Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Indonesian Finger Game

I try to bring compact games wherever I go, in case there is an opportunity during the day to play.  If I am any good at keeping "margin time" in my schedule, then those opportunities present themselves regularly.  Sometimes, though, I find myself stuck in a line somewhere (at the post office, in an airport, etc.) without the table top or components to play a game.  That's where the Indonesian Finger Game has become one of my most-played games in my...err... collection. writer Valerie Putman introduced me to this component-less, two-player abstract in her column several years ago. Not only do I play it whenever I have a few minutes and there are no boardgames in eyeshot, but I've also incorporated the game into my Annual After Essen Parties, holding a tournament each year.  Following are the rules:

Object of the game
The goal is to eliminate both hands of your opponent by increasing the tally on each hand to 5 or more. But beware, a player can bring back a hand that has been eliminated. It takes careful planning to eliminate both hands!

Set up
Players face each other with their hands in front of them, each with a single digit (typically the pointer finger) extended. Randomly decide who will go first.

On your turn...
  1. You may take either hand and use it to tap your own hand (the other hand) or either hand of your opponent. The number of fingers extended on the tapping hand are then added to the hand that is tapped. (So on the first turn, you will add a single finger to someone’s hand – resulting in three hands that still have just one finger pointing and one hand with two fingers extended.)
  2. If the resulting total on a hand is 5 or more, the hand is reduced to zero (held in a fist with no fingers extended).
  3. A hand with zero fingers is temporarily eliminated from the game and cannot be tapped as is done on a normal turn.
  4. If on your turn you have one hand with zero fingers extended and more than one finger on your other hand, you can split the total from one hand between the two hands instead of tapping. For example, if you have zero fingers on one hand and four fingers on your second hand, you can bring your eliminated hand back into the game by dividing the four evenly, giving you two hands each with two fingers extended. The total must be divided evenly if possible. If dividing three, one hand will have one finger and one hand will have two. Remember, this is done instead of tapping another hand on a turn.
Winning the game
If you succeed in eliminating both hands of your opponent at the same time, you win!

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