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Play Muk-Chi-Ba: Step-By-Step Instructions

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A Variant of Rock-Paper-Scissors

Muk-Chi-Ba is a variant of the Rock-Paper-Scissors game and is played predominantly in Korea. It's a fun twist on the tool we (at least I) use to make everyday decisions. There are many versions of the game that I intend to learn, one of which involves series of "ha"s being shouted and another that utilizes a wider array of limb movements as positions. Luckily, most of these variants rely on the same basic principles, which are outlined and explained below.

Learning the positions and their pronunciations is the first step to becoming a Muk-Chi-Ba champion. In Korean, gawi-bawi-bo means scissors-rock-cloth. In the game, there are two sets of terms to represent the positions (note the ordering of the positions is different):

  • Kai-Gai-Bo = Scissors-Rock-Paper
  • Muk-Chi-Ba = Rock-Scissors-Paper

Gilly plays Gai.

Gilly plays Gai.

Val plays Kai.

Val plays Kai.

Round 1: Kai-Gai-Bo

It helps to think of each game taking place over two rounds. The first round is played almost the same way as traditional Rock-Paper-Scissors. Both players shake their fists 3 times while shouting "Kai-Gai-Bo" and play a position on shake 4. If both players play the same move, the round starts over. This round is played to establish roles for each player in the subsequent round. We can use Gilly and Val as an example.

Gilly: Gai (rock)

Val: Kai (scissors)

At the end of this round the player with the dominant move becomes the offense in round 2. In our example, Gilly will play the offense and Val will play the defense in Muk-Chi-Ba.

*Keep It Quick*

In round 2, the same position can be played consecutively. For example, Val could play Chi (her position at the end of round 1) again by not moving. If a player is changing positions, the change must be direct, i.e., a generic fist shake cannot be used as a buffer to buy time. If either player hesitates or moves too late, they forfeit the turn.

In competitive Muk-Chi-Ba, one or two turns is played per second.

Round 2: Muk-Chi-Ba

There are 2 main gameplay changes in round 2:

  • Instead of shouting Kai-Gai-Bo, the positions are now referred to as Muk-Chi-Ba (note the change in sequence).
  • Whereas round 1 is always over in 1 turn, round 2 can span any number of turns.

There is not a formal pause between rounds 1 and 2; the game naturally moves into round 2 with established offense and defense positions. In the example, we left with Gilly playing Gai and Val playing Kai. Since Gilly is in offensive mode, her role is to play another move while simultaneously announcing it. While she does that, Val plays her new move but does not announce it. Gilly's goal is to correctly "guess" and pick/play the same move that Val plays.

Both sides have a slight advantage. Gilly (by a split second) gets to play "first" when she announces her position. Technically, Val cannot initiate her position before Gilly speaks. The instant Gilly starts to announce her move, Val can change positions. This advantage is offset by the fact that Val plays her position in silent.

Outcome 1 = Victory

Gilly plays Muk while shouting "Muk!"

Gilly plays Muk while shouting "Muk!"

Val plays Muk.

Val plays Muk.

At the end of this turn, there are 3 outcomes:

  1. Gilly and Val play the same position: Gilly wins and the game is over.
  2. Gilly plays an offensive position (e.g., scissors) and Val plays a defensive position (e.g., paper): Gilly stays in offense and a new turn begins.
  3. Gilly plays a defensive position (e.g., rock) and Val play an offensive position (e.g., paper): Val is now the offense and a new turn begins.

In the first outcome, victory is achieved after 1 turn of Muk-Chi-Ba. Unlike in traditional Rock-Paper-Scissors (where winning is achieved by playing the dominant position), the game can only be won by the offense playing the same position as the defense.

In the second outcome, the players keep the same roles they had at the beginning of round 2 and another turn of Muk-Chi-Ba is played.

In the third outcome, the players switch roles and another turn of Muk-Chi-Ba is played.

With respect to outcomes 2 and 3, the game is won when the player in offense (after however many turns it takes) plays the same move as the player in defense.


Marina (author) from San Francisco, CA on April 29, 2012:

Brainy Bunny: yes, there are several variations of the game. I have heard both "Bai" and "Gai" for the pronunciation of that second syllable and I'm not sure which is technically right. I think those first three terms are made up to represent the names of the actual moves (gawi-bawi-bo) which are oddly enough, never used. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! :)

Brainy Bunny from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on April 29, 2012:

Gosh, this takes me back! I grew up in a heavily Korean neighborhood, and we used to play this on the schoolyard all the time. Actually, we must have played a sort of hybrid game, because I only remember the Kai-Gai-Bo part (stuck in my memory with the second syllable pronounced "bai", but I probably just heard it wrong), not the second half. Thanks for finally filling me in on the official rules!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 19, 2012:

Fascinating!! I love this version of the game. It's so interesting that the end goal is consensus and not domination, and I rather like that it comes in the form of two rounds. I want to play!!!