Games for UU kids and adults
Compiled and written by Dan Harper
Copyright (c) 2014 Dan Harper
Another fairly complicated game, but once kids learn it, they will play for half an hour or more.
One person is the Referee. The Referee divides the group into Foxes, Rabbits, and Leaves. With a group of ten, have 4 rabbits, 3 leaves, and 3 foxes. Here’s how to tell the creatures apart:
— Leaves stand still with hands up at shoulder level (as if about to give a high-five)
— Rabbits have tails (pieces of white cloth to stick into back pocket, like flag football)
— Foxes have no distinguishing characteristic
The play area is a big circle. Rabbits have a Warren (a square of felt on the ground). They are safe from predation by the Foxes as long as they are touching the felt.
To begin each round:
— The Rabbits are all touching the Rabbit Warren
— The Leaves form a broad circle around the Rabbit Warren, standing with their hands up at shoulder level or higher
— The Foxes stand in the circle with the Leaves
When the signal is given to begin a round:
— Rabbits must try to leave the Rabbit Warren to “eat” Leaves by giving one Leaf a high five
— Leaves cannot move, except that as soon as a Rabbit eats them, they must put their hands down
— Foxes try to catch and “eat” Rabbits by pulling off their tails
During each round:
— Leaves just stand there, waiting to be eaten.
— Rabbits are safe and cannot be tagged when they are touching the Rabbit Warren OR when they are frozen in a crouched position. This means that Rabbits may not move or get Leaves unless they are standing up. However, Rabbits must eat in each round, or they will die from hunger. Rabbits may eat only one Leaf in each round.
— Foxes must eat in each round, or they will die of hunger. Foxes may eat only one Rabbit in each round.
A round lasts 3-5 minutes. At the end of the round, the Referee calls out “End of Round!” and all action stops.
At the end of each round, the Referee helps all the creatures figure out what they will be in the next round:
— If a Leaf is eaten by a Rabbit, s/he becomes a Rabbit in the next round.
— If a Rabbit is eaten by a Fox (whether or not s/he has eaten a Leaf him/herself), that Rabbit becomes a Fox next round.
— If a Rabbit has not eaten a Leaf in that round, s/he dies, rots away, turns into compost, and becomes a Leaf in the next round.
— If a Fox has not eaten one or more Rabbits in a round, s/he dies, rots away, turns into compost, and becomes a Leaf in the next round.
Play at least three to five rounds.
The educational purpose of this game is to model how a surplus of predators in an ecosystem leads to starvation of predators; a surplus of herbivores can lead to a shortage of plants; etc. Or it can just be a fun game!
Note that there are two ways the ecosystem can crash. If all the Rabbits die off one round, then all the Foxes will die off in the next round, and then everyone will be a Leaf in the round after that. If all the Foxes die off in one round, over the next round or two the Rabbits will proliferate until they eat all the Leaves, at which point they will then die off the next round.
Variation: Humans, Foxes, Rabbits, and Leaves
If you have 12 or more players, you can introduce a Human into the game. The Human can kill and eat any other creature (Leaf, Rabbit, and Fox). The Human cannot be killed by any other creature. The Human can kill as many creatures as s/he wants during any given round. With this rule, the ecosystem can crash incredibly quickly, so Humans may wish to come up with a strategy to keep the ecosystem from crashing.
Moksha Patam is the classic board game from India upon which “Chutes and Ladders” is based. This game symbolizes the journey through life, and presents ideas of reincarnation, various virtues, etc.
Back in 2010, Sudha, a blogger living in Mumbai, wrote an excellent post on “Param Pada Sopanam,” another name for the same basic game, saying in part:
“Traditionally, Parama Pada Sopanam is played on the night of Vaikuntha Ekadashi (the 11th day after the new moon in the Tamil month of Margazhi). Many Hindus believe that the door to Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu, will be wide open to welcome the devout and the faithful. Hindus also believe that dying on Vaikuntha Ekadashi will take them directly to the abode of Vishnu, liberating them from the cycle of rebirth. On this day, the devout stay up all night fasting and praying and playing the game helps them pass the time till dawn, when the fast is broken.”
For more cultural background on the game, read the entire post here.
Where to find Moksha Patam
— There’s an excellent playable version of Moksha Patam in the old “Holidays and Holy Days” curriculum.
— Play online with up to four players here.
— Kreeda, a games company based in India, used to make a version under the name of “Param Pada Sopanam.” It is not clear if this game is still in production.
— Or you can make your own Moksha Patam game (see below).
Make your own Moksha Patam game
Here are two PDF files that can be printed out, trimmed, and made into a Moksha Patam playing surface.
Print out the two PDFs on 11×17 inch paper. (This version works fine if printed in black and white. Optional: mount each half on cardboard.) Trim carefully so the two halves will fit together neatly. Tape together.
You will also need playing pieces and dice.
A more colorful version of the board (that needs to be printed in color):
Moksha Patam rules
Roll dice, and move that many spaces. (For a faster game, use a pair of 6-sided dice; for a slower game, use one six-sided die.)
Note that some squares have the name of a virtue in them. These squares have ladders going up up from them. If you land on a square with the name of a virtue, you may climb up the ladder to the square in which it ends.
Some squares have the name of a Hindu demon, or the name of a person who is, in Hindu stories, bad or evil; these squares also have the name of a vice, or bad quality, in parentheses. A snake goes down from each of these squares. If you land on a square with the name of a vice, you must slide down the snake to the square in which the snake’s tail lies. (If you know something about the demon or bad person for whom the square is named, you should say something about that demon or person.)
The game is completed when all players have reached the final square. Reaching the final square simulates the moment when the soul escapes the endless cycle of rebirth.