I can’t abide sunshine. Truly. I know this puts me in a tiny minority, but every time the mercury rises above 15-degrees Celsius or so, I retreat into the shadows like a theatrical villain. Nothing, but nothing, will coax me out to play on a sunny day… Until now. Why? Because I’ve discovered Mölkky: a Finnish game with a nonsense name.
Invented as recently as 1996, the idea of Mölkky is pretty simple: you march madly into the sunshine, and set up 12 consecutively-numbered skittles in a simple formation. You then take three paces away, eye up your shot… And hurl a large wooden pin at the skittles. You have to plan your throw on every go though, since the aim of the game is to score exactly 50 points. If you go over 50, your score drops back down to 25. So far, so-so. In which case, what’s to love?
The game’s lovely because of two things: First, after each throw, you stand the skittles back up not – as you might expect – in the original formation, but rather where they landed. That means the skittles get further away the more you play. This demands that you think carefully about your next shot.
Second, the scoring system is terrific. Each of the skittles is numbered from 1 to 12: if you knock over just one of them, you score the value that’s etched on its top. This is pretty much what you’d expect. The wrinkle is that if you knock over more than one skittle, you only score a little: just a single point for each! In other words, if you only hit the 12, then it’s worth 12 points. If you knock over both the 12 and the 3, though, then you score just two!
It’s this scoring system that puts the fun in Mölkky’s functions. You can be so close to that 50-point target, and then… Clonk! Your score effectively halves. That means anyone can win: young children, elderly aunts – even me, and I throw like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.
Perhaps this is the reason that the official version of Mölkky, by Tactic Games, currently shows a whopping 82% of its amazon reviews with five stars. So… If you’re not like me, and you enjoy a good game in the sunshine, you can’t do much better than Mölkky. If you are like me, and loathe doing anything in the sunshine, then you can do a lot worse.
Either way, you might have to hurry, of course: we’ve had our customary two days of summer sun here in the U.K., and it’s only a very short time betwixt warnings about droughts and warnings about floods… Great though Mölkky is, I’d be surprised if the skittles float half as well as they sit on the grass.