Set (game)

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Set is a real-time card game designed by Marsha Falco in 1974 and published by Set Enterprises in 1991. The deck consists of 81 cards varying in four features: number (one, two, or three); symbol (diamond, squiggle, oval); shading (solid, striped, or open); and color (red, green, or purple).[1] Each possible combination of features (e.g., a card with three striped green diamonds) appears precisely once in the deck. Set won American Mensa's Mensa Select award in 1991 and placed 9th in the 1995 Deutscher Spiele Preis.



Several games can be played with these cards, all involving the concept of a set. A set consists of three cards which satisfy all of these conditions:

  • They all have the same number, or they have three different numbers.
  • They all have the same symbol, or they have three different symbols.
  • They all have the same shading, or they have three different shadings.
  • They all have the same color, or they have three different colors.

The rules of Set are summarized by: If you can sort a group of three cards into "Two of ____ and one of _____," then it is not a set

Given any two cards from the deck, there will be one and only one other card that forms a set with them. One example of a set would be these three cards:

  • One red striped diamond
  • Two red solid diamonds
  • Three red open diamonds

In one game, the dealer lays out cards on the table until either twelve are laid down or someone sees a set and calls "Set!" The player who called "Set" takes the cards in the set and the dealer continues to deal out cards until twelve are on the table. If a player sees a set among the twelve cards, s/he calls "Set" and takes the three cards, and the dealer lays three more cards on the table. It is possible that there is no set among the twelve cards; in this case, the dealer deals out three more cards to make fifteen dealt cards, or eighteen or more, as necessary. This process of dealing by threes and finding sets continues until the deck is exhausted and there are no more sets on the table. At this point, whoever has collected the most sets wins.


One more common variation on classic Set is Chain Set. In Chain Set, one card from the previous set must be used to make a new set. This means that the set possibilities are different for each player and additional deals are much less likely. There is also Memory Set, where the cards are face down and three are turned face up at a time, as in the classic game Memory.

Other variations:

  • Super-Set involves finding two pairs of cards such that both pairs lack the same card to form a set with (see the Mathematics of Set below). Note that because four cards can be grouped into pairs three ways, it is possible that they form a valid Super-Set with one grouping, but not with another grouping.
  • Ultra-Set: the table consists of three separated groups, 6 cards each. A valid Ultra-Set is a normal Set, with position in groups as the fifth property, i.e. either all three cards lie in the same group, or each of them lays in another. Also, a more complicated variation of Ultra-Set is played, where nine groups of 3 cards are laid out 3×3. Here a valid Set must satisfy the Set condition both on rows and on columns.

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