Molkky, no, that’s not a spelling error. It’s in Finnish. Molkky is the name of a game invented in Finland in 1996 which has become the most popular beach and lawn game in Europe. In 2016 I was living in Zihuatanejo, Mexico overlooking what Conde’ Nast Traveler magazine has described as “Mexico’s best beach”. But when you live in paradise full time there’s only so much sitting on the beach sipping a Corona and playing in the surf you can do. Together with some friends we decided to look on the internet for “beach games” and found Molkky. Molkky can be played by any number of people (we’ve had up to 16 at one time), of any age (8 to 80+) and takes no special athletic skills. If you can throw a stick 5 yards, you can play. My kind of game! I’ve heard it described as a cross between bowling, billiards, and blackjack because it involves throwing and knocking down pins, some strategy, and a large amount of luck.
The game starts with 12 pins, numbered 1 – 12 arranged in a compact figure similar to billiards. You mark off 5 paces and throw the throwing stick at the pins. If you knock down more than one pin you score the number of pins down. If you knock down only one pin you score the number indicated on the pin (1-12). Downed pins are set up again where they fell. In this way, what began as a tight group of pins soon becomes scattered all over the beach.
The object of the game is to be the first to arrive at a score of 50 points. However, you must arrive at 50 exactly. If you go over 50 your score returns to 25 and you continue from there. If you miss everything three times in a row, your score is reduced to zero and you continue from there. On the sand, even from only 5 steps away, it is surprising how easy it is to miss everything. The sand plays tricks on you and bounces or deviates your throw in some very strange ways. As you approach the final score of 50 strategy becomes more important. Remember, you must hit 50 exactly to win. The worst final shot to have to make is when you are at 49 and the only pin that can win is the 1 and that is sitting next to another pin so that if you drop both of them you go over 50 and down to 25 again. Talk about pressure! Or you are at 38 and your opponent is at 46; you need the 12 but it has been knocked far away and is a difficult shot and you have 2 zero’s. Do you try for the 12 and risk going to zero or do you try to knock your opponents 4 into a difficult shot for him? Strategic decisions. Pressure. Screams of victory and high fives all around if you make it, or moans and groans if you don’t.
Invariably, when we play, people stop to watch and ask about the game. Many end up joining the fun. Molkky is so easy to learn and to play and is so much fun that it’s no wonder it has become a favorite game on the beaches of Zihuatanejo as well as all over Europe.