Recommended ages: 6 years old and over
Average playing time: 20 minutes for a Jenga game
Number of players: A good game relies on speed, so play with no more than six players at a time. It can also be played as a single player challenge.
Jenga has been a massive hit with both children and adults alike since the early 1980s. The physical nature of the game, combined with the spectacular ending, keeps players coming back for more. The combination between careful thinking and careful doing makes this game a favorite for helping children develop fine motor skills. Most recently, the jenga game has been adapted for consoles such as the Nintendo Wii and an app is in development for most smart phones.
How to Play
Learning how to play Jenga is incredibly simple. You will need to begin with a set of 36 identical rectangular blocks. You can buy specific sets, or it is possible to make them yourself. For an added thrill, you can buy oversize sets to play outdoors.
Take three blocks and line them up along side each other to make a square. Take the next three blocks and lay them crosswise over the top. The next three lay on top of the tower in the original orientation, and so on until the tower is built. In the garden game, this can leave you with a tower that is over a meter or 36 inches high.
Any player can start by selecting a brick to take out of the tower. Each household will have their own Jenga game rules regarding how this happens. Some popular variations that have evolved over time include:
- You must remove the first brick you touch – This forces players to be more selective with their eyes and adds a level of challenge to the game.
- You can only use one hand – Using two hands allows players to settle the rest of the tower as they remove a brick, so restricting them to one hand makes success harder to achieve.
- Numbered or colored bricks – By numbering or coloring the bricks, you can dictate which ones a player can remove. For example, number the bricks one to six and use a dice to select which bricks a player can pick out.
Once the block has been removed, the player puts it on top of the tower in the correct orientation. The only rule is that players cannot take their block from the top two layers.
Winning the Game
A Jenga game lasts until someone causes the tower to collapse. Depending on the skill level of the players, this may be until no possible moves are left, or right on the first turn. To play as a game of solitaire, keep track of how many bricks you remove and place on top before the tower falls and try to beat your score.
The main tactic to use for a game of jenga is concentrate on your turn only. Your opponents have such a large choice of bricks that you have little chance to actually influence their turns. Watch their turns carefully as you will see which bricks are loose and always try and pick out bricks from the middle of a row as removing these will cause less structural damage to the whole tower.
A typical Jenga game will be a noisy affair as players cheer each other and the tension rises. Therefore, it makes for a great kids party game, as long as you have a steady table and an agreement that no one knocks the table deliberately. For adults, it can be a good after dinner game with a few glasses of wine and possibly some forfeits for knocking the tower over.
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