Marralhinha – the most popular game in Terceira

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When I met my friends for the first time after the lockdown, a marralhinha entered the table. I usually yawn at 23:00 and that night I was sitting at the game until 2am, and my friends finished the tournament at 5am.

Yes, you are thinking right – marralhinha draws in. Fortunately, not like Jumanji (although… if you look at 2020…), but it draws you in!

Marralhinha is a typical game from Terceira. I got to know it paradoxically in Lisbon, when I was returning from Poland after Christmas. (It was also the first time I felt how terribly cold it is in the houses in Lisbon in winter). My friends had a visit of their friends, marralhinha appeared on the table. A wooden „board” with pits, marbles – and the evening was endless.

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This is a game that evokes emotions

A fighting spirit awakens in calm people. Everyone wants to win, everyone creates a strategy in their head. And changes it after each dice roll. Because it’s a game in which strategy is mixed with statistics. Whoever has lost, willingly stands up for a rematch. Whoever won, starts the next games even more willingly. And so until morning.

Marralhinha is a traditional game of Terceira

There are two versions of the story of this game’s popularity in Terceira. One says that it was brought from the United States by a Terceira emigrant – in a version slightly different from the present one. The second version says that a similar game was very popular in one of the regions of France and from there it made its way to Terceira.

How it really was – maybe one day we’ll find out. Maybe not.

The lack of certainty as to the origin of the game does not prevent the inhabitants of the island from passionately playing it. There was even an Association of Party Games in Terceira established! The association regularly (of course, apart from the Jumanji year, i.e. 2020) organizes tournaments in which up to twenty teams play marralhinha (it is played in pairs). It’s really a lot of people for Terceira.

You can buy Marralhinha in almost any souvenir shop. Or directly at handicraftsmen, for example at various handicraft fairs (they are organized, for example, on the occasion of Sanjoaninas LINK and Festas da Praia). If you only have carry-on luggage, make sure you select a game size that will fit in your luggage.

My friends ended the first party after quarantine with a clear division into winners and all the rest, which pretended not to care about the loss.

I’m kidding. Partly. Because there were clear winners. But the rest had a good time too. Me too. Until sleep got me down, but that’s another story.

In the meantime – the principles of marralhinha! If you accidentally bought it and didn’t know how to play it. Or if you got a marralhinha as a gift. Like my family from me. With instructions in Portuguese. One and a half year ago…

marralhinha, gra, game, tradycja, tradiition, Sanjoaninas

Marralhinha – rules of the game

(Original rules in Portuguese HERE. Below – translation based on the rules version available on 30th of July, 2020)

  1. Two 2-person teams take part in the game. Each player has 5 marbles (10 marbles per team).
  2. Each player rolls a dice. The player with the highest score starts the game. The second player to his right is second (turn is going counterclockwise).
  3. In order for the marble to leave the starting fields, the player must roll 1 or 6 on the dice.
  4. The first player of any team, once (s)he has placed his/her five marbles in the end fields, continues play by helping his/her partner finish the game.
  5. When a 6 is rolled, the player must move the marble and roll the dice again. If, after rolling a 6, he/she places the last marble in the end fields, he/she rolls again to help his/her partner end the game.
  6. The player moves forward the number of spaces equal to the number on the dice. (Example: if you roll 5, you move the marble of your choice 5 spaces forward.)
  7. To enter or leave the center of the board, you must roll 1 or 6 dice.
  8. The square in the middle of the board is to help players shorten their path to the end fields.
  9. The center of the board can be entered from any of the three corners next to the center of the board (furthest from the end fields). When leaving the center of the board, the player must move to the corner closest to his end fields. (Here is my comment: according to the rules I learned, theoretically, you can move to other corners – but it doesn’t normally pay off, because the goal of the game is to reach the end fields as quickly as possible for both players).
  10. None of the five marbles of a player may overtake other marbles of the same player on the board.
  11. After playing a dice and picking up one of his marbles, the player is obliged to play this marble, unless he/she would make it to the square occupied by his/her partner’s marbles.
  12. If a player rolls 1 or 6 on the dice and picks up one of the marbles in the starting squares, and the starting field is not occupied by his or her partner’s marble, the player is obliged to put the marble into play (put it in the starting fields).
  13. In order to move the marble, a player must count the pits on the board, risking that his/her move will be canceled in the event of a mismatch.
  14. If during the movement of the marbles, the player gets to the field occupied by the opponent, he/she must gently touch the opponent’s marbles, remove it from the board and place it in the opponent’s starting field.
  15. The next player in line must wait with rolling the dice until the previous player has finished his/her move. If they the dice before their opponent on the left ends their move, they lose their turn.

Enjoy the game!

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