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Posted by Big Boo on November 6th, 2008

I must say it surprised me to learn that Jenga! was actually a product of the 1980’s, as I thought it was a much more recently invented game.  In actual fact its origins actually go back to the 1970’s, but it was during the eighties that the game hit the big time.

Jenga! is an extremely easy game to play.  A number of wooden blocks are stacked in layers of three, with alternate layers running at right angles to each other.  Players then take it in turns to remove a single block from somewhere in the tower, just not the top two rows, without upsetting the tower.  They then place it on top of the stack, again making sure they don’t topple the entire structure over.  Whoever causes the tower to fall is the loser.

Seeing as only one person can lose a round of Jenga, it is most easily played with just two people, but more can join in by giving each player a number of lives, losing one each time they lose a game, with the player dropping out once they’ve used up all their lives.

The history of the game is quite charming.  It was initially invented by Leslie Scott in 1974, who played the game using a set of wooden building blocks that were made by a craftsman from Ghana.  In the 1980’s Leslie came to Oxford, England to go to University, and brought the game with her to play with her friends.  Seeing its popularity she started selling the game herself, calling it Jenga from the Swahili word kujenga, which means to build.  In 1987 the game was finally discovered by Hasbro, who started marketing it in the US.

These days there are many imitators of Jenga, including the larger sized garden Jenga which is even more fun when the tower eventually topples.  Speaking of toppling towers, the video clip below shows a man’s attempt to build a massive model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa out of Jenga blocks.  You can probably guess what happens right from the beginning, but I sincerely hope this was a set up!

Search for Jenga! items on

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