The game Almin taught me

One of my best friends, Almin, taught me this game when I was about 11 years old. He’s from Bosnia, so he didn’t know the English name for it. I’m not sure we ever gave it a real name. Hence, I’m calling it The Game Almin Taught Me.

Here’s how to play

Find a patch of dirt, preferably flat, packed dirt but still soft, none of that dried out stuff. You’ll also need a screwdriver that you don’t mind messing up. (Scissors can also work.)

Use one of the screwdrivers to draw a roughly square section in the dirt, something about the size of a bedroom.

The object of the game is take over all the land, like Monopoly or Risk or real life.

So figure out who’s going to go first. That first player stands on the outside of the square on one side and throws a screwdriver into the ground inside the square. This can be tricky at first. You might not get it to stick. That’s part of the game, though, so you’ll get really good really fast. Or you’ll lose every time.

If the screwdriver doesn’t stick, it’s the next person’s turn. Even if the screwdriver does stick, if the player can’t reach it from their side without moving into the square, it’s still the next person’s turn.

If the screwdriver does stick and the player can reach it from their side, though, then that player gets to start taking some land. To do that, the player grabs the screwdriver and drags it on the ground from the point where it stuck to one side of the square, or as far as the player can reach and still connect back to their own side. Then the player repeats this on the other side, starting at the point again.

You don’t have to draw on the ground in a straight line. In fact, you should try to reach as far as you can to take as much land as possible. Once you grab the screwdriver, though, you can’t move you feet until your turn is over (no other part of your body may touch the ground).

After the first player goes, the next player has to start from another side of the square. The second player does pretty much the same thing the first player did. The difference is that the second player can overlap some (or all) of the first player’s land.

When the lines overlap, you’ll have to kind of repack the dirt so the old line disappears. It never looks great, but at least you can tell whose land is whose.

You can play with up to four players, each taking a separate side to start out. Once everyone’s taken a first turn, each player takes their turn from within their own land, the land they marked off already. They stand inside it when they throw their screwdriver and have to stay in it when they take territory. As the game progresses, players can get separated from the side they started with. That’s not good for the player, but it’s totally allowed.

When a player is taking a turn, everyone else leaves their land and steps out of the square. In other words, only one person in the square at a time – no dangerous screwdriver dodging here.

If a player’s loses all their land or if their land gets so small they can’t stand in it anymore, then that player is out of the game. Play continues until just one player is left, the ruler of the land.

Life lessons you might learn in the game

  • How to throw a screwdriver and make it stick in the ground where you want it to stick
  • How to drag a screwdriver along the ground while leaning part of your weight on it
  • How to balance on one foot (or one toe) when you’re only left with a small island of land
  • How to form alliances so you can overthrow a monopoly/majority ruler
  • How to beg for mercy
  • How to wipe someone out right after they’ve granted you mercy

It’s really a great game all around. 🙂 I haven’t played in years, but I used to love it. Just thought I’d pass it on for any kids who’re bored and need a new outdoor game. Toys are overrated.