Gene Rummy : The Card Game for Learning About Genotypes and Phenotypes


High Concept: Overview and vision statement

2009-07-06_12-21-44_001 img_0090We’ve all heard the idiom: “breeding like rabbits”.

Well, here is a card game that brings it to life!
No smell, no fuss, no need for cages!

Here’s a visual way to learn the jargon and the basic principles of Mendelian inheritance while playing a fast-paced card game.

Gene Rummy is a variation of Gin Rummy, which is one of the most popular card games of the mid-20th century, and still popular today. Here at Mink Hollow Media, we’ve been looking for a way to combine our expertise in teaching and science with our decades of first-hand experience playing around with coat colors in rabbits. We think you will enjoy our take on this classic card game, and invite you to learn about the principles of Mendelian Genetics and Inheritance along the way.

Need for the game

It is a Common Misconception that:

Genotype <= is the same as => Phenotype

Would you believe this rabbit is actually BLACK?


Well, she is. Her PHENOTYPE is Albino, but genetically (except for one pair of genes) she is solid black,  just like this rabbit:


The albinism gene actually prevents the pigment from forming, so the rabbit looks white. Cool, huh?

Misconceptions about the differences and relationships between phenotype and genotype also relate to challenges in understanding many of the other fundamental concepts (like alleles, traits, characteristics, etc.).

How many times have you heard someone say:

  • It runs in the family…MUST be genetic!
  • Inbreeding is bad because it creates defects!
  • That ALWAYS skips a generation…

In spite of having studied basic genetics in school, most people still have difficulty understanding the fundamental concepts underlying Mendelian genetics and inheritance. The classic examples (eye color, blood types) are fine, but additional resources can help consolidate the idea. Besides, playing with blood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (See The resources Page for References)

Serious Goals

Through playing the game and matching phenotypes w/ genotypes as well as determining what can be produced given a specific phenotype, players will:

Learn basic principles of genetics:

  • Familiarity with the standard genotype notation.
  • Terminology: homozygous, heterozygous, gene, allele, locus, genotype, phenotype, dominant, recessive
  • Gene pairs code for specific traits
  • Separate alleles on different loci can interact
  • Genes combine to produce more complex effects
  • Phenotype vs. genotype
  • Homo- vs heterozygous effects

For more on the goals of this game, try here.

Target Audience

The main audience for this game is anyone who is taking a Biology Class or learning about selective breeding, including

  • Freshman College/University
  • Senior High School (Gr. 12)
  • 4H
  • ANYONE who raises rabbits!

…basically, anyone in need of a fundamental introduction (new or refresher) to basic Mendelian genetics and inheritance.

Succinct Game-play Summary

Create bunny families in this adaptation of Rummy by choosing and matching two parents (one male and one female) with other rabbit cards in your hand that could be produced as a result of a mating between the parents. Any “families” you make get laid on the table. The first person to get all their bunnies on the table ends the round. The more you learn about coat color genetics, the better you’ll be at picking the right parents to consistently produce big, varied families for high scores. …AND be the first one to get rid of all your cards.


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