If you have played Jenga, you have probably felt that tension as you very carefully pulled a block from a precariously balanced tower that’s ready to topple at any moment and you have probably felt that relief when it doesn’t fall after you place your block on the top of the tower and pass your turn. As the tower gets taller and taller you simultaneously want it to fall over and just get it over with, but also want to keep it growing ever taller to see how tall you can make it. And even though you know it’s coming, somehow it still shocks you when the tower finally topples and crashes to the floor. Today I want to talk about some games you might like if you enjoy Jenga.
The first game is Junk Art in which players take on the role of artists using obscure objects to create abstract sculptures. There are twelve different cities that you can exhibit in and each city is a different scenario to play through. Each scenario has a different win condition, but the gameplay is the same: you must use a variety of oddly-shaped pieces to build your art and try not to let it fall. There may even be a bonus for the tallest structure.
Junk Art requires a steady hand, balancing skills, and maybe even a little luck, just like Jenga. The difference here is that you are building art. Junk Art requires a bit of creativity in addition to your ability to balance whereas Jenga is fairly straightforward in that you put the block you just pulled in the spot that will most evenly balance the tower. Also, in Junk Art, each player is creating his own tower, which makes it fun to compare your own art with your opponents’ art.
Lift It is a similar concept to Junk Art in that you are building a structure with different shapes, but the catch here is that these structures must be built with a crane. Sometimes you will use your hand to maneuver the crane, but other times it might be attached to your head, making the game even more challenging.
In Lift It, everyone may be playing against everyone else, or you can form teams to challenge each other. When it is your turn to build, you choose a card that shows you what you are to build. You have a certain amount of time to build it and get a certain number of points based on how many pieces you placed correctly in the time limit. Lift It is a great game for larger groups of people and kids find it to be especially fun. I’ve tried to explain Lift It to groups of kids before and they really don’t even care how to play the game, they just want to try their hand (or head!) at building different structures with the crane. Lift It is a fun, silly, and surprisingly competitive game that everyone can enjoy.
Animal Upon Animal
The next game is more geared towards children, but still a fun game to test your balancing skills. In Animal Upon Animal players are trying to build a tower of animal figures. To start, each player takes a stock of animal pieces. On your turn, you roll a die and, depending on the result of the roll, you (or sometimes someone else) must stack a certain number of animals on top of the tower. The first player to get rid of their pieces wins, but you have to be careful because if the tower collapses, you may have to take some pieces back.
In my opinion, the best kids’ games are the ones that their parents can enjoy as well. Animal Upon Animal may technically be a children’s game, but the cute theme combined with the need for some balancing skills makes it a great game for everyone. I’ve even seen some of our “grown-up” patrons without children have a blast with it. This game is also probably the most like Jenga in that all players are building on the same tower, but unlike in Jenga, if the tower collapses on your turn, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose, giving players more chances to continue playing on an uneven tower.
Suspend is the final game and perhaps the game that looks the most dissimilar from Jenga because of its use of rods instead of blocks. However, the balancing act required in the game is still the same. Starting with the base (a metal rod standing up, but slightly leaning), players take turns placing rods of differing lengths on the base. Each rod has notches in it that you use to place them and once a notch is used, it can’t be used again. The player who runs out of rods first wins.
Not gonna lie, but I think that Suspend may be the hardest of these games because the rods just don’t want to stay on very well sometimes. I remember playing this game with Tom’s daughter, but we kind of made up our own rules and played it cooperatively, trying to put all of the pieces on at the same time. We did it, but only because we didn’t know about the “each notch can only be used once” rule so we had multiple rods hanging from the same notch sometimes. I have yet to play it how it’s supposed to be played, but I’m sure that it’s difficult to find good places to hang certain rods—especially those pesky yellow ones!
If you think that you have the steady hands of a surgeon then try out one of these games the next time you’re in the café! And don’t forget that we also have a giant version of Jenga available if you want to play a new twist on the classic game. The store record is 34 and 1/3 levels high, held by the Keegans themselves—maybe you can beat it!