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Is Jenga Considered a Board Game? Let’s find out!

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Jenga game. Set of tower games for kids and adults
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Have you ever heard of Jenga? I am sure most of you have! However, for those few of you that have not, Jenga is a game of strategy and skill. It was created in the early 1970s by Leslie Scott, a British author, and board game designer, and uses wooden blocks instead of ‘pawns.’ Right now, you may be wondering to yourself ‘what type of game is Jenga, and is it considered a board game or not?’

Is Jenga considered a board game? Jenga is not technically considered a board game. It does not comply with the fundamental principle, which includes that it must be played on a pre-marked surface (or board) and use physical pieces or ‘pawns’ that move across this surface, according to a set of pre-determined rules.

Also, board games also often use dice (to introduce randomness and initiate movement), which is not necessary for Jenga.

Now that you know that Jenga is simply a game, as opposed to a board game, let’s explore (in more detail) this fun and strategic pastime. We will discuss the meaning of its name, how it is played, and ways to win each time! So, if you are ready to learn more about Jenga, then please continue reading…

What is a Board Game?

A board game is, quite simply, any game played on a board (or pre-marked surface) that involves the movement of its related pieces across its surface. Some of these games are based solely on strategy, but many of them are chance-based, with no element of skill whatsoever!

Many board games involve the use of dice, to guide the accompanying pieces across the pre-marked surface. Dice is also used to introduce randomness and ‘chance’ into the game. There is usually a specified end result (to be achieved by a player) in order to ‘win.’

people enjoy boardgame jenga
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Board games began as a ‘battle’ between opposing sides. This theme continues today, with those playing intent on defeating their opponents through counter attacks, winning position, collection of points, or strategic maneuvers.

What does Jenga Stand For?

The word ‘Jenga’ is derived from a Swahili word, ‘kujenga,’ meaning ‘to build.’ While in Ghana, Leslie and her family would play a game of balance using wooden blocks. Later, she would credit this game as her inspiration for creating the classic (and now iconic) Jenga game.

How Do You Play Jenga?

Jenga is a great game to play on a rainy afternoon or snowy evening! It is built around the idea of ‘stacking blocks’ and appeals to people of all ages and cultures. Players take turns removing blocks from a tower, continually placing them on top of each other in an attempt to maintain the balance of structure. It does require a marked surface or any other pieces or pawns besides the blocks themselves!

As blocks are removed one-by-one, the tower becomes increasingly unstable. Maintaining its structural balance is the object of the game. It requires both physical and mental skill and should be played on a table or flat surface, preferably.

new ideas with wooden bricks jenga
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The rules of Jenga are simple and include the following:

  • Set-up the game. Using the loading tray included with the game, set up the fifty-four pieces by stacking them in levels of three placed one next to the other along their sides and at a right angle to the row beneath it.
  • Begin the game. Once the structure or tower has been built, whoever stacked it gets to go first. Begin the game by taking one block from any level and placing it on the top. Do not take a block from any level below an incomplete top level.
  • Play the game. Using only one hand at a time, continue to remove and stack the blocks, trying to maintain balance in order to prevent the tower from falling. The game is over when the structure crumbles. The player responsible for the fallen structure is the ‘loser.’

A typically asked question when playing is, “can you catch the Jenga tower?” The answer is no, you cannot catch a falling tower. You must play the game with only one hand at a time, and it is not permitted to either hold or steady the tower with the other hand.

Jenga blocks can be ‘tapped’ or knocked, in order to find a loose piece that is safe to move, as long as the tower remains intact. Disturbing the structure or bringing down the tower will result in a game loss.

How Do You Improve Your Chances of Winning in Jenga?

Since Jenga is a game of strategy, there are several ways to win, if you are aware of a few tricks beforehand! Check out the following eight tips:

  • Push the blocks out. Do not ‘pull’ the blocks out but rather ‘push’ them or tap them gently until they come out. This technique helps to better maintain the stability of the tower.
  • Take blocks from the middle. Removing blocks from the middle will keep the tower balanced. If you take them from the sides, it is more likely to lose stability. Take as many from the center as you can, thus forcing your opponents to take the ‘weaker’ side blocks.
man take one block on The tower from wooden blocks jenga
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  • Move blocks to the center. When you run out of center blocks, move the ones on the side into the middle by gently tapping them with the block you are going to take. The idea here is to maintain the center of gravity.
  • Alternate placement. If you take a block from the right side, place it on top on the left side, and vice versa. This will help balance the tower as it gets increasingly more unstable.
  • Thickness counts! Not all Jenga blocks are created equal! Some are slightly thicker than others. Try to keep these thicker blocks close to the bottom and remove the thinner ones first.
  • One move at a time. Concentrate on each move. Do not think too far ahead. Strategizing your moves is fine; however, your plan is likely to change throughout, based on the moves of the other players.
  • Slow and steady. Take your time and be careful. There is no time limit for moves in this game so think each one through and slowly, steadily, remove each block.
  • Test the tower. The premise of the game is to maintain the structural balance as long as possible. At each turn, ‘test’ the tower by tapping the blocks with your fingers, checking for ones that are not ‘stuck’ and rather easily removable.

Jenga is a game of strategy, and it is perfectly fine to engage in a little ‘psychological warfare’ when playing. Stay focussed and concentrate while at the same time distracting your opponents by laughing, talking, or ‘teasing’ the possible outcome of their next move! Be ‘in it to win it’ but also have fun!

people play a board game called jenga in cafe
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What is the Highest Jenga Tower?

Have you ever wondered just how high a Jenga tower can go? Well, the record for the highest known Jenga tower was set back in 1985 by a man named Robert Grebler in the United States. It was forty stories high with an additional two blocks upon the forty-first level! Wow, now that is truly amazing!

All things considered

Jenga is a fun game to play, no matter your age or background. It is not considered a ‘board game’ as it does not follow the fundamental rule. This rule involves the use of a pre-marked surface or ‘board’ that must have accompanying pieces, which move strategically or randomly across it.

A board game will also often use dice to initiate the movement of its pieces and create a sense of randomness or’ chance.’ There is no dice involved in Jenga, and little is left to chance. It is a strategic game that requires physical and mental skill to win.

Jenga is not played on a board or pre-marked surface but rather on a table or flat surface. All you need is fifty-four wooden blocks of similar size and density! It is a game that can be easily won each time with a little ‘inside knowledge.’ We have discussed some ‘tip and tricks’ to winning Jenga earlier in this article.

side view of men and women playing jenga game
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So why not get the family together for a fun game of Jenga tonight? Anyone can play! It is easy, fun, and appeals to those from ages six to sixty (and beyond)! Best of all, no boards, pawns or dice required. Good luck!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.