BURO Tries: Traditional Malaysian games like 'congkak', 'batu seremban' and 'lompat getah'
Reliving our childhoods
Many Malaysians who grew up before the era of high-speed internet (AKA pre-21st century) will recall playing several common games during our childhood and schooling days. No, we’re not really referring to universal games like hopscotch or tag, but localised games such as congkak, batu seremban, and lompat getah.
In the spirit of Merdeka, what better way to celebrate the nation’s 65th Independence Day than to relive these traditional games that are rooted in our local culture? (Or to discover these semi-forgotten cultural gems, for those who have yet to!)
Watch Team BURO take on the aforementioned traditional Malaysian games in the video above for an idea (or refresher) of how to play them. Better yet, join in the fun with your fellow Malaysians by following the simple game guides we’ve put together below.
What you’ll need
- A congkak board
- 49 marbles/seeds/shells
- Two players or two teams (alternate turns)
How to play
1. The congkak board consists of two rows of seven holes called ‘houses’ and two bigger holes called ‘storehouses’.
2. Before the game starts, the ‘houses’ are filled with seven congkak shells and the ‘storehouses’ are left empty.
3. Each player/team takes turns scooping up all shells from one of the ‘houses’ on their side, then continues distributing one shell into the next ‘house’ in a clockwise direction.
4. A player/team drops a shell into their ‘storehouse’ when passing it, but does not deposit any into the opponent’s ‘storehouse’.
How the game continues
1. If the last shell drops into the player/team’s own storehouse, they may scoop up all shells from any of the opponent’s ‘houses’ and drop them into their own ’storehouse’ before ending the turn.
2. If the last shell drops into a ‘house’ containing shells, the player/team scoops up all shells in that ‘house’ and continues distributing them.
3. If the last shell drops into the player/team’s empty ‘house’, they may collect all the shells in the opponent’s ‘house’ directly opposite and deposit them into their own ‘storehouse’ along with the same last shell.
4. If the last shell drops into an empty ‘house’ belonging to the opponent, the player/team ends their turn. It is now the opponent’s turn to distribute the shells.
5. The game ends when all shells have been distributed into ‘storehouses’. The player/team with the highest number of shells in their ‘storehouse’ wins.
Batu Seremban (Five stones)
What you’ll need
Five ‘stones’ (bought or made)
Two or more players
How to play
Level 1: Throw all five stones. Whilst throwing a stone, pick up one stone and catch the stone in the air before it falls to the ground. Do this for each of the stones on the ground.
Level 2: Repeat step 1 but pick up two stones at a time.
Level 3: Repeat step 1 but pick up a combination of three stones and one.
Level 4: Throw all five stones. Whilst throwing a stone, pick up four stones and catch the stone in the air before it falls to the ground.
Level 5: Whilst throwing one stone, place the four on the ground and catch the stone in the air before it falls to the ground. Throw the same stone up and catch it whilst picking all four stones on the ground.
Level 6: Throw all five stones on the ground. Pick two stones. Throw one in the air and exchange the other with one on the ground. Do the same with the remaining stones on the ground.
Level 7: Throw the two stones held at the end of Step 6. Pick up one stone and then catch the two falling stones separately in each hand. Do this until there is three stones in one hand and two in the other. Throw the two stones and catch it separately. Throw the remaining stone and catch it with the hand that has all the stones.
Level 8: Throw all five stones on the ground. The opponent selects a stone to be thrown in the air. The player has to pick this stone without moving any others. The player throws the stone in the air and picks the remaining on the ground in one clean sweep.
How to win
Quick game: If a player fails to complete a level at any point, their turn ends and the stones are passed to the next player. During the player’s next turn, they may start at the level they failed to complete. The first player to complete all eight levels wins.
Continuous/competitive play: Upon completing the eight levels, a player throws all five stones and catches as many as possible on the back of their hand. The player must then throw the stones from the back of their hand and catch all of them in their palm. If the player succeeds, they score points equivalent to the number of stones caught. If the player fails, they score zero points. All players then start from level one again.
[Note: There are two main variations of 'lompat getah'. The following version is also known as Chinese jump rope.]
How to play
- Two players step into the ends of a rubber band rope. They should stand with their feet about shoulder-width apart and inch back a bit until the rope is parallel to the ground and steady. There should be enough space for a third player to safely jump between the first two players.
- Choose a jumping pattern for holders to chant while the player jumps. (For example, Team BURO’s chant is “In, Out, Side by side, Out, In, Step!”)
- Players line up and try to jump over the rope one at a time. If a player is unsuccessful, they lose the chance to move on to the next round. The jumper who reaches the highest level without messing up wins!
With each round of play, the height of the rope increases as follows:
- on the ground
- ankle level
- knee level
- thigh level
- hip level
- waist level
- chest level
- shoulder level
- nose level
- top of head level
Which of these traditional Malaysian games is your favourite?
Read more Merdeka-related stories here.