The most unstable situation is adjacent middle blocks, and in general, instabilities near the bottom of the stack are more likely to cause the tower to fall than those at the top because of the greater weight of blocks being held up by the rickety base and because of the longer moment arm.
However, it’s not quite as simple as setting up a precarious-middle-blocks-at-the-bottom-of-the-tower scenario just to make your opponent move after you’ve set it up, as the picture makes clear that several middle blocks in a row can often be stable enough for at least a couple more turns–in which case your ploy could come back to bite you.
One trick I’ve used is to judge which way the tower was tilting after I’d removed my block and then place it on the opposite side on the top. The goal here is to make your opponent place their block on the weak side and hopefully bring everything down. It has the added benefit of being the safest place to put your block.
That said, there’s not much strategy to Jenga; it’s really more about steady hands, dexterity, and being able to tell which blocks are loose. (Unless of course you engage in psychological warfare.)
If you are very dexterous, and are playing with players that are also very dexterous, realize that the math of your choices can determine who wins. Each level can have either 1 or 2 removed from it. Try to leave your opponent(s) in a situation where they have no possible moves.
For example, if there is 1 full level, and 1 level with the middle and 1 side, and you are playing with only 1 other player, remove one of the outer pieces from the full level. This will leave 2 pieces, one for your opponent and one for you. But if you are playing with more than 1 opponent, remove the middle piece from the full level, so that the pieces will run out before it gets back to you.
How to beat anyone at jenga!
This article was taken from the July 2011 issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired’s articles in print before they’re posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online.
Leslie Scott created the game 30 years ago (the name comes from the Swahili for “to build”). Here she explains how to get the upper hand.
▲ TAKE YOUR TIME
Don’t rush yourself. “With Jenga, you lose it rather than win it,” says Scott. Feel for easy bricks and forget those that feel stuck — they might loosen up later as the weight distribution changes.
▲ ▲ FORGET STRATEGY Concentrate on individual moves, rather than deploying a strategy. “Each brick is a slightly different size and weight, so every time you assemble a tower of bricks it’s a different game.”
▲ ▲ ▲ AVOID GOING CO-OPERATIVE
Don’t get sucked into building a tall tower. “People want to get the tower as high as possible and it becomes a co-operative,” Scott says. The higher it gets, the greater the likelihood it will be unstable.
▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ GET DEXTEROUS
“The rules say you can only use one hand at a time but that doesn’t mean you can’t swap hands,” says Scott. “Also, you can balance the tower against your forearm, using your arm as a brace.”
▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ MANIPULATE THE TOWER
“Even if there appears not to be a brick available, there might be,” Scott says. “If there’s a layer where the centre brick has been removed, pinch together the two remaining bricks, then remove the outside one.”
▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ THINK ABOUT PLACEMENT
Placing bricks on the top of the tower can give you the upper hand. “You can sabotage the tower by balancing it on one side,” says Scott. But if your opponent succeeds, you could inherit a real wobbler.