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Monthly Archives: December 2015

Tips for Winning Jenga

Tips for winning Jenga
An electrifying and exciting game, Jenga tests your mental prowess as well as dexterity. The game can be played by any number of players, and has no time duration to it.

Those who are familiar with the game can scroll down for some tips.

While those who are not familiar, the prime objective of this game is to build the tallest tower using only 54 pieces or blocks stacked one above the other. Each player/s receives a chance to remove one and only one block from any level of the tower (except the last and penultimate level) and place it on the top, thereby, increasing the height of the tower. A couple of things to remember here is each player/s is allowed to use only one hand while removing a block, and his/her turn is complete only when one block is removed from the bottom and placed on top.

So much so for the playing essentials. If the tower collapses during or after a move, the player causing the collapse is declared as the loser.

Now, you may have played the game at a friend’s house party, and you couldn’t get enough of it. So, you finally buy it for yourself, and now, you wish to become a pro at it. Keep the following tips in mind that are sure to give you an edge over your opponent, the next time you play Jenga.

1. Push the blocks, don’t pull
When you pull a block out, the motion of lifting the block disturbs the balance of the tower, and causes it to topple over. Whereas, pushing or gently tapping a block out, distributes the load of the tower gradually, thereby, maintaining the stability of the tower.

2. Eliminate blocks at the center first
Removing blocks from the sides of the tower is riskier than eliminating blocks from the center. The reason behind this involves some technical stuff (cantilevers, balancing beams, etc.) which is rather beside the point. What you need to remember is, remove blocks from the center, thereby, compelling your opponent to eliminate blocks on the sides, which is a potentially risky move.

3. When you run out of center blocks, shift side blocks to the center
Gently tap both the blocks on the side to move them towards the center. Once one of them is exactly at the center, get rid of the other tactfully. The key is to maintain the center of gravity with that one block, to hold the tower in place. Ensure that the block is exactly at the center, as the stability of the remaining blocks above depend on it.

4. Out from the left, in from the right
If you eliminate a block from the right side, place it at the top of the tower on the left side. Likewise, a block from the bottom left should go to the top right. At times, where you eliminate blocks from the center, check which side needs to be balanced more, and accordingly, place the block on the appropriate side. For example, if you feel the tower is about to topple towards the right, place the block that you just removed from the center, on the top-left side of the tower.

5. Size (and thickness) matters!
The blocks slightly vary in thickness. Naturally, the thinner ones are less likely to bear the load of the tower than thicker ones. Shift the thinner ones to the top to ensure a stable tower. As the game progresses, the blocks that were tightly stuck at the beginning, would loosen up. Look out for those blocks, and eliminate them first.

6. Focus on individual moves
If there is any strategy and plan to win at Jenga, then it is to focus on one single block and move at a time. In your quest to build the tallest Jenga tower, you may plan a couple of moves ahead and chart a course for your game. But your plan is sure to get altered because of the moves your opponent makes.

7. Use your non-dominant hand too
Simultaneous use of both hands to remove a block from the Jenga tower is not allowed. However, skillful movement and alternative use of both the hands, when required, not only improves dexterity of the hands, but also helps to balance the tower more effectively.

8. Take your time
The best thing about this game is that there is no time constraint. (You could, however, devise a variation in which each participant gets only a limited amount of time to complete his turn of taking out a block from the Jenga tower; it would speed up the game and make it more interesting and exciting). Since there is no time limit, relax, breathe, and make your move. Don’t take too long though; you might ruin the moment and excitement for the other players.

9. Avoid strategy
When we say ‘avoid strategy’, what we are really trying to say is don’t plan multiple moves at one time. Between your current move and the next move you have planned in your head, the game will change drastically, as your opponent shifts and eliminates blocks from the tower. Every Jenga tower (every single Jenga tower!) is built differently. No two Jenga towers are the same, and for that matter, no two Jenga blocks are the same. It is not guaranteed that the strategy you applied during your last Jenga win, will ensure a victory again.

10. Psychological warfare
Concentrate on the game, and don’t get distracted; not only during your turn, but also during your opponent’s turn. Keep an eye out for blocks that loosen up when your opponent is eliminating blocks. Also, I asked you not to get distracted, I didn’t ask you to not distract! Everything is fair in love, war, and Jenga. Make your opponents laugh when they are trying hard to take out an extremely difficult block, talk to them, distract them, just so that they fumble and you win. You are in it to win it, right?

Golden Tip
Your aim should be to prevent the tower from collapsing, and not building the highest Jenga tower. Maintaining stability of the tower by ensuring proper removal and placement of singular blocks would automatically lead to the creation of a taller and more stable tower. At every turn, before you decide which block you want to eliminate, test the tower first. Do this by gently tapping blocks with your fingers and look for blocks which are not perfectly stuck and can be easily removed. As the game progresses, the blocks which were earlier perfect-fits in the tower, would become loose blocks and vice versa. The trick is to continuously keep checking for loose blocks that can be easily moved, and get rid of them first, before your opponent does.

