Patent application title: METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR EDUCATING
Todd B. Ferguson (Hawthorn Woods, IL, US)
Richard Goodman (Glenview, IL, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63F102FI
Class name: Amusement devices: games board games, pieces, or boards therefor
Publication date: 2012-11-08
Patent application number: 20120280451
A method of educating includes providing a collectible trading card game
with a plurality of trading cards. Each card may contain educational
information including a consonant, vowel, number or mathematical operator
and the cards are used to form a properly spelled word or to form a
mathematically correct equation. In some forms, the method includes
providing a game with a playing field and a set of game components with
game component types having a predetermined power for affecting play of
the game by affecting a power, effect, or value of the game component.
The level of skill necessary to play the game may be varied by
selectively implementing or disregarding the predetermined power of the
game components. An educational game includes first and second game
components with different expressions, powers, point values, and
identifiers for distinguishing game components and facilitating game
1. A method of educating an individual comprising: providing a trading
card game having a plurality of trading cards with each card containing
educational information thereon; and awarding the individual points,
currency or victories based on how the trading cards are played.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the educational information on each card comprises at least one of a consonant, vowel, number or mathematical operator and awarding the individual points, currency or victories comprises awarding the individual points, currency or victories for using at least one card to form a properly spelled word or to form a mathematically correct equation.
3. The method of claim 2, wherein the method further comprises providing character information on each card and awarding the individual points, currency or victories based at least in part on the character information of each card played by the individual.
4. The method of claim 3, wherein the method further comprises providing indicia for grouping the cards into a plurality of different categories.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein the indicia comprise themes relating to earth, wind, water, or fire and grouping the cards into different categories comprises grouping the cards into one or more of the earth, wind, water or fire themes.
6. The method of claim 4, wherein the indicia for grouping the cards comprises a color scheme that may be used to break the cards up into different sets and the method further comprises associating the color scheme with a specific type of card.
7. The method of claim 6, wherein the color scheme used comprises a first color and a second color and associating the color scheme with a specific type of card comprises associating the first color with consonant cards and the second color with vowel cards so that the color scheme may be used to break the cards up into sets of consonants and vowels.
8. The method of claim 6, wherein the color scheme used comprises a first color and a second color and associating the color scheme with a specific type of card comprises associating the first color with number cards and the second color with mathematical operator cards so that the color scheme may be used to break the cards up into sets of numbers and mathematical operators.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein associating the first color with number cards includes number cards having a number from 2 through 9 and associating the second color with mathematical operator cards includes associating the second color with number cards 0 and 1 as well as mathematical operators.
10. The method of claim 4, wherein the indicia for grouping the cards comprises a border and the method further comprises grouping the cards into a deck of cards based on each of the cards having a common border.
11. The method of claim 4, where the indicia for grouping the cards comprises a plurality of borders and the method further comprises grouping the cards into a plurality of decks with each deck of cards having a common border.
12. The method of claim 1 further comprising providing a game playing field having a first row for placing cards that are being played by the individual, a second row for placing cards of a first type that have yet to be played by the individual, and a third row for placing cards of a second type that have yet to be played by the individual.
13. The method of claim 12 wherein the first type of cards placed on the second row are one of consonant cards or vowel cards and the second type of cards placed on the third row are the other of the consonant cards or vowel cards, and the method further comprises dealing the first type of cards onto the second row and the second type of cards onto the third row and placing the cards that are being played by the individual onto the first row.
14. The method of claim 12 wherein the first type of cards placed on the second row are one of number cards or mathematical operator cards and the second type of cards placed on the third row are the other of the number cards or mathematical operator cards, and the method further comprises dealing the first type of cards onto the second row and the second type of cards onto the third row and placing the cards that are being played by the individual onto the first row.
15. The methods of claim 13 or 14 further comprising dealing additional cards to the individual that are to be held by the individual and not placed on the second or third row of the game base.
16. The method of claim 12 wherein the game playing field includes designated spots for the first and second types of cards that are not placed on the second and third rows and the method further comprises dealing a portion of the first and second types of cards onto the second and third rows, respectively, and placing any remaining first type of cards on the designated spot for the first type of cards and any remaining second type of cards on the designated spot for the second type of cards.
17. The method of claim 10 wherein the second row of the game board is color coded to match a first color on the first type of cards and the third row of the game board is color coded to match a second color on the second type of cards.
