Next week, 16 Feb, is Seollal, the lunar new year for Koreans. It’s a time for getting together with family and friends, eating, and playing traditional games like 윷놀이, yutnori.

The game has four wooden sticks (yut), a board (mal-pan) usually made from cloth, and counters (mal) made from stone, plastic or metal. Instead of rolling dice to move your counters all around the board, you throw the sticks. You need to watch for if the sticks land picture up or if they’re blank. Each combination gives your counter a different move on the board.

One blank stick = do = one move
Two blank sticks = gae = two moves
Three blank sticks = geol = three moves
Four blank sticks = yut = four moves and one more throw
Four picture up sticks = mo = five moves and one more throw.


You can have as many counters on the board as you like, and if your counter lands on the same spot as your opponent’s, you can knock it off the board. The central and corner spots allow you to take a shortcut around the board. Aim to get all your counters ‘home’ before your opponent does.

Yutnori sets are available pretty cheaply in Korea (around 2,000 KRW) but you can make your own budget Yutnori game set too, using just paper, pens, and some wooden (e.g. lolly) sticks. Take a look here for ideas.


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British writer and editor living in Japan. Currently studying Japanese, Korean, K-pop dance, and the fine form of 이성종's legs.