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How to play Gonggi, a Korean game

by Joycifer

Gonggi (공기) is a popular children's game in South Korea, but versions of the game have been found around the world throughout various cultures. It was originally played with bones from animals or small pebbles, but nowadays you can buy plastic pieces to play with instead. You can play alone or with friends and since all you need is a flat surface and five pebbles the game can be played practically anywhere.

Different pieces for playing Gonggi and similar games. - Image credit:

How to play Gonggi

To determine who starts the game, all players throw their pieces into the air. While in the air, the player turns their hand upside down and then catches as many pieces as possible on the back of their hand. The person with the most pieces plays first.

Pictures showing how to catch the pieces on the back of your hand.

Here's a quick video where you can easily see the rules.

If you want to watch BTS play the game, this is the video for you!

Level 1

The player throws the pieces onto the playing area and then picks one piece to throw in the air. While in the air, the player picks up another piece from the playing area and then catches the piece they threw in the air before it falls back to the playing area.

The player repeats these steps until all the pieces have been caught.

Level 2

The pieces are once again thrown onto the playing area and the player picks one piece to throw into the air. They will then repeat the same steps as for Level 1, except for the change that they will pick up the remaining pieces two at the time instead of just one.

Level 3

For this level the player will repeat the steps of the previous levels, but this time the pieces will be picked up once in a cluster of three and the rest one at a time.

Level 4

This time the player will keep all the pieces in their hand while they throw the first piece in the air. The player then places the rest of the pieces on the playing area before catching the thrown piece. The player will then throw the stone back into the air, pick up the cluster of four that’s still on the playing area and then again catch the piece in the air.

Level 5

The player will, for this level, throw all the pieces into the air, then flip their hand over and catch as many pieces as possible on the back of their hand. The player then throws the pieces they caught back into the air from the back of their hand and catches as many as possible in their hand. The amount they catch this time is the score they get.

For this level, there are some tricks that can be made (such as Dragon and Clap Toss) but tricks are not allowed in official game play.

Dragon While the stones are in the air, the player turns their hand so the back faces upwards, catches several stones, then turns their hand with the palm up, and catches the stones that are left over.

Clap Toss While the stones are in the air, the player claps their hand before catching the stones.

Both of these tricks give the player twice the score.

This type of Gonggi piece have small "beads" inside to give them weight. - Image credit:

If you mess up on any of the levels and fail to complete the task, you’ll have to end your turn without a score and hand the pieces to the next player.

How the game ends

When all players have had a chance to play once (even if they fail and get no points) the game is over and the player with the highest score wins the game.

Another option is that you set a goal before playing. For example, the first player to reach 30 points wins.

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