Team SET

While I am thinking about SET, it is high time I wrote about a version of the game SET that was invented at One Hundred Factorial back in 2017, but has never been recorded anywhere for posterity. It is prosaically named Team SET.

In case you don’t yet know, the game SET is a game of visual perception where from an array of twelve cards, each with various attributes, you need to find three with a certain condition, which form what is called a SET. A good place to start to learn more is at  Amie Albrecht’s excellent blog post about SET and you can find out how I teach people to play SET in my previous blog post.

Usually in SET, it’s everyone for themselves and you call out “SET!” as soon as you see one, thus claiming the SET for yourself. There are times when I decide I don’t want to get SETs myself (for example, when I’m helping new people learn how to play and want to give them some success finding SETS for themselves), so instead of claiming them for myself, I just tell everyone I can see one. If they can’t find it, I tell them one card involved in the SET to help narrow the search. One day in 2017 I was doing this at One Hundred Factorial while we were playing with the giant SET cards and other people joined in, each saying in turn they could see the SET until everyone had found it, and I had a rather wonderful idea: What if this was the actual game?! What if we played in teams and you only claimed the SET when all of the team members had seen it? And so, Team SET was born!

We had two teams of three people, each standing on opposite sides of the table. The team only claims a SET when each player on the team puts a hand on a different card in the SET. Players on the same team aren’t supposed to tell each other what cards to put their hands on, trusting their team-mates to find the SET themselves. Of course, once two cards in the SET have been claimed, there is only one card that could complete the SET and it’s a race for both teams to claim it. Competitive games can turn me off sometimes, but this one I found extremely fun!

I’ve played this game several times over the last couple of years, and it’s really very fun every time. I love watching people get all excited about the game, and the frenzied suspense created as people wait for their team members to find the set they can so clearly see. One thing that makes it fun is simply the reaching across the table making it rather like Twister. (To make it even more Twister-like, we did try once putting the cards on the floor and standing on them, but an excited run to claim a card resulted in a pretty spectacular slip, so we never did try that again!) I’m pretty sure the game wouldn’t work with ordinary-sized SET cards, because it wouldn’t be possible to see what the cards were if people’s hands were on them, especially through the tangle of arms once some cards had been claimed already! On that note, here is a PDF to print the giant cards for yourself.

To sum up, here’s the rules again:

  1. Choose two teams of three people and stand teams on opposite sides of the table.
  2. Deal out 12 SET cards in a grid.
  3. Players look for SETs and when they see one, they put one hand on one card of the SET.
  4. Each player is only allowed to put one hand on one card at a time. You can move your hand to a different card, but can’t touch two at once.
  5. Two players from opposite teams are allowed to touch the same card.
  6. Players are not allowed to talk to each other about which cards to touch.
  7. The first team to have their three players touching the three cards of a SET claims the SET.
  8. Once a SET is claimed, deal out three new cards. If everyone agrees there is no SET, or can’t be bothered looking for one any more, deal out three new cards.
  9. The game ends when no more cards can be dealt and no SETS can be found.
  10. The winning team is the one with the most SETs.

And to finish, here’s some videos of a game in action at a recent Adelaide University Maths Student club games night, just so you can see how much fun it really is.

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