Wondering how to play pick up sticks? A classic game, pick up sticks is sure to delight fans of any age or experience level. In this post you’ll learn the rules and scoring, as well as the game’s history.
What is pick up sticks and where did it come from?
Pick up sticks history goes back to at least the 1800s, and possibly even farther. Originating in China, pickup sticks has many other names, including jackstraws, spillikins, and mikado, and entails picking up thin wooden sticks one at a time. Straws, matches, ivory, bone, and plastic have also been used.
In most versions of the game, the sticks are colored or painted differently to denote different point values. Some people play with a master stick, which can be used to move other sticks out of the way without penalty during the game. Some sets include sticks in different shapes, which can make the game more difficult.
Rules for pick up sticks
Each stick is supposed to be removed without disturbing any of the others. If another stick moves when you pick up a stick, your turn ends and gameplay continues with the next player. Pick up sticks rules vary from region to region, but in every version of the game a player turns end when they disturb another stick.
If desired, players can impose a limit on how many sticks can be pulled per turn to ensure fairer gameplay.
How to score in pick up sticks
Pick up sticks can be scored as each one is picked up, or at the end of the game.
Each player tallies their score by observing the pattern on the pick up sticks. The pick up sticks point value system is as follows:
Small blue dashed lines are worth twenty points, large blue-red-blue lines are worth ten points, small red and blue dashed lines are worth five points, large red-green-blue lines are worth three points, and the sticks with only one red line and one blue line are worth two points. The player with the most points wins the game.
How to play pick up sticks
So how do you play pick up sticks? Before you start, you need a set of pick up sticks, and at least one other person to play with.
Find a level surface, decide on any variations or rules that you want to employ, and follow these steps:
Prepare the game
Gather the pick up sticks into one hand. Hold them vertically, or perpendicular to the ground, about a few inches above your playing surface. Then drop the sticks and allow them to fall freely.
The first player starts picking up sticks, trying not to move any of the other sticks. After a stick is successfully removed, that player attempts to remove another.
This continues until he or she moves another stick, or until they have reached the maximum number of sticks allowed to be taken in one turn.
If you are scoring after each turn, record the first player’s score. Otherwise, proceed to the next player.
The next player then attempts to remove a stick, continuing to remove sticks until another stick is moved or the maximum is reached. Each player continues to take turns.
The game ends either when no sticks remain, or when a player reaches a specific score.
At this point, a winner can be declared, or another round of pick up sticks can begin.
There are many variations to the game that can increase difficulty and keep it interesting for many, many plays. For example, try using a retriever hook to pick up the sticks, which can easily be fashioned from a bent paper clip.
Make up your own house rules, such as the youngest player going first, or that all players must use their non-dominant hand.
Vary the height from which you drop the sticks to create different challenges.
There’s no end to the fun of pick up sticks!