Our family has loved learning to play this card game. SET bills itself as the "Family Game of Visual Perception." This high-speed card game is a lot of fun- and at the same time, a real mental work-out.
This is how the game works: 12 cards are laid out for the group of players. The group then looks for a "Set" of three cards within the group which are either all the same, or all different in 4 specific qualities (shading, number of shapes, type of shape and color).
So, for example, in the picture above, the red-outlined ovals would be a "set" because they are all the SAME shape, all the SAME color, all the SAME shading (no shading) and all DIFFERENT numbers. So if you were playing and saw those cards laid out you would call out "SET!" and grab them up. Three replacement cards are set out, and play resumes again. You receive one point for every SET you find. Every time you call out "SET" and do not indeed prove to have a viable "SET" you lose a point. The player with the most points at the end of the game is proclaimed winner.
Understand? If not, play this little daily puzzle that SET has on its website (and on www.nytimes.com/set) and it will help you become more familiar with how the game works, and playing it will also enter you in their weekly game give-away, hurray!
SET is recommended for children 6 and up. We have, however, played this with our daughter who is 4- and she loves it. I would recommend taking out the speed element if you are playing with children younger than 6. When we play with my 4-year-old we just take turns finding a "SET" rather than playing the speed version- to limit her frustration. Our six-year-old will (excitedly) play the speed version with us.
SET can be played with any number of players. Of course, you will be limited to how many people could comfortably sit around the cards. We have played with 4 players, but you could probably play easily with up to 8. That would be a wild game! For those of you non-competitive types (who are not a member of my family :) you can also play SET solitaire-style.
I am a big fan of games that are both fun and educational- and SET definitely fits this criteria. The SET website even includes ideas for using the SET game for math instruction. Due to the educational benefits of this game, SET has been the recipient of a whole litany of awards, including the prestigious "Mensa Select" award. I cannot promise an increased IQ after playing SET, but I will say you will definitely feel smarter after successfully mastering this game.
The only thing that I do not like about SET is the packaging. The cards come in a flimsy plastic case that only survived about 3 weeks of happy fingers in our home. Now, our SET cards are in the game closet, held together by a rubber band. The price of the game is cheap enough, however, that I have been pretty forgiving of this packaging flaw.
This game is fun for the whole family- just prepare yourself for the day your young child beats you! Also, be prepared for how competitive things will get when you play with someone your own age, like your spouse :). Get ready to shout "this round is all or nothing, K?!"
The SET game retails for $12.99 and can be found in many specialty game/kid stores here in NYC (notably Kidding Around, Whipper Snippers, Dinosaur Hill, and Mary Arnold Toys). You can also find it on Amazon (Fat Brain Toys) for $9.67. You can also find set in a store near you by visiting www.setgame.com and entering your zip code on the "where to buy" page.