Set is a speed-based set collection game that is about find the commonalities and the differences.
Designer(s): Marsha J. Falco
Artist(s): John Langdon, Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Set Enterprises, Inc.
Set was one of the few games that I had growing up that I think really helped shape me as a person. It seems like a silly thing to say about such a simple game, but it taught me a lot. Set teaches how to find the obvious correlations and the not so obvious ones.
The lack of structure in the game allows for a group to play Set as causally or competitively as they want. I know I would have trouble holding back my competitive nature. But no matter how you play, Set is a light and fun game about pattens.
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This is a general overview to provide context for the review, not an in-depth how to play. Some rules may be glossed over or missing.
Set is a game for one to how ever many people. The box has an upper limit of twenty, but I don’t really see why that would be the limit. The only limit is how many people can fit around a table and look at a grid of cards. Twenty seems like a bit much.
Set is a free form game with no rounds or player turns. It is everyone’s turn all of the time and whoever acts the fastest will get the reward.
To setup the game, all the cards should be shuffled in a random manner. Then a 3 by 4 grid is laid out onto the table. This should be in the center of the play area as all players should be able to see and reach the grid.
During the game, players will look for sets of three. There are four axes that would have to be considerate of: number, shape, color, and pattern. The key thing to know in set in that each of these axes should be all the same of all different.
For number, you can have all the same number of icons or all different number of icons. This leads to sets of all ones, all twos, all threes, or a set of a one, a two, and a three. A combination like one, two, two will never happen because it doesn’t really fit into that category.
The thought process above needs to be followed for the other axes as well. When looking at shapes, you want all diamonds, all ovals, or all squiggles. Or one of each. Colors range between purple, red, and green. And patterns range between empty, striped, and full.
I love some of the strange combinations that can occur which I would not normally think of as a “set”.
When a player spots a set, they will call it out and place their hands on the set. This is important because if two people call out a set, the person who was fastest get dibs. There can also be situations where two people take two different sets at the same time.
One the set is confirmed, the player takes the set and new cards are drawn from the deck and placed into the grid. And then it begins again.
Concept: But There are No Matches?
Well then you can’t start a fire! Just kidding. Sometimes a grid will have no sets available. If all the players agree that they cannot find a set, three new cards are added to the grid. The next set being found does not add more cards like normal. Instead, the cards will be shifted in the existing grid and the game will continue.
The game ends when two conditions are fulfilled. One – there are no more cards in the deck to add to the grid. Two – there are no possible sets let. Once every player has given up on finding more sets or, if miraculously, all the cards were grouped into sets, then it’s time for end game scoring!
Each player will have a score equal to the number of set they collected over the game. Three sets, which is equal to nine cards, would get a player a score of 3. The player with the highest score wins the game!
Who Will Like it?
This game is great for anyone who likes set collection and identifying patterns. I really feel that this simple pattern identification started me off my journey of love for statistics. This game forces you to think on different axes that you might not ordinarily coordinate. Especially if there is nothing in common.
What I Think
Set is a great game to help with cognitive thinking. I was pushed outside of my normal box of thinking which opened my mind to new possibilities. The speed aspect brought stakes to the game and makes the experience more exhilarating with that natural clock built into the game.
What did I like?
I love the way set twists and turns with so few differences between the cards. Finding the different sets is so satisfying as you must manipulate your mind in different ways to adjust to the four axes.
What didn’t I like?
The speed aspect of the game, while interesting, can cause one player to dominate the game. There can also be advantages (or disadvantages) to whoever is dealing out the cards. I have seen someone call Set when only one new card has been drawn giving the dealer no time to participate.
Set is a great game for all ages to challenge cognitive thinking and help ingrain a different type of thinking among the players. While this isn’t a game that reaches my table often, it is one that I have no problem playing by myself to keep my thinking quick and sharp.
Rulebook/Learning the Game
Set is a game that is easy to learn in a rulebook that is small and straightforward.
My first game of set was very confusing for me. I took a while to adjust to the different axes and I would often call out “set” when I hadn’t found one. Luckily, there is no punishment for claiming you have a set when you don’t. Maybe there should be?
As I got better, I found that the speed required for finding sets was a key element. I was able to find sets faster and faster until I was the one dominating the game. And maybe that’s why I didn’t like it, I wanted the challenge of other players. I think the challenge level will vary depending on the other players at the table.
Set really lies between a 5 and a 6 for me because I do seek this game out, but I generally play it by myself. When it comes to playing with others, I tend to lean toward other game first as set feel very simple for what I usually play in a competitive setting.
*See my rating scale Here