These tips might help you improve your Jenga tactics and the way you play it, but a steady hand, sheer concentration, extreme patience, and lots of practice are the keys to being a winner at Jenga. That, or a sober you and drunk and intoxicated opponents!

Step-by-step Instructions to Play Jacks

Jacks is a commonly played game, whose origins can be traced back to ancient Greece. Evidence of this, is found in the Greek texts of the Iliad and the Odyssey. These texts contain passages describing a similar game. In Greece, this game was mostly played by women and children, and was known by the name of “pent alit ha” or “five-stones”.

This game is played by tossing an object in the air, and picking up ‘jacks’ before the object touches the ground. Many variations of this game have developed over the years. For example:- “Tropa”, where the object of the game was to throw the knuckle bones in such a way that they landed in a hole, dug up for the purpose of the game. Another variant of this game included the throwing of astragaloi onto a flat surface, and then counting the values of the sides on which the bones fell. The different faces of the bones, fetched different points. The convex side scored 1 for the narrow part, and 3 for the broad part. Similarly, the concave side scored 6 for the narrow side, and 4 for the broad side. Later, more variations for the throwing of bones were developed, and given specific names such as Midas, Alexander, Venus, King, Vulture, etc.

Jacks: Requirements

It is played using a rubber ball and 6-12 small six-pronged, metal or plastic jacks. Alternatively, seeds and small stones can also be used.
Ideally, it should be played on a uniformly flat and smooth, hard surface like a table top. Alternatively, a hardwood or linoleum covered floor may also be used.
Number of players is not defined. The game can be played solo, as well as in small or large groups.

Jacks: Rules and How to play

Step 1: To decide who starts the game, all players take equal number of jacks in their hand and toss them in the air, with the objective of catching as many as possible on the back of their hand. The player with the maximum jacks on his hand is the first to begin the game. Thereafter the game proceeds clockwise. This can also be decided by a coin toss or by playing a round of rock-paper-scissors.

Step 2: The first player scatters the jacks uniformly on the playing surface, takes the rubber ball in his hands, and lightly throws it upwards. This action is called a “jockey”. As soon as the player does this, he must pick up one jack and while managing to catch the ball before it bounces back.

Step 3: The jacks must be in hand while catching the ball. After the ball has been caught, the player transfers the picked up jacks to the other hand, leaving his hand free for playing the next turn.

Step 4: If the player is successful in the first turn, he throws the ball again, but this time he must pick up two jacks before the ball bounces. For each turn the number of jacks to be picked up, increases by one, till the turn is reached where the number of jacks being picked up totals 10.

Step 5: Each turn has its own term depending on the number of jacks being picked up. The first round, where you pick up 1, is called “onesies”. When 2 jacks are picked up, that round is called “twosies”. In this manner the rounds that follow are “threesies”,”foursies”, and so on till the last round of “tensies”.

Step 6: A player commits a foul, if he fails to catch the ball before it bounces, or if he is unable to collect the exact required number of jacks before the ball hits the surface.

Step 7: It is also considered a foul when the player collects more jacks than required, drops one that he has picked up, or if he accidentally moves any jack from its original place.

Step 8: The occurrence of a foul causes that players turn to end, and passes the turn on to the next player. When the turn comes back to a player, he must resume playing from the same level that his previous turn ended on.

Step 9: The player who reaches the highest round, wins the game. Alternatively, each jack may carry points and at the end of the game, the player with the most points, wins.

Step 10: The game can also be played using small stones or seeds.

Jacks: Game-play Variations

Bouncies – Letting the ball bounce once before grabbing it.

Double Bouncies – Allowing the ball to bounce twice, before it is caught.

Black Widow – Player goes from “onesies” to “tensies” in one turn. If the player fouls and ends his turn, he must start from “onesies” again, when his turn arrives.

Around The World – The player makes a circle in the air around the ball, after it is thrown, and then picks up the jacks.

Dump – Player puts 5 jacks in a heap, and picks one up without disturbing the other four. He tosses it in the air, scoops up the other four, and then catches the tossed jack in the same hand.

Clicks – This is an addition to the other variations, where, while collecting the jacks, they must make a clicking sound.

No Clicks – No noise should be made when collecting and catching the jacks.

Punishments – These can be any actions such as clapping, that have to be performed while the ball is still in the air, before collecting the jacks. The players collectively decide the action before the game begins.

Jacks: Game Versions

❥ The people of Cork, Ireland play a version of this game, called “gobs”, using the small quartz pebbles, that are easily found on the beach.

❥ Native Africans play a version of this game, using pebbles and without the use of a ball.

❥ “Kugelach” or “Hamesh Avanim” is played by Israeli children. They play using 5 metal, dice-shaped cubes.

❥ This game is called “chucks” in England, and in Korea, it is called “gonggi”.

The materials that are used to play this game can be changed according to the players preference. Also, the rules and variations can be molded according to the player’s imagination. Its versatile nature makes it an easy game to play, whenever, wherever.