Saturday, September 6, 2014

Eleusis: A Card Game

Eleusis is a fun and challenging card game that at it's heart encourages critical thinking and problem solving. Always having been a fan of card games and puzzles, I was excited to learn how to play.

The Rules:

Each Player is dealt 10 cards, expect the dealer (so the game is best played with smaller groups).
The dealer is then left in charge of coming up with a rule that the cards played must follow. The remaining cards are sat in a pile. The dealer will flip the first card over, then the players will take turns placing a card from their hand to test their hypothesis of what the dealer's card rule may be. If the players card does not follow the rule, it is placed beneath the card it could not follow. The player must then draw a card. 

The Object of The Game:

To guess the dealer's rule! After each correctly played card, a player can take a guess as to what the dealer's rule is. Once they get it, they have successfully won the game. From here you can pick a new dealer and the game starts over.


The first card played in the example is the 5, followed by the correctly played 7. The 10 was played after the 7, however, because it was incorrect it is placed under the 7. Then the 2, followed by the are played after the 7 correctly. In this example the rule is very simple: Red, Black, Red,.....

Helpful Hints:

  • Don't make the rule too complex. If your rule is too complex it will restrict a lot of cards from being played. The players will likely be unable to solve your rule and there's no fun in that.
  • Don't make the rule too simple. The players will guess the rule quickly and the challenge of the game is lost.
  • Play wrong cards. When you think you have the rule, play a card that goes against it. If the dealer says it works then your initial guess isn't quite right yet.
  • What's the Ace? The ace can be viewed as high or low, 1 or 14, odd or even.
  • Remember the Characteristics. You're searching for a pattern, and in finding this you should remember to consider all the characteristics cards have. Cards are even/odd, black/red, different suites and numbers. Any one of these or a combination can go into the rule.

    While playing Eleusis you get caught up in the game, you forget that you're thinking deeply and critically about each card that is played. Whether a card is right or wrong, you are taking it into consideration. You take multiple steps to try to solve the problem, testing your hypothesis, reformulating it and testing it again. In your head you are adding numbers, subtracting them, analyzing the relationships. Yet, Eleusis is just a card game and you are having fun. After playing the game in MTH 229 (Mathematical Activities for Secondary Teachers) and discussing our thought processes, it does seem like a great game to play in the classroom. Since it is a card game, negative perceptions and connotations of math disappear for the time being. At the same time, students gain and engage in mathematical thinking.

Check out my follow-up blogpost (Eleusis: Problem Solving) where I discuss my thought process in solving the rule for the below Eleusis card game. Try it for yourself and compare results.