Rock Paper Scissors is a simple game, but there are also many variations of rock paper scissors.

Variations

Players have developed numerous cultural and personal variations on the game, from simply playing the same game with different objects, to expanding into more weapons and rules.

Adapted Rules

  • In Korea, a two-player upgraded version exists by the name muk-jji-ppa.
  • In Japan, a “strip-poker” variant of rock-paper-scissors is known as (Yakyuken). The loser of each round removes an article of clothing. The game is a minor part of porn culture in Japan, and other Asian countries after the influence of TV variety shows and Soft on Demand.
  • In the Philippines, the game is called jak-en-poy, from one of the Japanese names of the game, transliterated as jan-ken-pon. In a longer version of the game, a four-line song is sung, with hand gestures displayed at the end of each (or the final) line: “Jack-en-poy! / Hali-hali-hoy! / Sino’ng matalo, / siya’ng unggoy!” (“Jack-en-poy! / Hali-hali-hoy! / Whoever loses is the monkey!”) In the former case, the person with the most wins at the end of the song wins the game. A shorter version of the game uses the chant “Bato-bato- pick” (“Rock-rock-pick [i.e. choose]”) instead.
  • A multiple player variations can be played: Players stand in a circle and all throw at once. If rock, paper, and scissors are all thrown, it is a stalemate, and they rethrow. If only two throws are present, all players with the losing throw are eliminated. Play continues until only the winner remains.

Different Weapons

In the Malaysian version of the game, “scissors” is replaced by “bird,” represented with the fingertips of five fingers brought together to form a beak. The open palm represents water. Bird beats water (by drinking it); stone beats bird (by hitting it), and stone loses to water (because it sinks in it).

Singapore also has a related hand-game called “ji gu pa,” where “ji” refers to the bird gesture,“gu” refers to the stone gesture, and “pa” refers to the water gesture. The game is played by two players using both hands. At the same time, they both say, ji gu pa!” At “pa!” they both show two open-palmed hands. One player then changes his hand gestures while calling his new combination out (e.g., “pa gu!”). At the same time, the other player changes his hand gestures as well.

If one of his hand gestures is the same as the other one, that hand is “out,” and he puts it behind his back; he is no longer able to play that hand for the rest of the round. The players take turns in this fashion until one player loses by having both hands sent “out.” “Ji gu pa” is most likely a transcription of the Japanese names for the different hand gestures in the original jan-ken game, “choki” (scissors), “guu” (rock) and “paa” (paper).

Using the same tripartite division, there is a full-body variation instead of the hand signs called “Bear, Hunter, Ninja’. In this iteration the participants stand back-to-back and at the count of three (or ro-sham-bo as is traditional) turn around facing each other using their arms evoking one of the totems. [78] The players’ choices break down as: Hunter shoots bear; Bear eats ninja; Ninja kills the hunter. The game was popularized with a FedEx commercial [80] where warehouse employee’s had too much free time on their hands.

In the British comedy show I’m Sorry | Haven’t a Clue, variations on this are done like Glass,

Pudding, Cat and Cow, Lake, Bomb, with similar logic.

Additional Weapons

As long as the number of moves is an odd number and each move defeats exactly half of the other moves while being defeated by the other half, any combination of moves will function as a game. For example, 5-, 7-, 9-, 11-, 15-, 25-, and 101-weapon versions exist. Adding new gestures has the effect of reducing the odds of a tie while increasing the complexity of the game. The probability of a tie in an odd-number-of-weapons game can be calculated based on the number of weapons n as 1/n, so the probability of a tie is 1/3 in standard rock-paper-scissors, but 1/5 in a version that offered five moves instead of three.

Similarly, the French game “pierre, papier, ciseaux, puits” (stone, paper, scissors, well) is unbalanced; both the stone and scissors fall into the well and lose to it, while paper covers both stone and well. This means two “weapons,” well and paper can defeat two moves, while the other two weapons each defeats only one of the other three choices. The rock has no advantage to well, so optimal strategy is to play paper-scissors-well. This version is also played in some areas of Germany; it often adds “the bull” (which drinks the well empty, eats the paper, but gets stabbed by the scissors, and is crushed by the rock). The well is made by forming a circle with the thumb and index finger to show the opening of a stone well; the bull is made by making a fist but extending the little finger and index finger to show the bull’s horns. In theory, “unbalanced” games are less random but more psychological, more closely resembling real world conflicts. However, games of this sort are popular more for novelty than for exploring such ideas.

