What the #$%&*! is Mölkky?

In our first blog post introducing you to the games The Yard will be offering when it opens in November 2019, we introduced you to Kubb, otherwise known as “Viking Chess.” 

For our next installment in this continuing series, we’re going stick with the Scandinavian theme and tell you about the popular Finnish game of Mölkky.

Mölkky is a pin bowling game that originated in the mid 1990s and is reminiscent of Kyykkä, a centuries-old Karelian throwing game, or the Russian folk game of Gorodki.  Unlike its older cousins which require a measure of physical strength, however, Mölkky can be played by anyone with the right mixture of skill and good fortune.

Played in two or three teams of 1-4 players per side, Mölkky players use one wooden pin (the “Mölkky”) to try to knock over a set of 12 other wooden pins (the “Skittles”), which are marked with numbers from 1 to 12.  The Skittles are initially placed upright in a tight group 10-12 feet away from the throwing area, and are arranged in four rows as follows: 1st row, 1-2; 2nd row, 3-10-4; 3rd row, 5-11-12-6; 4th row, 7-9-8. Rock-Paper-Scissors – the preferred form of dispute resolution in any Yard – decides who goes first and the teams then alternate turns until one team has exactly 50 points. 

Scoring comes in one of two ways: knocking over a single Skittle scores the number of points marked on the head of the pin, knocking over 2 or more Skittles scores the number of pins knocked over (e.g., knocking over 3 Skittles scores 3 points). A  Skittle does not yield points if it is leaning on the Mölkky or another Skittle (the Skittle must be parallel to the ground to count).

After each throw, the Skittles are stood up again in the exact location where they landed, and this is where the skill and strategy comes in.  The Skittles become more spread out as the game progresses and, since a winner needs 50 points exactly, there will be times when teams are tossing the Mölkky at one Skittle in particular and hope to not hit any others.

And, oh yeah, there are two penalties: If a team goes over 50 points in any given round, their score is reset back down to 25.  Also, if a given team misses hitting all of the Skittles – otherwise known as a “Pike” – on three consecutive tosses, that team is eliminated.

If you want to see what Mölkky looks like as its being played, check out the video below. We’re looking forward to introducing this game to the Capital Region and, in the meantime, we’re getting familiar with some choice Finnish exclamations and profanities to teach you for when the competition gets heated!

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