Jenga is a game that required steady hands and nerves of steel. Forget Operation, forget The Game of Jaws – these were child’s play by comparison. You were going to need some serious intestinal fortitude to make it through a game of Jenga, where one wrong move, one unintended twitch of the wrist would bring the game crashing down around you much to the delight of your nerve-rattled opponents.
The premise was simple – a tower is constructed of 54 equally sized rectangular blocks of wood. Each player takes turns removing one block from the bottom of the structure and placing it on top until the building eventually crumbles like a house of cards. At first, it didn’t seem so hard – but as the game progressed and structural integrity of your mighty tower decreased, the pressure started to build. Deep within the recesses of your psyche, a little voice started repeating “please don’t let it be me, please don’t let it be me.” Doubt began to creep in and hands started to tremble – and if there was one thing you absolutely didn’t want to possess in this time of crisis, it was shaky appendages.
With each turn, the stomach tightened. If you were lucky enough to emerge unscathed, your architectural foresight sound, you could now turn your thoughts towards your opponents – evil thoughts that hoped and prayed for misfortune to befall your fellow man. And yet, as each player, one-by-one, managed to miraculously spot a block that wouldn’t send the building towering down, your hopes quickly faded. How on earth did it become your turn again so quickly? Why did the blocks on the bottom suddenly feel as if they were cemented in place? What did this tower have against you personally? Plenty of questions ran through the mind as you silently begged for one more success.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. With a sudden crash, you were now sitting with a pile of blocks shattered no less thoroughly than your nerves. The entire table of opponents letting out a huge laugh that was borne from the sense of collective relief they felt. But, at least now it was finally over. You could walk away or, like any masochist worth their weight, start stacking the blocks again for another go around. For Jenga wasn’t just nerve-wracking – it was highly addictive.
Introduced by Milton Bradley in 1987 (and now produced by Hasbro’s Parker Brothers division), Jenga was a children’s game that was originally created in the African nation of Ghana. It is still available and still popular, often as a party game. Over the years, many variations have been introduced including Throw and Go Jenga, where different colored blocks are used, and a die with corresponding colors determines which colored block you must remove next. Truth and Dare Jenga has blocks of wood with questions and dares imprinted on them. Jenga Extreme gets away from the standard rectangles and offers blocks of differing shapes. And a few resourceful and devious college kids have managed to invent Jenga drinking games and even Strip Jenga.
With so many variations, not to mention the addictive nature of Jenga, it is assured that it will be played for many years to come, rattling the nerves of all that encounter this simple, yet insidious, little building block game.
If you have some Jenga war stories that you would like to share, the thrills of victory, the agony of defeat, we welcome all of your recollections in our comments section.