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How to play Yut Nori, a Korean game

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

by Joycifer

Yut Nori (윷놀이) is a game that has been around for hundreds of years and, like chess, it involves a lot of strategy. The game can be played any time, but it’s most commonly played during Korean New Year.

The origin of Yut Nori is unclear, but some suggest that it was being played as early as the Three Kingdoms (57 BCE – 668 CE). It seems they played a board game similar to today's Yut Nori or the Indian board game Pachisi.

You can find and buy a Yut Nori set in almost any supermarket in South Korea and even many stores outside of Korea, as well. You can buy them as cheap as $2.

One set contains 4 wooden sticks, which are flat on one side and round on the other, a gameboard and 8 playing tokens (4 tokens for each team).

How to play Yut Nori

Usually you play between two people or two teams, but you can play with more teams, as well. There isn’t really a limit so the game can be played by a large group of players. If the groups are too big, there is a possibility that some players won’t get a chance to have a turn before the game is over though.

The aim of the game is to return all of your tokens back to the start. So to win you have to move all of your tokens around the board as fast as possible. Each team has 4 tokens. If you are lucky, you might stop on a corner square, which will let you take a shortcut.

These are the four possible paths for movement in the game:

Image credit: Life of Riley - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

So how do you move your tokens?

Each of the 4 sticks has a flat side and a rounded side with pictures on it. When it’s your turn to play, you throw the sticks and depending on how they land you can move your token anything from 1 to 5 spaces on the board.

You can have all of your 4 tokens on the board at the same time and if you land on one of the opponent's tokens, they will have to return that token to the start and try again.

When you throw the sticks, they can either land with the flat side down or up.

- If only one of the sticks has the flat side up, this is called Do (도) and it will let you move 1 space.

- If two sticks land with the flat side up, that is called a Gae (개) and it allows you to move 2 spaces.

- 3 flat sides up is called Geol (걸) and you can move 3 spaces.

- Landing all four sticks with the flat side up is called Yut (윷) and you can now move 4 spaces. As an optional rule, you can have a bonus which will let you play another turn if you get Yut. It’s unlimited so you can get multiple new turns if you keep getting Yut.

- If you instead land all of your sticks with the flat side down, this is called Mo (모) and this is the highest score possible and will let you move 5 spaces. And if you decide to play with optional rules, this one (just like Yut) will also let you play another turn. Again, this is unlimited so you can get multiple new turns if you keep getting Mo or Yut.

Here is a picture to show how the sticks land for the different scores:

The different score names are also words for different animals so it’s a good way to practise some Korean for any learners out there. Here’s what they all mean:

Do 도 = pig

Gae 개 = dog

Geol 걸 = sheep

Yut 윷 = cow

Mo 모 = horse

Here's a video if you need extra visual help understanding the rules:

And if you want to see Stray Kids play it during Chuseok, check out this fun video:

Hope you’ll have fun trying another Korean game with us. If you have any questions or suggestions for other Korean games you want to learn about, feel free to reach out and ask.

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