Synopsis of Toy
If you build it, it will fall. Sorry, you can’t avoid it—all you can do it try to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Unveiled in 1987, Jenga was like Lego-building in Bizarro World. Instead of setting bricks one on top of the other, your job was to take the building apart, one piece at a time. Then, to go one Bizarro-step further, you had to use your purloined building materials to make the tower go higher, though the inevitable outcome was chaos and devastation. And in perhaps the biggest twist of all, we loved it. Confused? Read on.
Milton Bradley’s Jenga was designed as both a tower-building and a tower-destroying game. The box came with 54 rectangular blocks of equal shape, enough to build a tower 18 stories tall with three blocks in each row. But that status quo wouldn’t last long. Each player took a turn removing a single block from a single row, then placing it atop the tower to build ever higher. It was simple enough in the early going—two blocks in a row still made for a pretty stable edifice—but watch those trembling hands!
As the tower got higher and wobblier, you began cursing your lucky competitors under your breath, silently praying the thing would collapse before your next go-round. But alas, there you were, stuck with a teetering tower, a shaky hand and nowhere to go but up. Test that outside block on story number 12, and the entire tower started shifting uneasily. Finally—structural integrity be damned—you just pushed the thing out as quickly as you could, hoping it would be like that magic trick where the guy yanks out the tablecloth and all the dishes stay on the table. It never worked. The Jenga tower collapsed, everybody laughed (yes, at you), and the original 18-story tower was rebuilt for another round of fun.
Jenga’s simple rules and always-entertaining gameplay made it a favorite in all age groups—kids could understand it, but not even open-heart surgeons could master it. Milton Bradley expanded the idea into color-coded Throw ‘n Go Jenga (where the block removed depended on a roll of the colored die) and even a Truth or Dare version with questions and dares written on the blocks. The various versions of Jenga continue to thrill game players today, still making hands quiver and buildings crumble across the globe.