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock

One popular five-weapon expansion is “rock-paper-scissors-Spock-lizard,” invented by Sam Kass and Karen Bryla, which adds “Spock” and “lizard” to the standard three choices. “Spock” is signified with the Star Trek Vulcan salute, while “lizard” is shown by forming the hand into a sock- puppet-like mouth.

Spock smashes scissors and vaporizes rock; he is poisoned by a lizard and disproven by paper. Lizard poisons Spock and eats paper; it is crushed by rock and decapitated by scissors. This variant was mentioned in a 2005 article in The Times of London and was later the subject of an episode of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory in 2008 (as rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock). The majority of such proposed generalizations are isomorphic to a simple game of modular arithmetic, where half the differences are wins for player one. For instance, rock-paper-scissors-Spock-lizard (note the different order of the last two moves) may be modeled as a game in which each player picks a number from one to five. Subtract the number chosen by player two from the number chosen by player one, and then take the remainder modulo 5 of the result. Player one is the victor if the difference is one or three, and player two is the victor if the difference is two or four. If the difference is zero, the game is a tie.

Alternatively, the rankings in rock-paper-scissors-Spock-lizard may be modeled by a comparison of the parity of the two choices. If it is the same (two odd-numbered moves or two even-numbered ones), then the lower number wins, while if they are different (one odd and one even) the higher wins. Using this algorithm, additional moves can easily be added two at a time while keeping the game balanced.

Spock-lizard (note the different order of the last two moves) may be modeled as a game in which each player picks a number from one to five. Subtract the number chosen by player two from the number chosen by player one, and then take the remainder modulo 5 of the result. Player one is the victor if the difference is one or three, and player two is the victor if the difference is two or four. If the difference is zero, the game is a tie.

Alternatively, the rankings in rock-paper-scissors-Spock-lizard may be modeled by a comparison of the parity of the two choices. If it is the same (two odd-numbered moves or two even- numbered ones), then the lower number wins, while if they are different (one odd and one even) the higher wins. Using this algorithm, additional moves can easily be added two at a time while keeping the game balanced.

Human Rock Paper Scissors

Human Rock Paper Scissors is a fun, quick ice-breaker that can be used for a medium-sized group of people. Many are familiar with the classic hand game, rock-paper-scissors, each of which conquers one another depending on the combination. This game is a play on the game but requires people to get on their feet, move, and act as a team, rather than an individual.

This ice-breaker is especially fun because it can be tailored to many different themes and variations.

Setup for Human Rock Paper Scissors

As a large group, decide a full-body pose that will signify each element (e.g. Rock — each person of one group will bend down and hug their knees and curl into a ball. So they look like a rock, Scissors — each person of one group will stand with legs shoulder-width apart and both arms up and hands behind the head, so they look like a scissor).

Playing Human Rock Paper Scissors

After the poses are decided, break participants into two groups. For each round, each group will need to do one of the poses (everyone in each group will need to do the same pose). Each group will have 5 minutes to strategize. Once all of the groups have their poses ready, a facilitator will have the two groups face each other and count down from three (eg. three….two…one….SHOOT). On “SHOOT” each group will need to strike one of the three poses. Rock beats Scissors, Scissors beat Paper, and Paper beats Rock. You can play however times you’d like. Best out of 5 rounds is a good number for a medium sized group.

If you want to try some different themes of this game you can try some of the following themes or make up some of your own!

Lord of the Rings — Hobbit, Elf, Orc (Orc beats Hobbit, Elf beats Orc, Hobbit beats Elf)

Schools — Stanford, Cal, USC (Stanford beats USC, Cal beats Stanford, USC beats Cal)

Super Heroes — Batman, Spiderman, Green Lantern (Spiderman beats Batman, Batman beats Green Lantern, Green Lantern beats Spiderman)

Disney Villains — Maleficent, Ursula, Jafar (Maleficent beats Ursula, Ursula beats Jafar, Jafar beats Maleficent)