Several years ago, I was a counselor at a children’s camp. Some of the kids in my cabin were Korean and they taught us a game that I have never heard of before. We ended up playing it the whole time! At first, the Korean kids were dominating the rest of us. But, I soon got the hang of it and became pretty good at it!
It’s like Rock, Paper, Scissors, but so much more. The more I played, the more brilliant I realized this game was. It was perfect! It reminded me of Texas Hold ‘em in that it only takes 3 minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. The levels of strategy are mind-blowing, yet anyone can play it and have fun.
It takes coordination, quick decision making, people reading, and strategy to really get good at it. But children can still play it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And the more I thought about it, the more brilliant I realized it was! And you don’t need anything but your hands to play it!
To really understand what I mean, you have to play it. At first it seems like luck. But, the more you play it, the more strategy you discover. And, unlike regular rock, paper, scissors, you can get unlucky several times a game and still win. Strategy and skill wins out in the end.
When we were leaving the Korean kids told me how moved they were that I showed appreciation for their game and they asked me to teach it to as many people as I could. It was extremely important to them. I promised that I would and they were so excited and moved by that. They kept asking “are you really going to???” and their eyes lit up like candles!
I’ve since looked everywhere online trying to find anyone else who has heard of this game, but I’ve not been successful. Did these kids make it up? I’ve come across several other Korean hand games resembling RPS, but nothing even close to this game. As far as I know, this is the first time this game has appeared on the internet!
Korean Kill ‘Em
“The Cadillac of RPS”
For 2 to 5 people (although it’s much less fun with less than 4)
Players get in a small circle, holding both fists out approx. 12 inches in front of their chest. The middle of the circle is the playing area. To officially play a sign (either Rock, Paper, or Scissors), the hand making the sign is thrust into the playing area.
In order to keep the timing of the play and insure everyone plays at the same time, the players do a chant. The chant is as follows:
“Come, to, PLAY, and, play, to, WIN”
The chant keeps a steady, moderate beat, just like you were counting to seven. PLAY and WIN are emphasized because that’s when the action happens. In tournament play, the chant can be replaced with beeps or a recording, but the timing must be the same.
All the players recite the chant in unison. On the word PLAY, each player openly chooses and forms a sign for each hand. They can be the same sign or they can be different signs (although there is no tactical advantage for making them the same).
On the word WIN, each player thrusts one of his hands into the playing area. If all three signs are present (rock, paper, and scissors), the result is a draw and you try again. Keep trying until only two signs are represented (this doesn’t take long at all).
[It’s important to note that in each Play, you aren’t looking for a single “winner”, you are trying to determine the single loser.]
Of the two signs played, those who played the dominant sign are safe. The players who played the submissive sign must then play again just amongst themselves to determine the single loser of the round.
Let’s say 5 people are playing and there is one paper and four rocks played. Paper dominates rock so the four who played the rocks go again. This time there are two paper and two scissors played. Scissors dominate paper so the two who played paper go again. This time one player plays rock and the other plays scissors. Rock dominates scissors so the player who played scissors loses the round.
Losing the Round:
Once a single loser has been determined, that marks the end of the round. The loser must put one of his hands behind his back and continue play with only one hand. Once you lose two rounds, you are out of hands and therefore out of the game (“killed”).
Keep going until only one player remains. That player is the winner of the game!
But, there’s a twist. Once a player loses a round and is down to only one hand, he does not have to play the sign he initially shows. He may change his sign as he’s thrusting his hand into the playing area. But, the change has to be made during the thrust so that his sign is fully formed on the word “WIN”.
In other words, the player with only one hand may show rock on the word “PLAY” but may change it into scissors when he actually plays it. This gives him a unique advantage and is something the other players must account for.
Players must be precise in their timing and in the formation of their signs. If a player is even slightly behind the beat or even slightly off in his attempt to form the gesture, he automatically loses the round. When first learning the game, you’ll want to be fairly lax with this rule. But, the more experienced the players are, the stricter this rule should be enforced.
PLAY – Each time players thrust signs into the playing area. (You will usually have to go through a few Plays per Round)
ROUND – A Round consists of as many Plays as it takes to determine a single loser.
GAME – A Game is complete when all players are Killed except one, leaving him the winner.
KILLED – When a player has lost two Rounds in a Game, he is Killed and can no longer play.
Give this game a shot. Do it for the Korean kids!
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- Jim Graham
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