Games: SET (the card game)

I don’t find myself playing the daily SET game as often anymore, partly because I am less interested in playing the daily Quiddler game. I don’t know what dictionary they use to determine valid words for Quiddler, but when I see the words used in the previous day’s high score, it usually includes some pretty strange words. The SET game is fun, but I usually finish it in less than two minutes, and there’s no way to reshuffle and play another set of cards.

So I’ve been wanting to buy the SET card game, where I can shuffle and play again as many times as I want to. But SET is only carried at certain stores, and Wal-Mart isn’t one of them. I could have bought it online, but then I would have to pay shipping charges, and the idea of paying $5.50 shipping on a $12.99 item just didn’t sit well with me.

But today we made one of our rare trips to the Quad Cities to do some shopping, mostly for new sneakers for Jon. (It just isn’t easy to find men’s 11 1/2 EE. We finally had to get them at a sporting goods store.) While we were in the area, we went to Target (we discovered their Archer Farms cheddar sourdough twists when we were in Michigan, and it turns out Archer Farms makes lots of other tasty things), Bed Bath and Beyond (to buy a pop-up hamper our son in college requested for his birthday), and Barnes & Noble.

Normally we avoid bookstores, because there are just too many things we’d like to buy. But Jon’s Nook stopped working, and he hoped they could help him. (Unfortunately, because he bought it at Wal-Mart rather from them, they couldn’t do anything but tell us to send it in for a refurbished replacement.) While we were there, I got Al a book of optical illusions, another present for Zach, and the SET game.

So far I’ve only played solitaire. For multi-player games, it turns out that speed is key. There are no turns; whoever spots a set first and says, “Set,” gets to pick it up (after other players have verified the set is valid). One reason I bought it was to have another game to play with Al, but I hadn’t anticipated it being a game where speed counts. Those generally aren’t the best games to play with him. (I’m trying to think up an altered set of rules we can use.)

I find it interesting to learn (according to the rules booklet) that for any set of twelve cards (the standard layout), chances are 33:1 that there will be a valid SET. My first time through the deck, I never failed to find a valid SET. My second time through, I laid out the first twelve cards and there was no SET. So I followed the rules, which say to add another three cards. This changes the odds to an astounding (to me) 2500:1. Sure enough, I found a SET.

One thing I don’t understand in the rules for solitaire is that in such a case (where I had to add those three cards), it says I am penalized one SET. In order to remove that penalty, I have to find a SET in the last twelve cards. Fine, I did that. But what if I hadn’t had to lay down those extra three cards the one time? (Those three aren’t replaced, as they normally are after picking up a SET. So the rest of the game is played with just the normal layout of twelve cards.) I would have thought that to win, I would always need to find a SET in the last twelve cards.

However that particular aspect works, I enjoyed playing. Despite it being solitaire, I tried to find SETs as quickly as I could, just as if I were playing in a group. Sometimes it took a while, but except for the one time, I always found a SET, sooner or later.

I don’t know how often I’ll feel like playing this as a solitaire game. There are only two games I play a lot – Freecell and Wordspell. Other games are fun for a while, then I find myself losing interest, at least for quite a while. Of course, SET has one significant advantage – I don’t need a computer. (I’ve tried playing Freecell with ordinary playing cards, and it works, but it requires a large playing area.)

I rarely play ordinary solitaire card games because they’re mostly luck rather than skill. SET is a matter of luck also, as far as whether there is a SET or not, but it does take some thinking to find the SETs, more than most solitaire games require. (Freecell is an exception, which is no doubt why I like it so much.)

Now to think of a turn-based way to play SET with Al…

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