18. A method of facilitating learning using an educational game, comprising: providing a user with a game having a playing field and a set of game components, wherein the set of game components comprises a first game component type having a first expression portion and second game component type having a second expression portion, wherein the first and second game component types have a predetermined power for affecting play of the game by affecting a power, effect, or value of a game component; adjusting the level of skill necessary to play the game by selectively implementing or disregarding the predetermined power of the of the first and second game components; and instructing the user to combine the first and second game components to form an expression from at least the first and second expression portions.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
 This application is a divisional of application Ser. No. 12/492,842 filed Jun. 26, 2009, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/076,506 filed Jun. 27, 2008, which are hereby incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The invention relates to methods and apparatuses for educating, and more particularly, to methods and apparatuses for educating using an expression-forming game.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Collectible and trading card games are well known in the art and have proven to be very successful with children and adults of all ages. Such games are normally played using a deck of cards, which may be expanded through purchase of expansion sets, or buying or trading individual cards. Additional cards may also be obtained through winning cards from an opponent during game play. Examples of such games include "battle" games, wherein two or more players compete against one another using their cards to score points or reduce the other players' score until a player wins. Such games often use fantasy elements, such as real or mythical creatures and characters displayed on each card. Each card may have its own power or effect on other cards, and the players use strategy to determine the proper time to play cards having certain effects.
 Although fantasy card games have proven to be very popular with children and young adults, such games are often banned from the classroom, because they lack formal educational value, and can be distracting from the prescribed coursework. Because students that play these games often become preoccupied with the games instead of focusing on their studies, the playing of such games in educational settings is generally frowned upon.
 Word building games are also known in the art. Scrabble® is a well known board game wherein at least two players form words on a board using letter tiles. Each letter tile has a point value, and a player wins points by forming a word with his letter tiles and summing the points of each letter tile used to form the word. Each player takes turns forming a single word in a crossword puzzle like manner, building off of words already formed on the board until a player wins. The board contains tile spaces for each tile. Certain tile spaces have score multipliers, such that the tile on that space, or a word having a letter tile that covers that space, will be worth additional points.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 To understand the present invention, it will now be described by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
 FIG. 1 is a plan view of a screen shot of an electronic version of an educational game in accordance with the present invention, illustrating representations of playing cards displayed on a playing field;
 FIG. 2 is a plan view of a playing field used in a physical version of an educational game in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 3 is a plan view of a playing card in accordance with the present invention illustrating a title, a character illustration, a letter, a point value, an effect, a currency designation, and other information;
 FIG. 4 is a plan view of an alternate playing card in accordance with the present invention illustrating an alternate title, character illustration, letter, effect, currency designation, and other information;
 FIGS. 5-8 are plan views of the back of playing cards in accordance with the present invention having indicia of various colors to distinguish one type of card from another;
 FIGS. 9-10 are plan views of turn-identifying symbols, wherein the Protector shield indicates that the player has a defensive position and goes first during a round of play and the Effector swords indicate that the player has an offensive position and goes second during a round of play;
 FIG. 11 is a plan view of a screen shot of an electronic version of an alternate educational game in accordance with the present invention, illustrating representations of playing cards displayed on a playing field;
 FIG. 12 is a plan view of a playing card in accordance with the present invention illustrating a title, a character illustration, a mathematical operator, a point value, an effect, a currency designation, and other information;
 FIGS. 13-15 are plan views of alternate playing cards in accordance with the present invention; and
 FIGS. 16-17 are plan views of playing cards containing mathematical symbols denoting equality or inequality and are used to build mathematical expressions in accordance with the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 In a preferred embodiment, such as illustrated in FIGS. 1-17, an educational game comprises a plurality of game components, such as playing or trading cards 20, each having educational information disposed thereon. The educational information is preferably in the form of expression portions, such as letters of the alphabet, or alternatively numbers and mathematical operators, although other educational information may be utilized in other forms in accordance with the invention. The playing cards 20 preferably have character information disposed thereon to make the cards suitable for collecting. Generally, the playing cards 20 are utilized by one or more users in an ordered fashion to form an expression comprised of expression portions from each of the cards played. In one form, the expression may be a word formed by individual letters 20e (FIGS. 1, 3 and 4) disposed on each card. In another form, the expression may be a mathematical expression formed from operators and operands, such as mathematical operators 20y (FIGS. 11 and 12) and numbers 20x (FIGS. 11 and 13-15). By playing a game in accordance with the present invention, the user may obtain numerous educational benefits, including learning and applying spelling strategies, deepening phonemic understanding, learning high frequency words, learning to use affixes, developing proof reading skills, using rime or generative patterns found in word families (e.g. ate, late, rate, gate, etc.), improving mathematical and building problem solving skills, and using strategy. The game is also adaptable to accommodate players of varying abilities and experience by removing or disregarding advanced elements of the game. The educational games described herein have also been found to be effective to teach children with learning or developmental disabilities and special needs children.
