GTM #194 - Mother of Invention: Game Designer Marsha Falco
by Set Enterprises

Marsha Falco, the inventor of Set Enterprises’ games, is known for creating classic games that have entertained millions of people for the past 26 years. Her games have continuously challenged all players, regardless of age and aptitude, while simultaneously keeping fun alive each time we shuffle a deck of her cards.

Captivating casual and competitive gamers for generations, Marsha’s games are among the most highly lauded with over 100 “Best Game Awards” from GAMES Magazine, Parents Magazine, Dr. Toy, Parents’ Choice, Teachers’ Choice, and ASTRA, and acknowledged by MENSA, with separate recognitions for SET, Quiddler, and Karma— a feat not easily accomplished.

Needless to say, Marsha’s original game, SET, started a long line of family-friendly, fun games that everyone can enjoy. The funny thing is — SET wasn’t always a game. SET was created by Marsha Falco in 1974 while doing genetic research in Cambridge, England. Marsha was a Population Geneticist who was trying to understand whether epilepsy in German Shepherds is inherited.  To study the genes and chromosomes in the dogs’ cells, Marsha created file cards with blocks of information for each dog.  Because certain blocks were the same on each file card, she drew symbols to represent blocks of data, rather than writing out the data.  She used symbols with unique properties to represent different gene combinations.  While explaining the combinations to the veterinarians she was working with, Marsha decided there could be some fun in the combinations of symbols and the game, SET, was born.  Over the years, Marsha refined the game by playing with her family and friends and it was finally released in December of 1990.

Marsha’s fan base is vast and dedicated in their love for the games. Every day, SET players from all around the world begin their day with online SET puzzles from setgame.com and from The New York Times online. Some fans have even taken their dedication down the aisle! One word lover enjoyed Quiddler, the SHORT word game, SO MUCH that they actually used the cards to spell out their marriage proposal! Many Quiddler players often Tweet winning hands and ironic word combinations. Needless to say, Marsha’s games have really integrated into the daily lives of countless families across the world.

This year, Five Crowns, the five-suited, rummy-style card game, is celebrating 20 years of fun. Five Crowns was originally created because Marsha’s mother requested a new game to help her and her friends resolve the disputes originating from many varying rules of rummy. Naturally, Marsha created her own take on the game and it’s been a family favorite ever since.

Marsha’s newest favorite is a mischievously competitive party game called Karma, an elimination-style game where everyone wins — except the last player holding their cards. Karma is a great balance between challenge and luck (even for avid strategy game lovers) because of the wild cards, called Karma Cards. These cards mix up the gameplay so much that it’s hard to predict who is going to win. In fact, Marsha came up with Karma’s tagline — “What Goes Around… Comes Around” — before the game even had a name due to its give-and-take nature. Karma has been described with words like “devious,” which allude to the subtle strategy that make the game easy enough for a 5-year-old to play in a family setting, yet it keeps adults battling it out until the very end. Originally, Karma was a family game that Marsha’s family frequently played together, but now she’s officially added it to the full line of Set Enterprises’ family-friendly games. 

Since Marsha loves to play games anywhere and at any time, she created Mini Rounds. Mini Rounds are shorter, faster versions of the original line of games — SET, Quiddler, Five Crowns, and Karma — that come in a fun, 2-inch, “click-clack” tins that easily fit into your pocket or purse for on-the-go play. You can easily have a quick game no matter where life takes you.

Amidst continuing to create wonderful games that bring entire generations of families together, Marsha also volunteers for MarK-9, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue K-9 Possee, and MC2, the Mountain Canine Corp in Los Alamos, New Mexico. So when Marsha’s not playing and planning another fun game, she’s training her Border Collie, Blue, to help find missing people. You can expect many more inventive and challenging games coming from Marsha soon, so keep a look out for more to come from Set Enterprises! Until then, you can check out their games and play online by going to www.setgame.com.