English Sets

Contributed by Bella Atkins

This is a fairly simple game for two players (though in theory, it could be adapted for any number). The object is to collect sets of four equal cards. Each player is dealt four cards from a standard 52-card pack without jokers. The rest of the pack is laid aside, and will be used shortly.

Each player goes through their four cards to see if they have a set of two or more equal cards. If they do, they place it face up in their graveyard. A set of two or three cards is placed horizontal to show that it is an incomplete set. If a player has an entire set of four equal cards, he or she must place it vertically, and announce it (calling, for example 'set 8', for a set of eights).

If during this initial setup, it turns out two players have the same pair - for example two jacks each - these four cards are returned to the pack and it is reshuffled.

New cards are dealt to replace any sets placed in either player's graveyard. Any cards dealt that match an incomplete set in either player's graveyard is added to that set. Any player who acquires a new set must place it in their graveyard. Any further complete sets of four cards must be declared. This continues until each player has a hand of four cards that are different from each other and different from all the graveyard sets.

Now the top card of the undealt pack is turned up. This card is called the starter. There are five possibilities:

  1. If the starter matches an incomplete set in either player's graveyard, it is added to that set, and if the set is now complete (four cards), it is declared and turned vertical.
  2. If the starter matches a card or cards in one player's hand only, that player takes the starter with the matching cards from hand and lays them horizontally as an incomplete set. The player then replenishes his or her hand to four cards.
  3. If the starter matches one card in each player's hand, the three cards are returned to the pack, the pack is shuffled, and both players replenish their hands.
  4. If the starter matches two cards in one player's hand and one card in the other player's hand, the player with the two cards takes the complete set and declares it. Both players then replenish their hands.
  5. If the starter does not match any incomplete set, nor any card in either player's hand, it is moved to the bottom of the deck and a new starter card is turned.

If either player now has fewer than four cards, he or she replenishes their hand, drawing from the pack until they have four cards. If during replenishment a card is drawn that matches an incomplete set belonging to either player (even the opponent of the player who drew it), it is immediately added to that set and another card drawn. Note however, that pairs formed in a player's hand during replenishment are not laid out. They are kept in the hand until they match a starter.

When each player has four cards again, a new starter card is turned and the process is repeated.

It is possible for a stalemate to be reached where both players have cards in hand and no further matches are possible. In such a case, all the sets on the table will be complete and the two player's hands will be mirror images - for example 5888 vs 8555 or KK77 vs KK77 or even 2222 vs 9999. In such cases the players, by agreement, either

  1. exchange cards to give each player a complete set, declare one set each and replenish their hands to four cards, or
  2. if there are still cards in the undealt pack, shuffle the eight cards back into the pack and replenish the hands.

When all cards have been formed into sets, the person with more sets wins.

Illustrative game

Starting hands: A - QQ86. B - AAK7. A puts the queens in her graveyard, B puts aces in hers. They each pick up the number of cards they set down (in this case, two).

A - KJ86. B - K733. Player B lays down the incomplete 3s and replenishes.

A - KJ86. B - K872.

  • The starter is dealt - an ace. This is placed on the incomplete ace set in player B's graveyard.
  • Starter dealt : 10. Neither player has a ten, the starter is returned to the bottom of the pack.
  • Starter - Jack. A lays her jack down, this becomes her incomplete set. A card is dealt to her another King.

A - KK86. B - K872.

  • Starter - 6. A lays her six, the cards move to her graveyard. She is dealt a six, this moves to the incomplete set and another is dealt. Jack is dealt. This goes to the incomplete set and another is dealt. Three is dealt, this goes to B's incomplete set. Queen is dealt, this goes to the incomplete set. Nine is dealt. Hands:

A - KK98. B - K872.

  • Starter - 7. B plays her seven, incomplete set moved to her graveyard. B is dealt another 7, this is moved to the incomplete set. Card dealt is a king. (Note that they both now have 2 kings, this will be discarded at the end of the game).

A - KK98. B - KK82.

  • Starter - 5. Moved to bottom of pack.
  • Starter - 5. Moved to bottom of pack.
  • Starter - 3. Completes B's set. B calls 'set 3' and this is now a complete set.
  • Starter - 5. Moved to bottom of pack.
  • Starter - 10. Moved to bottom of pack as neither player has a ten.
  • Starter - 8. Each player lays their 8, and the pack is shuffled and each hand replenished to four cards.

A - KK94. B - KK52.

  • Starter - Q. Moved to complete A's set. - 'Set Queen'.
  • Starter - 7. Moved to complete B's set. 'Set 7'.
  • Starter - 4. A lays her four, incomplete set is moved to A's graveyard.

A - KK95. B - KK52.

  • Starter - ace. Moved to B's incomplete set.
  • Starter - 2. B lays her two, incomplete set moved to B's graveyard. B is dealt a six, this complete's A's 'set 6'. B is dealt a nine.

A - KK95. B - KK95.

  • Starter - 9. Each player lays a nine, the incomplete set is returned to pack and shuffled. Each player draws a card.

A - KKT5. B - KK55.

  • Starter - J. Moved to complete A's 'set Jack'.
  • Starter - 9. Returned to pack.
  • Starter - 2. Moved to B's incomplete set.
  • Starter - 8. Returned to pack.
  • Starter - 5. A lays one 5, B lays two. B completes 'set 5' and this complete set is moved to her graveyard. A is dealt a ten and a 4, she puts 4 on the incomplete set. B also receives a 4 and a 10: the four complete a set. A calls 'set 4'. A is dealt another ten, B is dealt an 8.

A - KKTT. B - KKT8.

  • Starter - 8. B lays her eight, and the incomplete set is moved to her graveyard. She is dealt an 8, this moves to the incomplete set. She is dealt a 9.
  • Starter - 9. B lays her 9, and the incomplete set is moved to her graveyard. She is dealt a ten.

A - KKTT. B - KKTT. Now they have identical hands, but this is not a problem, since all sets are either complete or incomplete or the cards are in the players' hands. No set is entirely in the deck.

  • Starter - 9. Moved to B's incomplete set.
  • Starter - 2. Moved to B's set to complete it. B calls 'set 2'.
  • Starter - 9. Moved to B's set to complete it. B calls 'set 9.'
  • Starter - 8. Moved to B's set to complete it. B calls 'set 8'.

The remaining cards in the hand are discounted as they both have two of each. A has four complete sets (6, 4, J and Q) and B has seven (9, 8, 7, 5, 3, 2, Ace)

B WINS!!!