 The word-forming game 10 (FIG. 1) in accordance with one form of the present invention combines the intrinsic interest of trading cards with the literacy benefits of an educational game. Unlike traditional educational cards or flash cards, the trading cards 20 feature alphabetic letters with phonemically matching character names combined with pop culture art. This unique combination, along with the trading card structure, adds meaning to game play, letter identification, reading, and phonics. The backs of the cards 20a (FIGS. 5-8) are also phonemically unique and use colors to differentiate, as well as accentuate, the vowel cards 20ab (FIG. 3) from the consonant cards 20aa (FIG. 4). The orange cards are preferably vowel cards 20ab and the blue cards are consonant cards 20aa. Using two colors enhances phonemic analysis by visually accentuating the vowel and consonant patterns found in English words called phonograms. When second language learners play the word-forming game 10, they self-discover English vowel patterns through word-building during play. Brain research has indicated that learning through multiple modalities, such as visual, verbal and tactile means (i.e., seeing, saying and doing), combined with motivational and social interaction increases student achievement. The game 10 provides this cognitive stimulus simultaneously while players are engaged in play, and thereby provides advantages over traditional rote memory exercises, worksheets, and flash card methods used in schools and in the home. Traditional methods often fail to keep students engaged and do not motivate them to want to learn more at ever increasing levels. The word-forming game 10 motivates students' desire to learn more because they earn points for fluently reading the cards and using spelling strategies. Thus, players are often unaware they are learning.
 Ultimately, individuals that play the game 10 will learn to see generative patterns in words, which has several benefits, such as improving spelling skills, i.e. encoding, which leads to more fluent writing ability. Players will also become more fluent readers, as they will be more efficient when sounding out unknown words, i.e. decoding, as they read in context. The faster a reader decodes, the less comprehension is lost, which is an important skill when reading, but an essential skill when reading about new ideas or concepts such as in a text book or other nonfiction source.
 A typical game setup 10 in accordance with the present invention is disclosed in FIGS. 1 and 2. Playing cards 20 are played face-up on a playing field 30 having a plurality of subfields, such as first, second, and third rows for holding the playing cards 20. The first, second, and third rows include an upper tier or base 30a and a lower tier or base 30b for holding playing cards 20 and an uppermost expression field or shield field 30g, wherein cards 20 are placed into play and organized into expressions, e.g., words or mathematical expressions. Additional playing cards 20 are held hidden from other players, such that the faces of the cards 20 are kept hidden from view of the other players. These additional cards may be referred to as the blind or the pocket and may be held in the user's hand, or placed face down on the playing field 30. In the embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 1, the individual player is not playing another player, thus, the cards from the blind or pocket 30c are shown face up. However, if the player was playing another individual those cards would be kept face down or hidden from view of the other players.
 Two separate sets or libraries of playing cards 20, which are differentiated via different indicia, such as colors on the backs of the cards 20a, are positioned at predetermined locations on the playing field 30, such as a blue deck field 30d for the blue deck pile and an orange deck field 30e for the orange deck pile. The upper and lower bases 30a, 30b are color coded to match the backs of the cards 20a. Accordingly, the upper base 30a is blue and the lower base 30b is orange. The playing field 30 also includes an effect subfield 30f, wherein cards 20 having an effect property may be played by a user to affect the point values of other cards 20, or affect game play in some manner to adjust the offensive or defensive advantage of one of the players. An expression field or shield field 30g is disposed along the upper margin of the playing field 30 wherein playing cards 20 from the upper and lower tiers 30a, 30b, as well as the pocket 30c may be played to form an expression. The shield field 30g preferably has 8 spaces for cards. Although it is preferred that a mat or board be used for the playing field 30 in a physical embodiment of the present invention, no physical playing field is required, and players may play on any surface.
 As shown in FIG. 3, each playing card 20 preferably includes character information, such as a title portion 20b; a graphic area, such as character illustration 20c; character type information 20d; the educational information, for example an expression portion, such as a letter of the alphabet 20e; a narrative such as a card description 20f; a point value 20g; an effect 20h; an effect duration indicator 20i; a currency designator 20j; a card type designator, such as an elemental designator 20k; a kingdom identifier 20l; an offensive or defensive effect indicator 20m; an effect indicator (in lieu of a kingdom identifier), and other information. These elements will be described in greater detail below.
