Game: Dobble

Dobble is a card-based game that will help your child increase their observation skills and their working memory (which will, in turn, help with self-control and concentration). The basis of the game is a set of fifty-five cards, each of which has eight symbols on it of varying sizes. Each card is designed so that there’s only one matching symbol between each and every possible pair of cards, and it’s up to the players to find these matching symbols. It sounds simple, but when you try to do this at speed, it becomes surprisingly difficult. Dobble can be played with between two and eight players. Be warned, it’s incredibly addictive, and if your child really likes it, you can use it as the basis for exploring the mathematical principles which were used to create it.

How Long Does It Take To Play? Dobble consists of a series of mini-games, each of which will take between three and five minutes to play, and typically you’ll play a number of mini-games in a row. This means that a typical game of Dobble  may last between fifteen minutes (for three to five mini-games) and half an hour (six to ten mini-games).

Ages: Six and older, although some younger children may enjoy it too.

Dobble Cards

Each Dobble card has eight symbols on it (out of a choice of fifty different ones), and each card has one, and only one, matching symbol with every other card in the deck (in this case, the anchor symbol).

Core Life Skills It Will Help Develop: Critical Thinking Skills – Observation; Working memory; Pattern recognition; Intrapersonal Skills – Self-control; Concentration; Physical Skills – Hand-eye coordination.

What Do You Need To Play It? In order to be able to play this game, you need to have a set of Dobble cards. UK-based parents can purchase a set from here, while USA-based parents can purchase a set from here.

Preparation: Once you have a set of Dobble cards, you’ll need to read the rules carefully so that you understand exactly how it’s played. It’s also an idea to have a practice round to ensure that everyone has understood the rules before you play in earnest for the first time.

How Do You Play It? There are five basic mini-games you can play with your Dobble cards. You can select an individual game to play and play it a number of times, or you can work through each of the mini-games sequentially, or in a random order. No matter how you play it, the winner is the person who has won the highest number of mini-games by the time you decide to stop playing. So what are the mini-games? They are:

Towering Inferno Dobble Mini-game

The starting position for The Towering Inferno mini-game for four players.

  1. The Towering Inferno: To play this game, first shuffle the cards and then place one card face down in front of each player. The remaining cards are placed face up in the middle of the table and form the draw pile. The object of the game is to win the highest number of cards from the draw pile before the cards run out. Cards are won from the draw pile by being the fastest person to find a match between the card the player is holding and the one at the top of the draw pile. To start, each player picks up the card in front of them and turns it over. The first person to call out a match with the top card in the draw pile wins it. This card then becomes their matching card. The game ends when the draw pile is empty, and each player then counts up how many cards they have to find out who has won.
  2. The Well: To play this game, deal the all the cards out to all the players, until you reach the last card. This card is placed face up in the middle of the table. Each player then shuffles their own cards and places them in a draw pile in front of them. The objective of this game is to get rid of all your cards as quickly as possible. The game starts when someone calls out Go! At this point, each player turns over the top card on their draw pile and tries to match it to the face-up card in the middle of the table. The first person to call out a match places their card on top of the existing card to become the new match card. They then turn over the next card from their draw pile. The first person to get rid of all their cards wins, and the game ends when only one person is left holding any cards.
  3. The Hot Potato: Each player is given a single card that is then kept hidden in their hand without looking at it. The remaining cards are set aside to be used in later rounds. The aim of the game is to get rid of your card faster than any other player. To play the game, someone says go, and all the players reveal their cards (making sure that all the symbols on them are fully visible). As soon as cards are turned over, each player must search for a match between their card and their opponents. When someone spots a match, they shout it out and place their card on top of the opponent’s card they are matching it to. The remaining players carry on, and try to find a match between their uppermost card and their opponents. If a player who has more than one card finds a match, they pass all their cards on to their opponent. This carries on until one player is left holding all the cards. This is the end of the round and they set the cards down in a pile in front of them. At this point, each player is dealt a second card and a second round begins following the same rules. This is repeated for as many rounds as the players wish to play, and the loser is the person with the most cards after the final round is played.
  4. Gotta Catch Them All: To play this game, a card is placed face-up in the middle of the table, and then each player is dealt a face-down card. The rest of the cards are set aside for later use. The aim of the game is to get as many cards as possible. On each round, the players all flip their card over at once and try to find a match between any of the revealed cards (whether theirs or someone else’s) and the central one. Whenever someone calls out a match between any of these cards and the central one, they get to claim that card. This continues until all the revealed cards have been claimed (and remember that each person can claim as many cards as they are the fastest to find a match to the central one in each round). At the end of the round, the middle card is replaced with a new face-up one, and each player is dealt a new face-down card. The game ends when there are no more cards to be dealt out, and the winner is the person with the most cards.
  5. The Poisoned Gift: To start this game, place one card face-down in front of each player and then turn the remaining cards face-up in a pile in the middle of the table, creating a draw pile. The aim of the game is to gain the fewest cards possible. To play the game, someone shouts go and each player flips their card over. At this point, each person must try to find a match between the card at the top of the draw pile and any of their opponents’ cards. When they spot a match, they call it out, and then place this card on top of their opponents’. This reveals a new card in the draw pile, and the players must continue to try to find a match between it and their opponents’ upper-most cards. The game ends when there are no more cards left in the draw pile, and the winner is the player with the fewest cards.
Dobble Sey

A set of Dobble cards comes in a handy metal storage tin (on the left), making them easy to carry around. It can be played anywhere there is enough room to lay the cards out.

When And Where Can You Play It? Dobble can be played anywhere where you have the room to set out the cards in the required pattern, and you may find if you don’t have room for one of the mini-games, you do have room to play a different one.

The Maths Behind Dobble: One of the most interesting features of Dobble is the fact that there is one, and only one, matching pair of symbols between each and every card in a set. You might think that this would be difficult to do, and it would be were it not for a set of mathematical principles. The main one of these is the principle of interactions, which states that two lines always have a single point in common, and this principle can be used to work out how to order items so that their arrangements have specific properties. The most widely known example of this is called Kirkman’s Schoolgirl Problem. In this problem, fifteen schoolgirls must go out for a walk in rows of three for seven successive days, but on each day, they must arrange themselves in such a way that no two of them will walk in the same row twice. In 1976, the technique used to solve this problem was generalised by Jaques Cottereau and used to create a game that was eventually (in 2009) developed into Dobble.

The basic mathematical principles behind Dobble are used to create error-correcting code which allow digital information to be transmitted over unreliable communication channels. This is because if any information is missing, you can work out what it is based on the data that was accurately received. For example, if you lost one of your Dobble cards, you could re-create it by examining the remaining cards to see what symbols it must have had on it so that it would have only one matching symbol to every other card. This is also the same principle behind Sudoku, where you can work out the arrangement of the digits one to nine in a grid given a specific rule (the same digit cannot appear twice in any row or column within the grid) and a few initial digits, and it’s remarkable how much missing information can be inferred from just the few bits and pieces that get through, as long as they are structured in such a way as to follow a set of rules similar to the cards used to play Dobble. If your child likes playing Dobble, and shows an interest in learning more about the mathematics behind it, then this is something which they may enjoy exploring (but don’t try to push them into it if they are not!).

Links To Useful Products For This Game

For Parents Based In The UK

You can purchase a set of the original Dobble cards by clicking here or on the image below.

For Parents Based In The USA

You can purchase a set of the original Dobble cards by clicking here, or on the image below.

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About The Author: This post was written by Colin Drysdale, the creator of How To Raise A Happy Genius. Bird, Dog, Pig, Frog is one of the games he invented to help make it fun to teach kids how to spell.

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