Unus: Case Card Game
The purpose of this card game is to reinforce students' understanding of case and which endings indicate each case. I've always found this a pretty important idea in Latin no matter what textbook I'm using. This game follows rules similar to the popular card game, Uno. Instead of playing cards that have the same color, players must follow case. If one person plays a card with a dative ending, then the next player must play another card with a dative ending. If he or she cannot and is not able to change the "case," then he or she must draw from the discard pile until he or she finds a suitable card. To change the case in this game, a player needs to put down a direction card. Each direction card contains a short phrase which needs a specific case to complete the phrase.
I understand that the Cambridge series offers a similar game with similar rules without direction cards. Personally, I like the idea of using the direction cards because it reinforces the idea of the kinds of phrases that take each case. However, your mileage may vary.
This is a good game to use when everyone has memorized the noun chart, at least first and second declension. All students should be familiar with the use of the cases. This game is not as difficult as Latin Poker. In general, students towards the end of Latin I or taking Latin II can play this game with relative ease.
How to Make an Unus Deck:
To make an Unus deck, you need to find some 3x5 index cards and cut them in half. You will need about 80 cards. Here's a helpful crafty demonstration of how to do this:
Now below see a picture of an Unus set laid out on my dining room table. Unfortunately, the table was already full of other projects so it's not the greatest picture. Don't worry, I will detail exactly what cards to make.
Okay, now below see a more helpful chart of all the cards you need to make for this game. Basically, you need 2 feminine first declension nouns , 2 masculine second declension nouns and 2 neuter second declension nouns all declined on cards. You will also 10 direction cards and 2 "wild cards." In the top right hand corner of any three cards, you need to write "Cape Duo." On the top right hand corner of three different cards, write "Cape Quattuor" and on a third three, write "Omitte" and a fourth three, write "Reverte." I will explain later what this is. Here's what the set looks like:
The last column contains the direction cards. The " _________" is to indicate what case would fit the phrase. The first two are nominative direction cards. This means that if a player puts down "Est/ Sunt ___________" then the next player needs to play a nominative card. It is what fits the phrase "There is or there are _________." The player can play a singular or plural nominative card in any gender. The next two are genitive direction cards, "_______________ canis" indicates that this is someone's dog - a possessive genitive. The following two are dative direction cards followed by accusative direction cards and then ablative direction cards. It's a good idea to write all these phrases on the board before playing so that students are familiar with what case the direction cards indicate.
Fera Charta indicates a "Wild Card." (Yeah, I know - I like fera anyway) When a player plays this card, he or she should declare what case should be played.
The small words in red on some of the cards indicate that if this card is played, the following action should be taken:
Cape Duo - Take two!
Cape Quattuor - Take four!
Omitte - Skip the next player
Reverte - Reverse direction of play.
Seriously, you don't need to use these words if you prefer other first and second declension nouns. It doesn't matter what words you choose as long as you decline them on the cards. You also don't have to write the Cape Quattuor etc. on the words that I have written them on. As long as you have 3 of each and 12 in total, it will work fine.
How to Play:
One Unus deck should be used between 3-5 players. Give each group of players a deck. After shuffling the cards, the dealer of the group should deal out 7 cards to each player. Put the remaining cards in the center of the play area. Choose someone to go first who has a Direction Card or a Fera Charta in their hand. If they start with a Fera Charta, the player needs to declare what case he or she wants played. Each player can only play one card at a time. The next player has to follow case. If the player does not have the correct case, then he or she must draw from the pile until he or she draws the correct case or a Direction Card or a Fera Charta. If they draw either of the last two, then they can change the case to something else.
If someone plays a card with an extra direction such as Cape Quattuor, then that direction affects the next person to play. In this case, the next person would have to draw four cards. The player drawing four cards or two cards doesn't get to put any down. In the case of Reverte, then the next player is now the last player because the direction of play has changed. In the case of Omitte, the next player's turn is skipped.
Play continues until one player succeeds in getting rid of all their cards. The game generally takes 20-30 minutes to play.
Third Declension Adjective Addition
If your class is familiar with how to pair third declension adjectives with first and second declension nouns, you can add a set of third declension adjectives to the deck. This will increase your set by 20 words and also increase the difficulty of the game. Here is an example of a third declension set to add. Of course you can use any third declension adjective. Like the above chart, each box signifies a card.
I would not advocate adding more than 20 more adjective cards. Otherwise, it will unbalance the deck. The rules concerning adjective cards are as follows: A player can play an adjective at any time even if it is not their turn if it matches a noun that has just been played. A player may also play more than one adjective if it matches the noun that has just been played. A player can only play an adjective if it is followed by a noun. If a player want to put down an adjective during their turn, they must have a noun in the correct case or they must draw from the deck. A player who plays the wrong case of the adjective must as a penalty, draw two cards from the deck.
If you've followed this blog to the end, it's probably dawned on you that making a set of Unus cards requires a fair amount of writing and cutting. If you have a class of 20, you need to make 5 decks so that everyone can play in small groups. The good news is that if you've done it once, you can reuse the cards from year to year. Unus is a great emergency lesson plan. Class cut in half by fire drill? Pull out Unus! Half the class gone to the band room for extra unannounced concert rehearsal? Let's play Unus! There's something about a card game that creates a special camaraderie. I love to deal myself in as a player in these games. Anytime you can interact with students where you are not standing in front of the board, good things tend to happen. So I urge you, cajole you - make some Unus sets. This game has been play tested to death. It instructs, enhances personal relationships between members of the class and even more importantly create positive and long lasting memories of Latin.