 The title portion or card name 20b displays the name of the card and identifies the character illustrated in the character illustration 20c. Preferably, the name of the card is related to the letter of the alphabet 20e. For example, in FIG. 3, the card name is "Army Ants" and the expression portion is the letter "A". This association between the card name 20b and the letter 20e helps the user quickly identify the letter associated with the card, and assists users with reading and spelling skills by associating a memorable illustration and the card name 20b with the relevant letter 20e. The name of the card 20b may also be associated with the power or effect of a given card 20. For example, as shown in FIG. 4, the card name 20b is "Double Dinos," and the card's effect 20h is to double the user's word point total if the word has 5 or more letters. The association between card name 20b and effect 20h has educational value (in this case in the mathematical concept of doubling or multiplying by two) and is helpful for reminding the user about a card's effect 20h without the need to read the card description 20f every time the card is played.
 The illustration 20c generally contains an illustration of a character and provides the user with a visually interesting and memorable image with which to associate the card 20. The illustration 20c may help spark the user's imagination and adds intrigue to the game. As with the association between the card name 20b and the letter 20e, it is preferable that the illustration 20c be related to the letter 20e and/or the card name 20b to help the individual identify the letter 20e and/or the card name 20b. For example, individuals who are just beginning to learn the alphabet may already know what the illustration 20c (FIG. 3) is showing (e.g., Ants) and will use this association to come up with the letter 20e on the card (e.g., "A" for "Ants"). Over time, these associations will further help the individual learn to read and spell the card name 20b in that they know from association what is illustrated (e.g., Ants wearing helmets) and the letter 20e associated with this card (e.g., "A"). Thereby eventually learning to read and spell the card name 20b (e.g., "Army Ants"). In other instances, the individual may not be able to identify the illustration 20c on the card but will know either the letter 20e or the card name 20b. Overtime, the individual will also learn what illustration 20c is of and, thus, will learn more than just how to read or spell.
 In the form illustrated, the character type information 20d generally categorizes or groups the character illustrated in the character illustration 20c into different groups or families. Families may include insect, fish, robot, dragon, horse, magic, dinosaur, bird, cat, brainforce, construction effect, weather effect, celestial effect, and geological effect. It should be understood, however, that other types of characters or symbols may be used for the illustration if desired. Preferably, however, these illustrations will maintain some form of association between the card name and/or the letter to help teach the individual some lesson, such as the one discussed above.
 In the illustrated embodiment, the families are significant for game play in that certain families are susceptible or not susceptible to the effects of other cards 20. For example, a frog card may have an effect on insect cards, such as "eating" or taking the points away from an insect card. Because it will be learned or may already be commonly understood that frogs eat insects, a player with an insect card would refrain from playing that card if another player plays a frog card. By basing the effects 20h associated with a creature on known characteristics of the real-life creature on which the character is based, a user may quickly ascertain whether a card may have an effect on his selected cards 20. This association makes the effects 20h of a given card more memorable, thus increasing ease and quickness of play, and also works through association to teach the individual something educational if the individual did not already know this (e.g., frogs eat insects).
 In the embodiment of a game component, such as the playing card 20 illustrated in FIG. 3, educational information, e.g., an expression portion in the form of a letter 20e, is displayed. The letter 20e forms part of an expression, such as a word, to be formed by the user during game play. In a preferred form, an educational game according to the present invention has first and second game components being of first and second game component types. For example, a first game component is a collectible playing card having a consonant type. The second game component is a collectible playing card having a vowel type. Prior to being played to form a word, consonant cards 20aa are kept separate from vowel cards 20ab. The consonant cards 20aa are distinguished from the vowel cards 20ab using indicia for grouping the cards, such as a differing color scheme used to break the cards up into different sets. For example, FIGS. 7 and 8 show card backs 20n, 20s of the consonant and vowel cards 20aa, 20ab. Consonant card backs 20n, shown in FIG. 7, have a blue background 20p, a blue border or outline 20q, and an orange-colored star 20r. On the other hand, vowel card backs 20s have an orange background 20t, an orange border or outline 20u, and a blue-colored star 20v. Other indicia for grouping the cards may include borders on the face of the cards 20, symbols, and the like. In a preferred form, the borders are associated with a kingdom identifier 20k, such that each kingdom (described in more detail below) has a unique border. This will help the user keep different sets of cards or decks separate from other sets of cards or decks. This association helps the player learn the differences between vowels and consonants and will start the individual on their way to forming words.
