Our Review of Swish, the Spatial Orientation Miracle Game


  8 years & up
  30 minutes
Games, Card Games
  Pattern Recognition
  Spatial Orientation
  Time Pressure
  Instructions PDF

Swish is one of the most unique card games we’ve seen in a while. The “cards” are actually transparent pieces of plastic, and you stack them to line up the shapes, racing against your opponents. Swish is the epitome of the skill “spatial orientation” because you’ll have to flip and rotate the cards in your mind to make a 3D stack of combined symbols. We graded it as challenging, fun, and very innovative. Want to see numerical summary ratings? Skip to the conclusion for our detailed criteria breakdown and a final review score.

What’s included & how to play Swish

In the box you’ll find:

  • 60 transparent plastic playing cards with a paper instruction pamphlet
  • A mesh bag to hold everything

How to play Swish is quite simple: arrange 16 cards in a 4×4 grid, and then compete with yourself or any number of opponents to stack a series of cards so that all the solid circles on one card line up with the holes of the same color on another card. Getting this stack correctly made is called a Swish, and you call it out when you find one. All the rotational work is done in your mind, so after you proclaim it you show the group the by picking up the cards and adding them to your pile. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the game wins!

Swish is the epitome of the skill “spatial orientation”…

When you think you have 2 or more cards that form a Swish, all the holes should be filled, all the dots accounted for, and all the colors matched up. Check out the image below!
A correctly made Swish
Note, however, that you need to meet all these criteria. No leftover dots or unfilled holes, even if you are successful in matching up some. Also, the outer edges of the cards have to line up and be oriented in the same way, unlike the second picture below.
A picture of an invalid attempt at creating a Swish
Finally, the brainiacs among us will find clever ways to use more than just two cards. Swish doesn’t really reward this like you’d find in, for example, Tetris, where deleting multiple rows at once yields a much higher score. If you match up five cards, you just get to keep those five cards, the same as if you’d done a set of three and another set of two. In a perverse way, sometimes multiple cards can be easier to make a swish than using just two. That third or fourth card allows you to capture those spare circles and dots that you couldn’t using the first two cards. Keep in mind that several layers of dots or circles of the same kind can pile on each other in 3D. That’s part of the strategy.
Image showing the point values of multiple card Swish sets

Shows a grid of 16 Swish cards
How many swishes can you find in these 16 cards? I hadn’t shuffled the deck when I took this picture, so this is NOT a typical playing field. At least one swish is pretty obvious, though.

Is Swish fun and educational?

Once you successfully find your first few swishes, you’ll find that the game is extremely fun. Not everyone will get the hang of it, especially if mental visualizations have always been a problem. For those willing to try, no matter the age, Swish will be a rewarding learning experience.

Run-down of the Rich Skills that Swish can help with:
Spatial orientation is obviously the biggest Rich Skill you’ll cultivate as you get better at playing. The ability to do these kinds of transformations is critical to a variety of career options in both technical and artistic fields alike. These skills were once a staple of standardized testing as well, and are still a good way to measure certain particular aptitudes, even if they are not a strong predictor of real-world functional intelligence, i.e. winning at life.
Pattern recognition is next up. Many of the cards are similar, so you’ll soon remember certain combinations that provide mental shortcuts to getting multi-card swishes. Finally, Swish will also develop time pressure coping skills as you race against your foes to mentally flip, turn and stack. You’ll need to readjust every time someone calls out a swish and new cards are added, so get ready to either adapt quickly or be highly frustrated.

Complete Insanity, CandyChess, and Time2Play

Swish scores very highly, a 4.5 out of 5, on our Complete Insanity index. You can lose a lot of the cards and still play very well. They don’t provide you with as many cards as the similar game Set does, for example, but there are enough that the game won’t be noticeably affected if you misplace fewer than 20. Be warned that transparent cards can be hard to find on dark carpet, so I’m thankful for the purple outline around each one.

You can lose a lot of cards and still play very well

Swish rates much closer to Chess than to CandyLand, at 4 out of 5, on our CandyChess Strategy Score. You’ll use quite a bit of logic, but not as much strategy because it’s difficult to think multiple moves ahead for your own plan. You can’t anticipate other players’ moves, either, so it’s more of a computation and visual cognition game than a pure strategy title.

There are no practical limits at all on Time2Play for Swish, so you’ll find that you can set it up and have people casually walk by and stare for a while, much as you would a large jigsaw puzzle. Or you can play a concentrated round (as per the rules) until all the cards are gone in 20 to 30 minutes. The more players you have, the faster this process will be. A solitaire game can last all day if you keep shuffling your won cards back into the deck.

What ages of kids will enjoy Swish?

Age by fun histogramThis DistribuFun histogram for Swish has one of the widest yellow zones I’ve ever seen in our reviws. The manufacturer’s age value of “8 years & up” is somewhat meaningless because I know many 8 year old players who won’t enjoy the mental gymnastics needed to find a swish. Unlike a game of Set, however, some 4 year olds, including my own, would be able to readily understand the Swish concept and begin spotting the easiest transformations. Regardless of current skill level, if you or your pupils are motivated to learn and excited to try new things, Swish has a lot to offer you.

Alternatives to Swish that teach similar skills

We’ve mentioned the card game Set already in this review. It’s a really easy comparison because the style of play is so similar between Set and Swish. (Please read our full review of Set, if you’d like.) Set requires more logic and deduction to puzzle out what cards you need to form a set with the ones you’re considering. In contrast, Swish creates a very novel method to teach spatial orientation, requiring you to mentally transform the shapes in several diffent aways. Both games deliver excellent time pressure and, to a less extent, concentration. Other alternatives include my personal favorite Gravity Maze (full review), also made by Swish’s creator ThinkFun. Gravity Maze takes the 3D concept a little bit further, but it’s mainly designed for one player as a puzzle, not a competitive game.

Value, durability, and longevity: Is Swish a good buy?

At only $13, Swish is an easy purchase decision. It might seem somewhat expensive for a card game, but consider that these are a very high-grade of plastic (most likely mylar) and should be completely waterproof. They don’t show wear easily–scratches, perhaps, but crease marks are unlikely–and many cards can be lost before you’ll miss any of them. The replay value over the long-term is exceptionally high. Swish is so simple to learn, that, after a week or two you won’t ever need the rule book again. The playing process will be completely internalized like checkers or other seemingly simple games. This significantly lowers the barrier to entry for quick, casual games, or for infrequent players like visiting relatives or using on rainy days in a classroom environment.

Conclusion & Overall Score

Fun for kids & adults
Value, durability, longevity
Rich Skills
Complete Insanity


Swish is a novel game that focuses on a valuable set of skills. It's fun, satisfying and will last for a very long time. It receives our highest rating and is easy to recommend.

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About Steve McIrvin