Wild About Math! Making Math fun and accessible

20Jan/086

Eleusis: A different kind of card game

In 1956 Robert Abbott invented a game he called Eleusis. In 1959 Martin Gardner popularized the game in his Scientific American column. Eleusis is what's called an "induction game" which means that players need to try to induce the rules of the game. Inductive games are compared to deductive games, where players know what the rules are and try to deduce their moves. Yes, I find the terms confusing but, nonetheless, they're worth knowing because if you find yourself enjoying Eleusis you'll know how to refer to that type of game.

Eleusis is played with an ordinary deck of cards. The idea of the game is that one player creates a secret rule and other players have to play cards that satisfy that rule. Ultimately, of course, the goal is to determine what the rule is.

Before you set out to find instructions for Eleusis, Abbott recommends a simplified version of the game created by another man, John Golden, and named "Eleusis Express". Its instructions are on this page.

Eleusis Express needs at least three players since, at any given time, one player holds the secret rule and isn't playing cards. So, think of Eleusis as a fun family or party game, although having more than eight players participate is not recommended in the instructions.

Eleusis Express is a great game for teaching pattern matching, which is an absolutely critical skill inGamut of Games solving mathematical problems. I like this about the game. If you find yourself liking these induction games you might enjoy this web page which discusses some induction games. Wikipedia has articles about a few inductive games as well: Mao, Penultima, and Zendo. A Gamut of Games, by Sid Sackson, includes one induction game, Patterns II. A list of games included in the book is in this Wikipedia article. Copies of the book are available at Amazon.com.

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  1. Here is another of my favorite games. (I have a lot of favorites!) We played something very close to Eleusis Express, but without scoring, back when I had two hours for math club instead of just one. It was fun, but Mr. Golden is right when he says, “Remember: Whatever rule you come up with, it will always be harder than you think it will be.”

  2. Denise,

    Thanks for the heads up re rule complexity.

  3. Thank you! I’m going to be playing Eleusis Express in school now with the kids.

  4. Please email me if you wind up using this in class… I’d be very interested! -goldenj@gvsu.edu

  5. John,

    Welcome to the blog.

    For those of you who don’t know John Golden, he is the man who created Eleusis Express, the simpler version of the original Eleusis game.

  6. Conceptual Money Bingo Game Description:

    The six questions on each calling card cover recognizing money values in dollars and cents, comparing, rounding, counting and related coin/bill combinations, adding and subtracting, counting backward, and story problems. The game includes 51 calling cards, 360 plastic markers, 36 unique bingo cards with a variety of money values in dollars and cents, and two reproducible masters to assess and customize.

    SAMPLE CARD


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