 Other types of cards 20 may be further distinguished from consonant and vowel cards 20aa, 20ab and each other using different color schemes. Card backs 20a shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 for an alternate embodiment, such as a mathematical equation or expression forming game 40, have differing color schemes. The card back shown in FIG. 5 is for a first card type, such as a number card 20ac, and has a blue background 20p, a purple border 20w, and an orange-colored star 20r. The card back shown in FIG. 6 for a second card type, such as a number or a mathematical operator card 20ad, has an orange background 20t, a purple border 20w, and a blue-colored star 20v. In this manner, the equation-forming cards 20ac, 20ad having numbers 20x or mathematical operators 20y, are distinguished from the word-forming cards 20aa, 20ab primarily based on the purple border 20w which surrounds the stars 20v, 20r. Although subtle, all of these associations with indicia, such as color, help educate the user or individual (e.g., such as the difference between consonants, vowels, numbers and/or mathematical operators). The indicia will also help the user categorize or group the cards and keep different card sets or decks separate or apart from one another if desired.
 In addition to or in lieu of allowing players to play the word game 10 head-to-head or to play the mathematical/equation game 40 head-to-head, a preferred form of the invention will allow both the equation-forming game 40 and the word-forming game 10 to be played together, such that one player forms equations with the cards 20ac, 20ad and plays against another player who forms words with the cards 20aa, 20ab. During game play, or if a player has both the equation-forming game 40 and the word-forming game 10, cards may become intermingled. Thus, the differing color schemes on the card backs are operable to help the players separate both cards of different types as well as cards belonging to different games. Additional indicia, such as a border can be used to further assist in grouping the cards into different sets or decks, therefore making it easier to sort one set or deck of cards from another.
 A playing card 20 may include a description 20f, which may comprise information, such as a power or effect 20h of the particular card, background information regarding the character, instructions on how to execute the power or effect of the card, commands, stories, or other information. In FIG. 3, the description 20f reads "[r]emove one earth creature's points from other player's shield field." Thus, this description embodies a power or effect 20h over another player's cards 20 that have been played in the expression field or shield field 30g. Other examples of powers or effects 20h are seen in the description fields 20f in FIGS. 4 and 12-15.
 A playing card 20 may also have a value, such as a point value 20g, which is denoted within a star below the character illustration 20c. The point value preferably ranges between 1 and 3 points. Cards 20 containing expression portions that are more common, such as letters 20e used frequently like the letter "A" shown in FIG. 3, may have a point value of 1. Less common expression portions, like letters used less frequently, such as the letter "V", may have a higher point value, such as a value of 3. This type of point valuing system encourages the player to use expression portions that may be more difficult to incorporate, thus rewarding the player for forming expressions that are less common or more difficult to form. By doing so, the game not only helps teach word formation and arithmetic, but encourages players to challenge or press themselves to engage in more advance word formation or arithmetic.
 The power or effect 20h of a card augments the efficacy or point value of the same or another card 20. For example, a card power or effect 20h may reduce another card's point value, such as shown in FIG. 3. Alternatively, a card's power may augment the score of a player's own card or cards. For example, in FIG. 4, the description 20f states a player's word points will double if they form a word with five or more letters. In FIG. 12, the description 20f states the card's power increases the point value of the card from 2 to 3 if the card is played together with the "Evil Mushrooms" card. Other powers 20h may include protecting a card or cards from the effects of other cards. For example, the power 20h described in FIG. 13 protects "Dragonia" creature cards played by the user from all other creatures. A further example of a power 20h in FIGS. 14 and 15 is that a card may adopt the power of another card. In FIG. 14, the card may mimic any card on the field, while in FIG. 15, the player of the card may pick one card in the other player's shield field 30g and use it against the other player. Thus, it can be seen that the powers and effects 20h of each card are operable to increase the complexity and depth of the game, making the game more interesting for experienced players. In addition, the powers and effects 20h motivate the players to read and reread each card before putting it into play, which encourages and develops reading skills in general but also proof-reading skills.
 As described above, the game components, such as playing cards 20, are generally divided into first and second game component types. Either of the first or second game component types, such as consonant and vowel cards 20aa, 20ab, may have powers, which are described in the card description 20f. In addition, certain cards of the second game component type, such as vowel cards 20ab, may have effects 20h that may be played in either the expression field 30g or an effect subfield 30f. These cards are referred to as effect cards in the present form and generally have effects such as storms and other worldly phenomena which create conditions to adjust a player's offensive or defensive advantage. In one method of playing, an effect card loses its effect if it is played to form an expression, such as a word. Alternatively, the effect card may be played in the effect subfield 30f, wherein it is not used to form a word, but is solely used for its effect. An effect duration indicator 20i located below the character illustration 20c is provided to inform the user how long the effect lasts. Preferably, an effect 20h lasts one to two turns.
