For most logic games on the LSAT, it’s pretty clear how you should be setting up your game. If Little Jimmy is going to eat six bowls of cereal and you’re figuring out what order he eats ’em in, you draw six spots on your paper and fill them in. If you’re figuring out who’s on the varsity volleyball team and who only made JV, your groups are the two teams, and then you figure out who was lucky and who wasn’t.
But sometimes the optimal way to build your setup isn’t quite so clear. For instance, let’s say you’ve got a game where three students are each preparing one or more of an appetizer, a main course, or a dessert. You could use the students as the “groups” and assign the dishes to each student, or you could use the courses as the “groups” and assign the students to each course. At Blueprint, we call these games that involve your players being assigned to “at least one” group Profiling games.
Technically, the game could be completed using either set of variables as the “base.” However, in all of these open-ended games, using one of the variable sets will be significantly easier, whereas using the other set of variables will lead to frustration and/or tears. The good news is that, even in these open-ended games, there are clues that help you figure out which set of variables to use as your “base.”
One big clue that often shows up in these types of games is a rule that gives a “principle of distribution.” That’s Blueprint’s term for a rule that limits the number of players that can be in any or all of the groups. For instance, let’s say that there are four stores and four ice cream flavors; you could use the stores as the base (and figure out what flavor(s) each store carries), or you could use the flavors as the base (and figure out which stores the flavors are in). However, if you see a rule that tells you that no store can have more than three flavors, or that each store carries a minimum of two flavors, or anything along those lines, that’s a strong indicator that you should be using the stores as the base.
Another way to put yourself on the right path is to check out the so-called “elimination” question, which is usually the first question of any game; that’s the question that ask “which of the following would be an acceptable [insert game topic here]” that you should always be answering by process of elimination. This isn’t a 100% foolproof trick, but usually, whatever variable set is used as the base in the answer choices for that question is the variable set that you should be using as your base too.
For practice on these kinds of games, check out game 4 from the Sep 2017 exam, game 4 from the Sep 2014 exam, or game 4 of the Oct 2012 exam. It can take a bit to get the hang of these open-ended profiling games, but once you get comfortable with them, they’re really not too scary. Just scan the rules, use the above tips to figure out what to use as your base, and you’ll be on the road to success.