I can see this being a game you’d like, Frank! Thanks for the link, I’ll have to look into that.

    I’m curious about what makes one good at the game (of course, since I wonder about that with every game I play), and also about my feeling that different people are good at seeing different kinds of sets.

  3. Lev Says:

    You could say that, on Saturday night, we set you up.

  4. monsun Says:

    Well, you for sure learnt fast how to win it!

  5. Tadhg Says:

    Lev: That’s… wow. Words fail me in attempting to describe the awfulness of that pun.

    Monika: It’s funny, I’m not sure I’ve improved much since my third game. First game terrible, second game okay, third game click. Further games have gone well too.

  6. Lev Says:

    No pun shame. Zero.

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