 An effect card is preferably designated by a symbol in the kingdom identifier field 20l. Non-effect cards, which may be referred to as power cards, may be further classified using the kingdom identifier field 20l. In one form, each power card may be identified by one of four symbols representing imaginary kingdoms from which each character originates. The four kingdoms in the present embodiment are Dragonia, represented by a dragon symbol, as shown in FIGS. 13 and 15; Hydra, represented by a fish symbol, illustrated in FIG. 12; Industria, represented by a robotic hand and hammer symbol and shown in FIG. 14; and Terra, represented by a lion's head, as illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4. It should be understood, however, that other symbols may be used to represent kingdoms or that items other than kingdoms may be used to distinguish different groups or sets of cards.
 As effect cards are preferably associated with the second card type, such as vowel cards 20ab in the case of the word-forming game 10, a user must use strategy to decide whether an effect card is best used as a vowel to form a word or used solely as an effect. Although the effects can be very helpful to a player's offensive or defensive position during a round, vowel cards 20ab are also needed to form words. Thus, the more vowel options a player has, the easier it will be to form longer words, which are also worth more points. Therefore, a player must make judgments as to when using an effect card solely for its effect is most beneficial to the outcome of the game. This aspect makes the game more challenging and interesting for more experienced users.
 Another aspect of the current invention is that the game may be modified or scaled depending on the skill of the user. For example, the powers or effects of a game component may be disregarded or disabled in order to simplify game play. Younger users may not be able to read the card descriptions 20f or may have trouble with the effects 20h and their applicability to the game. Advantageously, the game may be played without using the power or effect functionality of the cards 20. This allows score keeping and game play to be simplified. Conversely, more advanced users may incorporate the power and effect functionality of the cards 20 to tailor the game to their skill level.
 In the present embodiment, the playing cards 20 are preferably collectible in that the cards 20 not only have utility for playing a game, but may also be used for collection purposes. To assist with the collectibility, an additional aspect of a game component in accordance with the present invention is a currency designator 20j. The currency designator 20j includes a symbol or symbols designating the relative value or rarity of a card. In the present embodiment, the currency takes the form of images of rubies 20ae, emeralds 20af, and diamonds 20ag, in increasing order of value and rarity. Thus, a card having three rubies 20ae, such as the one in FIG. 3, has less value than a card having three diamonds 20ag, such as the card in FIG. 15. These indications of value are useful to determine relative worth of a given card when players wish to buy, sell, or exchange cards 20.
 A game component may be further classified or categorized via an elemental designator 20k. According to the present invention, the elemental designator 20k is a triangular tab on an upper corner of the playing card 20 having a color correlating with a given element. The elements are preferably fire, water, wind, and earth, represented respectively by the colors red, blue, silver and green. For example, the cards 20 in FIGS. 3 and 4 are associated with the earth element, indicated by the green triangle at the upper right hand corner of the card 20. Similarly, the cards 20 illustrated in FIGS. 13 and 15 are associated with the fire element, indicated by the red triangle at the upper right hand corner of the cards 20. The elemental designator 20k is used in some circumstances with the powers and effects 20h of other cards 20. For example, a power 20h of a card may be such that it only has an effect on cards of a certain element. In FIG. 3, the power 20h of the card shown is only effective on earth creatures. Thus, if the opposing player had played a card having a green triangle, such as the "Double Dinos" card in FIG. 4, he would have to deduct one point from his score for that particular round.
 Additional information about the game component may be provided in the form of an offensive or defensive symbol 20m, which in the present embodiment is called a "force medallion." The force medallion 20m may take the form of either a sword, indicating an offensive posture to the power or effect of the card 20; a shield, indicating a defensive posture of the power or effect of the card; or a blank circle, indicating neither an offensive or defensive posture to the power or effect of the card. Preferably, the force medallion 20m is disposed on the card at opposite outer corners of the card, such that a user may quickly see the strategic posture of the card while holding the card in his hand, regardless of how the cards 20 are held, i.e., with the cards 20 fanned from left to right with the left most card on top, such that the lower right corner of each card is visible, or alternatively, with the left most card on the bottom, such that the upper left corner of each card is visible. Similarly, a player may quickly glance at an opponent's cards 20 on the playing field to determine which cards 20 may be used against his cards in an offensive or defensive manner.
 In an alternate form shown in FIG. 12, a game component may take the form of a collectible playing or trading card 20 used for playing a mathematical expression- or equation-forming game 40. The cards 20ac, 20ad are similar to the cards shown and described in FIGS. 3 and 4, except that the expression portion contains a number 20x or a mathematical operator 20y instead of a letter 20e. Similar to the letter cards described above, the present playing cards also preferably include a card back 20a, a title portion 20b, a character illustration 20c, character type information 20d, a card description 20f, a point value 20g, an effect 20h, an effect duration indicator 20i, a currency designator 20j, an elemental designator, 20k, a kingdom identifier 20l, and a defensive or offensive effect indicator 20m.
