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This game is highly absorbing and a committed group can easily spend hours playing it. It has strict and highly prescribed rules, however the application of these rules largely comes down to the whim of the mob. It is the unpredictable and subtle way that decisions are made that lends this game such elegance.

The bulk of the gameplay is composed of players passing around an imaginary ball. Passing options for the sender are as follows:

  • “The pass”: hold hands about a foot apart with palms facing, and gesture towards the recipient, while making eye contact.
  • “The elbow”: make a fist with one hand and put it in the palm of the other hand. Use the elbow of the hand with the fist to point at the recipient.
  • “The slap”: slap either the left or right cheek either once or twice. Slapping the left cheek sends the ‘ball’ to the right and vice versa. A single slap sends it one position, a double slap two.
  • “The f-u”: Place one hand in the crook of the elbow of the other arm, and jerk that arm. This sends the ‘ball’ back to the person who sent it to the current sender.

Note that:

  • Neither the pass nor the elbow can be used to send the ball to an adjacent player.
  • No individual action may be made more than three times in succession.
  • If the f-u is done to the President (please see below), they may summarily execute the player responsible, who then is liable to pay a forfeit.

To begin, players sit in a circle. One player is appointed the President, another the Time Keeper. Before play begins, each player chooses a nickname for themselves. From this point onwards, anyone who refers to a player using their actual name is liable to perform a forfeit.

This is typically a drinking game, with the forfeit being to drink. Other players may instead create an unpleasant concoction instead of an alcoholic one, employing such substances as vinegar, pepper, coffee, whatever happens to be available.

To begin play, the Time Keeper says “time in time out”. The President then says “silence in the court; the ball is in the court of [nickname of player]”. As they say this, they use one of the acceptable moves to send the ball to that player. That player then sends the ball and so on. Play proceeds until somebody screws up, typically by: failing to play when it is their turn, playing out of turn, or playing a move for the fourth time in a row. When this happens, the player at fault must pay a forfeit. This ends the round until the Time Keeper calls a new session.

Further:

  • While the ball is in play, no players are allowed to speak, the game should proceed noiselessly. Any player who is called out for flouting this rule must pay a forfeit.
  • At no point in the game may a player point with their hand to another player. Any player who does so must pay a forfeit. Instead of hands, elbows should be used for the purpose of pointing.
  • If the President or Time Keeper is caught out and has to pay a forfeit, then they surrender their position to the person considered responsible for dethroning them.

Advanced: A new move called the ‘profigliano’ is introduced. This has the same effect as ‘the f-u’, but is achieved by feigning obliviousness. That is, the profligiano is played by deliberately affecting an air of not being aware it is their turn. It is up to the whim of the mob as to whether the profligiano was intentional or not!

Similar to: poultry master, moose hunter,

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