I challenge you to a duel…of Gonggi!
This month is full of family activities and fun! In South Korea, Children’s Day is annually held on May 5th, and Parents’ Day is celebrated on May 8th. Going with this family-oriented month, we’ve included a special surprise in our May SnackFever subscription boxes!
This month, we’re revisiting one of our favorite childhood games. In the USA, we had jacks, or marbles, or even just a trusty deck of cards; but, for many Koreans and Korean-Americans growing up, no game was as entertaining and time-consuming as Gonggi.
Gonggi, also known as the Korean version of Jacks, is a game consisting of five small pieces, traditionally stones, and throwing and catching them in various manners. Back in the day the pieces were small, smooth stones that kids could find and collect outside. Nowadays, we play with bright, colorful, plastic pieces weighted slightly with grains or sand.
All you need to play are five Gonggi pieces and a smooth surface to play on (though usually we just play on the floor). The game can be played alone (like Solitaire) or with any number of friends. Just agree on the total score that players will try to reach before everyone else, and you can begin.
To determine who will go first, everyone takes a turn tossing all five stones from their palm into the air, then turning over their hand backside up. Whoever catches the most stones on the back of their hand goes first, and so on.
To play, the directions are simple. One person plays at a time with all five stones, in five “rounds.”
- Round 1: Toss the stones in front of you. Pick 1 piece, and throw it up in the air. While the stone is mid-air, pick up 1 stone and then catch the stone you threw in the air. Repeat this move, keeping all the stones in the same hand you’re catching them with, until all the stones are in your hand. If you succeed this without dropping any stones or missing your pieces, you can pass onto the second round.
- Round 2: Essentially this is the same as round 1, except you are picking the pieces up this time in groups of 2. Pick up 1 stone, throw it in the air, and pick up 2 pieces at once. Repeat. If you succeed, move on to round 3.
- Round 3: Toss the stones in front of you. Pick your 1 piece to throw. This time when picking up pieces, you’ll pick up 3 pieces together, and then 1 piece. If you succeed, move on to round 4.
- Round 4: Same thing, but this time you pick up all remaining 4 pieces at once. Try to toss the stones close together! If you succeed, move on to round 5.
- Round 5: Just like how you determined who would go first, take all 5 pieces in your fist and toss them into the air. Catch as many as you can on the back of your hand. Now, with the remaining pieces still on the back of your hand, toss them into the air again and catch them in your fist, keeping the back of your hand facing up. However many you catch in this last throw is how many points get added to your total.
If you’re a more visual learner, here’s a fun video that show two players playing several rounds to see whoever can get to 30 points first.
The rules are pretty simple, right? Gonggi is a fun and easy way to spend a couple hours with your friends or family. Here’s a video of TWICE’s Jihyo and Momo playing with a Gonggi set given to them by a fan.
People of all ages and genders can enjoy a good game of Gonggi. I often play with relatives, older and younger, at family gatherings (sometimes monetary betting is involved LOL). I loved collecting the colorful plastic Gonggi pieces when I was a child, and my mom was always happy to share her tips and stories of how she played as a young girl in Korea.
So SnackFever fam, I hope you’re ready to play Gonggi! All subscribers will be getting a set in their May boxes (and it’s not too late to get one!). Be sure to tag us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to show off your Gonggi skills and techniques!