 Like the cards 20aa, 20ab for the word-forming game, the equation-forming cards 20ac, 20ad are split into two groups. Preferably, the first card type is a number card 20ac, having a number 20x between 2 and 9, inclusive. The second card type is a number or a mathematical operator card 20ad, having a number 0 or 1 or a mathematical operator 20y, such as plus, minus, multiplication, and division signs (+, -, ×, /). The first and second card types are preferably distinguished using indicia, such as color, on the card backs 20a. The cards are used similarly to the letter cards 20aa, 20ab described above, except that the player forms mathematical equations or inequalities using the cards instead of words.
 Now, with respect to playing the games, in one form of the word form game 10, each player has a deck of at least 50 cards with preferably more than three copies of any one card. The deck is separated into two draw piles: a blue draw pile placed on the blue deck field 30d consisting of consonant cards 20aa and an orange draw pile placed on the orange deck field 30e consisting of vowel and effect cards 20ab. Preferably, each player will have a minimum of 20 orange and 30 blue cards. However, any number of cards may be used as desired.
 Both players begin by setting up their cards 20 on the playing field 30. The first step is to draw five cards 20aa from the blue draw pile and place them face up in the five blue card spaces of the upper tier or upper base 30a on the playing field 30. Next, each player draws six cards 20ab from the orange draw pile. Each player then places three of those cards 20ab face up on the three orange card spaces of the lower tier or base 30e. The three cards 20ab remaining in the player's hand are called the blind or pocket cards as mentioned above and are held or kept out of view of an opposing player, if any. The pocket cards can be used anytime during a player's turn to build a word.
 Once the cards 20 are set up, play begins. The object of the game is to build words for points using any combination of the letters on the cards 20 in the upper base 30a, lower base 30b, and the pocket 30c. The cards 20 are combined just above the upper base 30a in the expression field or shield field 30g. A player's strategy can involve creating the most points in his word, taking a defensive posture by protecting his word against attacks by an opponent, or taking an offensive posture by playing cards 20 that can remove points from the other player's word.
 Players alternate the order of play each round. The player to play his cards 20 first is called the Protector. The Protector is a defensive position by nature, because the opponent's cards 20 are not yet played, so there are no cards to attack. The Protector must anticipate the cards 20 that the Effector might play, based on studying the cards 20 in the Effector's upper and lower bases 30a, 30b. The Effector plays second and is by nature an offensive position, as the Effector knows what cards 20 the Protector has played when the Effector starts his turn. Thus, the Effector may choose his cards 20 in response to the cards played by the Protector, and therefore has an advantage in attacking the Protector's cards 20 using cards with the appropriate powers or effects.
 Each deck preferably includes a Marker Card 50 (see FIGS. 9 and 10) which is used to keep track of which player is the Effector and Protector during each turn. The Effector is represented by a sword icon 50a and the Protector by a shield icon 50b.
 The Protector always plays his cards 20 first. He starts by reading the powers or effects of the cards 20 he wishes to play. The Protector then builds his word on the shield field 30g, keeping in mind the cards 20 the Effector has in her upper and lower base 30a, 30b. Any card that can be used against another player's cards 20 has an offensive effect indicator 20m in the form of a sword icon on the upper left corner. Any card that can be used to protect a player's Shield field 30g has a defensive effect indicator in the form of a shield icon. The Protector can, if he chooses, play a defensive effect card from his pocket in the effect subfield or space 30f to defend his word.
 The Effector then builds her word on the shield field 30g keeping in mind the cards 20 the Protector has in his word. The Effector can then play any effect card by placing it in the effect space 30f. However, there can only be one effect card in this space 30f at one time. Effect cards stay in play a number of turns equal to the number in the effect duration indicator 20i, which is located to the right of the letter 20e. If the vowel on the effect card is used to build a word on the shield field 30g, the effect cannot be used.
 At this time, if the Effector has played an effect card, the effect is unleashed on the shield fields 30g. Any cards 20 that have points removed by the effect are twisted out or turned sideways to show that they are no longer in play. Next, the Effector's cards 20 located in the shield field 30g to form a word are used to remove points from the Protector's cards 20 in their shield field 30g. Any cards 20 that have points removed are then twisted. Once this is done, the Protector's cards 20 that have not been twisted can now be used on the Effector. The Effector's cards 20 that have had points removed are also twisted out.
 After all of the effects have been applied, the round is over and each player adds up their score from their shield field 30g. Each player's points are added (or subtracted) from their total score.
