Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to Play Yutnori (윷놀이)

Lunar New Year is over. Sad face.

Yet in Korea, games are forever. Centuries haven't diminished the importance of having fun in Korea, which is the only excuse you need to grab four popsicle sticks, one sheet of paper and a pen, and finally a couple coins to use as pawns for as many people who are playing, to create your own makeshift yutnori board game.

Make Your Board:

1. You'll need four popsicle sticks. Grab a marker and color only one side of each popsicle stick, so that one side is "white" and one side is "black" for each one.

2. Now take that sheet of paper and make a wide rectangle. Mark six large dots on all four sides, and five going diagonally each way, so your board should look like the one below.

3. Grab some pennies, or some 100W coins to use as pawns. That's it! Now let's get started on playing.

How to Play:

The goal of the game is to simply return your pawn to the starting point. It's simple, but the game requires many strategies and a decent amount of luck to win. Still game? Let's play.

1. Play left to right. Remember you have four sticks. Consider the "white" as "up," and the "black" side as "down."

2. Now, let's learn how to count. Nope, not Sino or Native Korean, a new kind. Do, Gae, Geul, Yut, and Mo. (You can remember then anyway you'd like. Personally, I opt for "Do--a deer, a female deer, Gae--a gop of golden gun. Geul, so cool, no I said 'geul,' Yut! then Mo bro I don't know!" But hey, I'm sure you can think of a cool way, too.)

3. Let's practice throwing those sticks. That's right, toss them in the air. Once they fall, you'll get a combination of ups and downs (no, not the emotional kind) when they land. Now those numbers come into play. If one stick is up and the other three are down, that's called "Do." This means you can move your pawn one space.

If you throw them and two are up and two are down, this is "Gae," and you can move two spaces.

If you throw them down and three are up and one is down, this is "Geul," and you move three spaces.

Then say all four are up, this is "Yut," and you can move four spaces. It is at times optional to include the rule that if you land a Yut, you can also have a second turn to throw the sticks. Remember though, it's optional, so establish that rule before you play. No honest player likes a random game changer. Ask Katniss.

Last one is "Mo," and this happens when all four sticks are faced down. You're probably thinking this is bad news, but remember, Koreans are the nicest people around, and they're not here to trick you. If you get all four sticks down, you actually get to move five spaces forward. Huzzah! You can also add the option to let the player throw one more time. Boy, Koreans sure are generous, neh?

4. Now you know how to move the pawns. But how do you get around the board, and what's the purpose of the diagonal dots?

Here we go: take a look at the corner dots. Those are special dots. Good dots. Nice Dots. If you land on one of those dots, on your next turn, you can chose the direction of your pawn.

So for example, if you land on the lower left dot after scoring first a "Gae," and then a "Geul," on your next turn you can choose to turn your pawn in the direction of the middle, basically taking a shortcut from having to go completely around the board. Cool right? So those outer dots and that one in the middle are your best friends. May you always find each other.

5. Add this challenge: if you want to make things difficult, when one player lands on the same spot as another, they get to send that first pawn back to the start! If you have too many friends, this is a great move to use to lose a few.

6. Play! You know all the rules to play yutnori. Seriously? Seriously. Have fun. Play with your Korean friends, play with any friends, and impress them with your DIY board game skills. Fighting!



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