Friday, October 22, 2010

Unit Rummy and Game Design

The math game is at the end of the post - feel free to skip the rambling!

Adapting Games
This post actually started as I was thinking about my middle school bible study (online at and trying to think about a game that fits this week's study on Lazarus and the Poor Man.  An hour seems to be a bit long for my students to engage in bible study, at least for now.  (I haven't helped them build that capacity.  Yet.)  One of my favorite games occurred to me: The Great Dalmuti by Richard Garfield.  (Currently in print... so buy it! is a great online game store.)  It's actually an adaptation of a family of games that have been played for many years.  So I was looking for the rules for playing with a regulation deck, so that my students could play at home.  (It also got me thinking about making a version of the game with Monopoly money... more on that later!)  Richard's version uses a pyramid deck, with one 1, two 2's, etc., that helps gameplay but is hard to simulate with a regulation deck.

Ed Yourdon @ Flickr
In looking for the rules, I stumbled across an online archive of Richard's game design articles from The Duelist, which was the print magazine dedicated to one of Richard's other games: Lost in the Shuffle: Dalmuti  This article is about how games could be as big as movies.  Is that what's finally happening with the gamification of the internet?  (Note that Richard's current thoughts on game design, along with those of several other designers, are there to hear at

I sort of think the fourth year of HS math (for non-STEM majors, at least) should be a game playing course with Go, chess, hearts, bridge or Euchre, rummy, and Magic.  (Maybe Minecraft... I'm investigating.)  What else would you add?

The version of Dalmuti I wound up with for my youth group is below.  No specific math content, but problem solving and strategy is strongly helpful.  Maybe a good setting for probability dilemmas.

Ruler and Peasant

The Math Game Part
gail m tang @ Flickr

One of my favorite games to adapt is Rummy. (Rules here at Pagat, good resource for card game rules.)  It's a game about connections, seeing the cards in your hand in relation to each other and the cards in the discard pile, those relationships and then what your opponents have.  There's deduction and induction as you assemble pieces of information from what people play, discard and pick up versus the hidden information in their hand.  How much more mathematical can you get?

Units of measurement is one place where many preservice teachers feel underprepared, especially with respect to metric measurement units.  As we work in my K-8 geometry/measurement class on units, we use cards with a variety of units.  For them I have on some weird ones (drams, furlongs, hectares) to help them think about the process of learning these units.  We sort them by quantity that they measure, pair them as equivalent amounts, think of things to measure with the unit, and arrange them by relative size of the unit.  We play Concentration (aka Memory) with the equivalent pairs.  But the most fun, clearly, is playing Unit Rummy!

Unit Rummy
Deck: All unit cards. Players: 2 to 5

Deal: Shuffle all cards together. Deal 5 cards to each player. Flip over one card to start the discard pile. Place the stockpile and the discard pile card in the center of the table, where all players can get to them.

Object: To have the most played cards by the time someone goes out.

Course of play: After the deal, all players receive time to organize their cards. The person on the dealer’s left goes first, continuing clockwise.  A player may start his turn by drawing a card from the pile or picking up discards, going as far back into the discard pile as he wants. If a player goes back to a certain card, he must immediately play that card in a meld. (see “The Melds” below). You can’t discard this card. He may play any melds he wants to. It is not required to play a meld. A player must always end their turn by discarding a card (their choice). Lay the discards down in a way so each card is visible.

The hand is over when a player has no cards.  

Optional Scoring: Score one point for each card in play, and subtract one point for each card in hand. The player who goes out gets 3 bonus points.

Calling “Rummy”: If a player discards a card that may be laid off on other cards, the first player to notice it calls “Rummy” and plays the card for his benefit. A card counts a discard once a player takes his hand off it. Once the next player draws or picks up a card it is too late to rummy.

The Melds: a meld is a set of three or more matching cards. Cards match if they are equivalent measures or all use the same unit. For example 1 c = 8 fl oz = .25 quart for equivalent measures, or 1 ft, 1000 ft, .1 ft for all the same unit. On your turn, you can play a card that matches another player’s meld.

Instead of the weird units I have them sort and reason with, we play this game with a more elementary set of units.  (Email me if you want the college version with the weird units.)

Unit Cards (Elementary)


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I played online rummy game in this site to relax my mind and reduce a tension.Its a very nice site for rummy games.