Introducing SET, a Card Game based on Logical and Cognitive Reasoning

Introducing SET, a Card Game based on Logical and Cognitive ReasoningIntroducing SET, a Card Game based on Logical and Cognitive Reasoning

SET is a family card game based on visual perception. This game has won 35 game awards that also include the prestigious MENSA award. SET can be a good travel game, a perfect party game as well as a good afternoon game. This game teaches logical reasoning and is immensely fun to play with. Most importantly, the game is not based on luck and is based on logical reasoning.



SET Game Box

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SET is hugely challenging to play with. SET doesn't have any limitation in the number of players. Let's go through some attributes of SET in greater details.

Main Objective

SET is basically a game constituting 3 cards. The player needs to form a set constituting 3 cards where one specific feature of all the 3 cards is same or a specific feature of all the 3 cards is different. Each card bears 4 features which are:

  • Color(Red, Purple, Green),
  • Shape(Ovals, Diamonds, Squiggles),
  • Number(1, 2, 3),
  • Shading(Solid, outlined or Striped).


The four features present in each card

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All the 4 features have to be taken into account while playing. These 4 features, individually have to satisfy the objective stated above to form a set. A detailed explanation with examples can be found below in the “Rules” section.

No previous Knowledge is required

SET is highly addictive to play with and no previous knowledge of the concepts of mathematical set theory is necessary for engaging in SET. Age isn't a barrier. The players have to keep in mind only a single objective (stated above) while playing this game which is also pretty easy to comprehend.

How you can play this Game

SET can be deemed a rapid game. SET can be played by a single player or by multiple players. The first player who can see a three-cards set following the rules below has to call out “SET”. After that, s/he has to pick up those 3 cards that has formed the set. No luck's involved. The players don't have to wait for their turns as well. See, calculate and form a set as fast as you can. The motto is to be faster than the other players. Keep on finding more sets until the bundle gets depleted. The player who has formed the maximum number of sets wins the game, as simple as that.

A detailed description of the play

A dealer needs to be present who has to shuffle the deck of cards and place 12 of them(face up) from the deck on the playing surface. All the players can see the 12 cards. Players have to percept visually whether any 3 of those 12 cards form a set or not considering the rules. As soon as one player sees a 3-cards set from the 12 cards, s/he says SET and picks up those 3 cards. If it's denoted correct, that particular player gets to keep the 3 cards. The dealer again replaces those 3 cards by providing 3 cards from the main deck. No turns are available for the players in this game. The player who calls out “SET” will get full power of the game, at least at that point of time. No other player will be able to interfere until that set's taken care of. If the set's found incorrect, that particular player loses a point. The 3 specific cards get back to the playing surface.

Another interesting feature of the game of the game appears if all the players concur that no set can be formed from all the 12 cards present on the surface. The dealer has to lay 3 more(face up) from the main deck on to the surface. If a set is found, then the dealer should not pick up 3 more cards again because the number of cards on the table is still not reduced to 9. At that moment, the total number of cards on the surface is 12. As soon as it reaches 9 after the formation of another “set”, 3 more cards should be taken from the main deck and placed on the surface. This repeats throughout the game. In simpler words, through an example the process is explained below:

Dealer picks up 12 cars. No set is formed from the 12 cards. Dealer picks up 3 more from the main deck. No set can be formed again. Dealer again picks up 3 more. Now a set can be formed. So the total number of cards on the table at this point of time is 18. A player collects the 3 cards. Number of remaining cards on table is (18-3)15. Dealer should not pick up 3 more from the main deck because the targeted number of cards on the table has not yet reached 9 unless he's forced to do so (e.g. a condition where a set is again impossible to form from the available 15 cards). Say, another set is formed. Number of cards left is now (15-3)12. Dealer shouldn't pick up 3 more from the main deck now. Another set's formed. Number of cards get reduced to 9 on the surface. Dealer should pick up 3 more from the main deck and place those 3 on the surface to return the total number of cards on the surface back to 12.

The main motto is to form a set from the least number of available cards on the surface which is 12.

Instructions and Rules

Suggested age: 6+

The main objective of the game is already discussed above.

Quick rule

All cards have four features as explained above. Let's consider a single feature for an easier explanation, say for example “color”. If 2 cards are red in color and another one is purple in color, then the 3 cards together DOES NOT form a set. Either this feature has to be different in all the 3 cards or it has to be same in all the 3 cards to form a set. Similarly, all the other 3 features (shape, number, shading) of each card have to be taken into consideration. All the four features displayed by each card have to satisfy such condition to form a set together. Then only a set can be formed with 3 cards. This is explained below with relevant images.


Same shape is prevailing in all 3 cards, same color (red) is prevailing in all the 3 cards, different shading is displayed by all the 3 cards, same number(2) is present in all 3 cards. Hence, the 3 together DOES form a SET as per the rules.


3 different shapes are present in all 3 cards, 3 different colors are present in all 3 cards, 3 different numbers, Same shading(stripes) prevails in all 3 cards. The 3 together DOES form a SET.


3 different shapes, 3 different colors, 3 different numbers, 3 different shadings. All 3 DO form a set.

Image courtesy for the above 3 pictures-


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3 same colors, 3 same shapes, 3 same number, 2 same shading and 1 different shading. All 3 cards DO NOT form a SET.

SET is available here. SET is fun to play and this game is also educational in nature considering the point of view of mathematics. It helps to develop logical and cognitive reasoning skills. This game has a set of rules that are applicable in the mathematics topic 'set theory' which plays a vital role in higher classes' mathematics like probability, permutations and combinations etc. This game is also an exercise for brain because both the left and right brain are involved in the thought process. So, try it out with gusto! You certainly won't be disappointed.

Sudipto Das

Sudipto writes technical and educational content periodically for and backs it up with extensive research and relevant examples. He's an avid reader and a tech enthusiast at the same time with a little bit of “Arsenal Football Club” thrown in as well. He's got a B.Tech in Electronics and Instrumentation.
Follow him on twitter @SudiptoDas1993

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