Iota: The biggest little game we’ve ever played

Recommended Age:8+
Play Time:30 Minutes
Contents:66 cards
Set of Rules
Awards:Mensa Select Tillywig Best Family Fun Award Parents' Choice Recommended National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) Gold Award
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post below are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This is the smallest game I have ever played by far but it is a LOT of fun. Add cards to a grid but make sure the color, shape and number are all the same or all different in the line. Easy right? Not so much. Sure at first it might be but later when you have tons of grids…its quickest eye wins.

My husband and I may have found our new favorite pattern card type game in iota. It is portable, requires thinking and concentration (which means we can’t play much with our kids around) and is a lot of fun. We win about the same amount of the time because of the luck of the cards so we really like this game.

It is seriously so small I almost lost it once or twice. Great for traveling around with us which is nice but make sure you remember where you keep it stored while taking it with you. The cards themselves are just like playing cards but squared…and smaller. The tin is a standard tin material that can dent somewhat easily but doesn’t get destroyed or damaged very much which is nice. Despite almost losing it I do love the convenient size.

2014-05-29 20.59.55-2 copyNow on to how to play and adjust for younger kids. Hopefully I won’t confuse you too much because the game is a little (only a very little) tricky to get at first but you learn quickly.


Score the most points to win.


Get a paper and pen or something to keep track of your score and then shuffle the cards. Pretty much the same in each and every card game ever. As you shuffle make sure you check out the cards so you know what to look for. Pass out 4 cards to each Player and put the rest in a pile where everyone can reach them and flip the top card and put it in the center of the play area. This is the Starter Card.


In this game the teeniest person goes first…I love games that have strange First Player rules. On your turn you can do 1 of 2 things. You can add 1, 2, 3, or 4 cards to the “board” that connect to any already in play. Just make sure they follow the Guidelines (I’ll explain in a second) OR you can Pass Or Pass and trade in all or some of your cards in for new ones. If you trade they go back in the Draw Pile.

You have to play the cards in a certain way so pay attention. The cards have 3 different properties on them Color, Shape and a Number. Those variations are:

  • Colors – Blue, Red, Yellow, Green
  • Shapes – Triangle, Square, Circle, Cross
  • Numbers – 1, 2, 3, 4
  • 2 Wild Cards that can be used in place of any card to complete a Line. It is worth 0 points

Each card will have all 3 properties on them so look closely before you play them because you can only play them a certain way. Cards have to played in a Line which is 2, 3, or 4 cards in a either a Horizontal or Vertical line. Now here is the catch…EVERY card in that line has to have each property either be the same on each card or different. Sounds confusing I know but let me clarify…if I can.

2014-05-28 22.06.51 copyIf the Starter Card is a Red Triangle with the Number 2 (I’ll use the example the instructions give) then either all the cards have to have at least 1 property in common like they are all Red, all have the Number 2 or all have a Triangle. They can have more than one like all have Red AND all be Triangles BUT the properties that are not the same HAVE to be all different. Which means if you have all Red Triangles then you should have the Numbers 1 – 4. Same goes for having just all Red cards then the other cards would have to be all different Shapes and different Numbers. Make sense now?

Well here are some more Rules for the game but pretty much explain what you can do when you play a card or cards on your turn.


  • When playing cards they must connect in a single Line and at least 1 card must connect to the Grid (the game board, think dominoes)
  • Additional Lines can be created as long as 1 connects to the Grid
  • You can extend a Line that has less than 4 cards.
  • 4 Cards is the max allowed in a Line and it is called a Lot. A Lot is worth Double Points
  • Cards do not have to be in any particular order just make sure they follow the Same or Different Rules.
  • Gaps in the Grid will happen and are ok. Some Lines are just not possible to complete. Let it go…
  • Wild Cards may be “Recycled” or replaced with a card that fits the Line/Lot that it was played in.2014-05-28 22.02.58 copy

So..Add cards, Trade in Cards or just Pass on your turn. Be careful that your turn follows all the crazy sounding (but not really crazy) rules. The game ends when all the cards in the Draw Pile are gone and 1 Player plays their very last card. Which you get Double Points for. Add up your points and the highest points wins!


At the end of each turn each Player Adds the Face value or Number of each card in the Line you played on or completed. Cards played in 2 Lines are counted twice and Double Points for the whole turn for each Lot completed. If you play all 4 of your cards in one turn you also get Double Points. Player with the highest points at the end of the game wins!

Now if you are playing with younger kids you can adjust this game a couple of ways. For kids around 5-7 you can simply not keep score and the other adjustment is to play with cards face up in front of each of you. This helps them recognize the patterns first and you can ask “Why can or can’t you play that there?” so they learn even more. My son and I play this way. Without the scoring you simply win if you run out of cards first.

2014-05-29 21.02.32-3 copyNow for even younger kids around 3-4 years old here is what I did. You have to adjust a LOT for this way BUT it will help them learn the basics of the game. Once they have the Pattern part down you can start adding in the Grid and so on. I don’t recommend any kids younger than 3 but a 2 year old could learn Shapes, Numbers and Colors via a matching game focusing on just ONE property of a card. Find 2 Green Square cards, or 2 Red Triangle cards etc and make a Memory game out of it. For the other young ones here is what I did.


Do not shuffle the cards this time. In fact find about 4-6 Rows of Matches with extra options. The idea is to split the pile of cards you choose to lay out your deck face up all around the Play Area. The other deck gets put into a pile in front of your child. Keep the deck in your hand so you can see the cards. You might need to throw a couple that work out in to the pile.2014-05-28 22.01.12 copy


If your child insists on you playing to then make sure you have a few extra matches and a pile of your very own. I had to play too once but usually she plays and I tell her what to find so that is how I will explain it. Your child flips over the top card in her deck and places it in front of her on her Grid. To start have her match the color or shape or number ONLY. This will reinforce things that are the Same.

If she flips a Yellow Triangle ask her to find a Yellow shape that is NOT a Triangle OR ask her to find a Triangle that is NOT Yellow. You might start with asking for specific Shapes or Colors or even Numbers for a bit. Once she has her card have her place it next to the Starter Card or the card she drew from her pile. Then find another card that will work with the Pattern you have chosen and finally the 4th card.

2014-05-28 21.55.54-2 copyOnce the 4th card is place do a “Yay Good job” etc and have her Flip another (should be only the 2nd) card from the pile and start another Row. Columns do not matter in this game. You are focusing on what works in a Row only. This will help her see all the things that are the Same. Once she has that pretty much down look for TWO things that are the Same and then start with things that are Different. For that show a 4 Card Lot that has all different properties so you can ask what is missing from her Row.

She wins when she completes her Grid or possible 4-6 Rows. I wouldn’t go much higher than that as it can take awhile to get through that Draw Pile. Eventually you can play WITH her and either have separate or combine the Grid to take turn completing the Rows.

This game is great on many levels. It helps kids learn things Shapes, Numbers, Colors, Patterns, Same, Different and it makes you use your brain. That works for adults on…not enough games make you think any more. It is also, portable (insanely portable), educational, inexpensive and of course fun.

This is the biggest little game out there and both my 3 year old and my 5 year old love playing it. My husband and I have a lot of fun playing too! iota is worth picking up to play whenever and wherever you can or want to and is great for kids and equally awesome for adults.iotareview2

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
~ Albert Einstein

Author: sandyz