Relatively Speaking



by Jeanne Aloia

Jeanne teaches Macintosh software. Two of her favorite people are Hypatia and Albert Einstein. She enjoys doing things people say can't be done.

Instructional Objective Participants will learn the names, faces, and quirks of a group of future in-laws.


Learners/Context The game is designed for four adults who are eager to play.

Sophia Pondolfini, from Brooklyn, is engaged to Shamus O'Reilly from San Diego. Alas, the potato famine has taken its toll on the O'Reillys, leaving just Shamus, his brother Sean, and their parents, Grady and Maureen. Sophia, on the other hand, has an abundance of relatives. She is concerned that the O'Reillys will be overwhelmed when they visit Brooklyn prior to the nuptials. To insure that the event will be an enjoyable one, she has devised a card game called Relatively Speaking that the O'Reillys can play before the trip. The game will allow them to match faces, names and quirks of 50 Pondolfini family members.

It just so happens that Sophia's cousin Gina Loiabridgida is a photographer and that she took individual photographs of 50 family members at the last Pondolfini Sunday dinner. The local print shop owner (who still has healthy kneecaps) owes Gina's cousin Rocco a favor, and has agreed to print the cards and other items for Sophia.


Rationale A card game lends itself to this application because it is compact, can be played anywhere, and is suitable for small groups like the O'Reillys. They can play the game for short periods of time. The rules are familiar and the cost is not prohibitive.


Rules The game is of the poker/rummy class and is patterned after the "go fish" type of card game.

Starting with the player to the dealer's left, deal 5 cards to each player. Place the remainder of the deck face down on the table. Give each player a stack of tokens. Each player checks to see if he or she has any pairs of cards. The player to the dealer's left (Player 1) begins the game by placing any matching pair(s) face up on the table and placing a token in the proper place on the Family Tree. Whether or not Player 1 has any pairs, he or she then asks the person to his or her left (Player 2) to "Give me Uncle Carmine" (or cousin Guido, or . . .). If Player 2 does not have the requested card, he or she tells Player 1 to "Go pick a relative." Player 1 then draws a card from the stack on the table. Player 1's turn ends (even if the card drawn matches a card in his or her hand). If Player 2 has the requested card, he or she must surrender it to Player 1. Player 1 places the pair on the table, places a token on the Family Tree, and asks Player 2 for another relative. Player 1's turn continues until Player 2 tells him or her to "Go pick a relative."

Play continues until a player has no more cards. The remaining players must give the cards to that player who places any matching pairs on the table and token(s) on the Family Tree. Player 1 becomes the dealer and deals 5 cards from the stack to each player. The player to his or her left becomes Player 1. Play continues as in step 2 (above). When the stack on the table contains 20 cards or less, the dealer deals only 3 cards to each player.

The game ends when each player still has cards but cannot get a matching card from the person to his or her left and there are no more cards on the table from which a player can "pick a relative." Combine all the remaining cards from each player and place the matching pairs on the table (don't put any tokens on the Family Tree). The player with the most tokens on the Family Tree wins the game.


Card and Deck Design There are 100 cards in the deck (50 pair). The Family Tree is a piece of plastic, approximately 18" square, with pictures of Sophia's parents in the center, and the rest of the relatives arranged relatively. The circular tokens are four different designs: a bottle of Chianti, a plate of spaghetti, an antipasto, and a cup of espresso (with anisette).

Design Process I began with three cards per relative, but decided it was too cumbersome. I originally planned to have the players place the pairs of cards and a token on the Family Tree, but the the tree would have been wall-sized! Smaller cards would have been too difficult to hold. The first plan did not include the Family Tree, but I decided to add it to increase the likelihood that the O'Reillys would better retain names and faces. The small photo in the upper-right corner makes it easier to hold the cards. The matching process requires the players to associate names with faces. An addition to the game might be a wild card, perhaps a "Godfather" card, that would give the holder extra points at the end of the game.