 All cards 20 are then cleared from the shield field 30g, leaving the remaining cards 20 in the upper and lower bases 30a, 30b in place. Any empty spaces in the upper and lower bases 30a, 30b are refilled from the blue and orange decks, respectively. In addition, each player draws enough cards 20 from the orange draw pile until they have three cards 20 in their pocket 30c to replace the cards 20 used in the previous turn. The effect spaces 30f are also cleared unless the given effect lasts more than one round.
 The players then flip their marker cards 50, switching their roles as Protector and Effector, and play continues in an alternating fashion until a player wins the round by reaching 50 points, or an agreed upon number. A match is won by the first player to win two rounds, or an agreed upon number of rounds.
 In another form in accordance with the present invention, an equation-forming game 40 is played in a similar manner as the word-forming game 10 described above, with slight variations as described below. Each player has a deck of at least 50 cards with no more than 3 copies of any one card. The deck is separated into two draw piles, wherein the blue draw pile consists of numbered cards 20ac having a number between 2 and 9, inclusive. The orange draw pile consists of cards 20ad having a 0, 1, or a mathematical operator which may collectively be referred to as operators. In addition to the orange and blue cards, the game includes an equality/inequality card, called a gizmo card 60, which has an equal sign (=) on one side and a greater than/less than sign (>/<) (depending on what direction it is turned) on the other side. The gizmo card 60 is used in every turn by each player to form a mathematical expression.
 Accordingly, the object of the present game is to build mathematical expressions such as equations or inequalities to acquire points using any combination of the numbers and operators located in the upper and lower bases 30a, 30b and the pocket 30c. One example would be to combine the cards 20ac, 20ad of FIGS. 12-15 to form the equation 2+5=7. Alternatively, a player could form the expression 7+5>2 by flipping over the gizmo card 60 to implement the "greater than" symbol. The greater than/less than symbol allows a player to form an expression regardless of the cards 20ac, 20ad in play. A player may also have expressions on either side of the equal sign or greater than/less than sign. For example, an expression could read 5+2=3+4. This equation would be worth more points than the prior examples, as more cards 20ac, 20ad are required to form the expression. A player's strategy can involve creating the most points in his equation, protecting the equation with defensive effects 20h, and playing cards with offensive effects 20h that can remove points from the other player's equation.
 The equation-forming game 40 may be customized to accommodate a varying level of user abilities and preferences. For example, the game may be simplified for users with lower math proficiencies by removing cards 20ad with multiplication or division signs from the orange deck, such that the game is played solely with the plus and minus signs. Further, as in the word-forming game 10, the game may be played without using the card effects and powers 20h to simplify game play and scoring.
 In another form of the invention, the playing field may have an operator, such as an equal sign and/or greater and less than signs, permanently positioned on the playing field so that the players do not have the option of using the gizmo card. For example, in one form, the playing field may be two sided, with one side being configured to play the word game 10 and the other side having the permanent operator in place for playing of the equation game 40. In such embodiments, the permanent operator will normally be an equal sign, which will make the game harder to play. In alternate forms, however, the permanent operator may actually include all operators and simply allow the players to select which one they are using rather than requiring them to use a card such as the gizmo card 60.
 Although the embodiments disclosed herein have been described with respect to a card game, the game may take numerous forms. In another form, the game may be played electronically, such that the game components and playing field are electronic representations of playing cards or other game pieces. An electronic form of the game may be played on any electronic device, either locally or on the internet or via an intranet connection, on a computer or a handheld electronic device, e.g., a mobile phone, handheld computer, Personal Digital Assistant, GPS device, personal music player, and the like.
 Although the game has been described as being played with two players, it may be played by more than two players, as individuals or as teams, or alternatively with just one player. Although the word-forming game 10 and the equation-forming game 40 have been described as separate embodiments, the games may be played simultaneously, such that a first player plays the word-forming game 10 against a player playing the equation-forming game 40. Because of the similarities between the game components and rules, an equation can be played against a word without any change in the format or play of the game. It should also be understood that the game field may take the shape of many different media. For example, in a physical game, it may be a game board, game mat, or thin piece of paper. Alternatively, as mentioned above, if the game is played electronically, the game field may be displayed electronically on a screen or other type of display.
 While the invention has been described with respect to specific examples including presently preferred modes of carrying out the invention, those skilled in the art will appreciate that there are numerous variations and permutations of the above described systems and techniques that fall within the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the claims.
Patent applications by Richard Goodman, Glenview, IL US
Patent applications by Todd B. Ferguson, Hawthorn Woods, IL US
Patent applications in class BOARD GAMES, PIECES, OR BOARDS THEREFOR
Patent applications in all subclasses BOARD GAMES, PIECES, OR BOARDS THEREFOR