Board Games
Sports and Recreation

The game of Mora

Mora is not considered to be a "classy" game. It is usually played spontaneously by people [generally men], in a bar after they've had a few drinks and where they challenge each other in order to get more drinks - but this time for free - by getting the other person to lose in the game of Mora and thus to pay for the drinks. Or, people will go to the bar expressly to play Mora in tournament fashion, where a single guy or a team of two challenge the opposition of like formation. If several teams play the game, it is usually played "round robin" where two winning teams play each other until only one team is left standing and is proclaimed to be the championship team.

The necessary ingredients for the game are:

  • a firm table surface,
  • a piece of chalk and
  • lots of alcoholic beverages, normally wine and/or beer.

The chairs are optional since the players usually play standing up to make a bigger impact and, hopefully, to intimidate the opposition.

The game begins by first marking on the table eleven (11) vertical chalk-lines alongside each other and by making a horizontal line through the middle of these lines as shown in the following illustration:

The first round starts off with the two opposing players simultaneous tapping their closed fist on the table to synchronize the showing of fingers (of any combination from one to five fingers), and then the players simultaneously shouting a number in Italian from two to ten. The object of the game is to guess the cumulative total of fingers that are shown by both players. If the number a player yells is equal to the sum of the shown fingers, he wins a point. That entitles him to erase one of the eleven chalk lines on his side of the table.

They resume playing for the next point. Two players repeatedly show their fingers and shout out numbers until one of them yells the number which is equal to the sum of the fingers thrown by the both players. Then again he erases one line on his side. This becomes messy since to properly erase the line one has to stick their finger in their mouth to wet it before erasing.

If they both guessed the correct number that is equal to the total of shown fingers, their guesses do not count and neither side gets a point - that is, they are not allowed to erase a line.

The player who succeeds in erasing the last line on his side before the opposing  player wins the round. The whole process is then repeated - marking eleven lines a chalk and starting the shouting of numbers and showing fingers simultaneously, etc.

When playing in teams of two players on each side, the game is played in the same way as it is with single players except that the member of the team that wins a point continues playing against the other member of the opposite team. If he wins again, he plays against the first member of the opposite team. The winner plays back and forth against the two members of the opposite team until he loses a point. The member of the team who won the point then starts alternating between the members of the other team until he loses a point, and so it goes on back to the first team.

A good Mora player will try to ascertain the pattern of finger showing by the opposition in order to anticipate the number of fingers the opposition will show on the next throw.  (People have a subconscious pattern of throwing the number of fingers, say; 3, then 4, then 2, then 5, back to 3, 4, 2, 5 sequence. The opposite player tries to discover this pattern so that he can guess the next number of fingers the opposite player will throw, thus adding the opposing player’s number of fingers to your finger, you will be able to add the fingers and shout the correct number in Italian and get the point.)

The number of rounds that are played is optional. Usually the participants play until they get exhausted, lose their voices, or it becomes too painful to strike the surface of the table by their bloody hands! The frenzy feeds on itself. Alcohol intake causes more determination, which in turn prolongs the game to exhaustion and to a higher blood-alcohol level.

1930s, Istria. The two young men in the foreground are playing the popular  hand game called "mora". This photograph is from the family album of Franco G. Aitala.

The game usually attracts lots of spectators who hover closely around the players to get a better view of the fingers flying in and out in rapid succession and in perfect synchrony by the two players. Experienced players can show fingers and yell the number repeatedly in one-second intervals until one of them makes a point.

A good Mora player will try to ascertain the pattern of finger showing by the opposition in order to anticipate the number of fingers the opposition will show on the next throw.

The champion is well admired by all present in the bar and younsters keep track of these famous people and talk about them with reverence, hoping that one day they will become champion “Mora” players themselves.

Pino Golja

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This page compliments of Pino Golja

Created: Monday, June 20, 2005;  Last Updated: Tuesday March 11, 2008
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