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Games Workshop Created Jenga Before Jenga Was A Thing… But Maybe Not?

3 Minute Read
Jan 6 2021
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It’s impossible to know for sure, but also Jenga is kinda directly responsible for the creation of Warhammer.

We all know the oddities with the Games Workshop catalog, right? Like everyone else in the 80’s, there were some truly spectacular ideas getting greenlit left and right with very little in the ways of reason.

Railway Rivals and Oi! Dat’s My Leg!, just to name a few.

But alongside those games were a few others that apparently just missed the mark in terms of hitting it big. One such example of that near hit is Towerblox.

Looks familiar, no?

Little Bit of History

To anyone who follows our dives into ancient board games, it will come as no surprise when I say there’s more to the history of Jenga than you might suspect. If you look up the history of Jenga anywhere on the web, this is what you’ll find.

First, we travel back to ancient times in the long ages past of the 1970’s in Ghana.

In the port town of Takoradi, a block stacking game has gained popularity. The game consists of small rectangular blocks stacked in a tower along their length. The objective of the game is to pull one of these blocks from the lower levels and place it on the top of the tower without it falling over. The game got so popular that it was named after the city from whence it came: Takoradi (or sometimes Ta-Ka-Radi).

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Enter: Leslie Scott, who spent some of her younger years in Ghana and is now credited as the inventor of Jenga in 1983. And here’s where things get a little strange…

Scott recalls having made up the game with her family while living in Ghana. According to her, “As far as I am able to tell — and I have researched this pretty extensively —- no game even remotely similar to Jenga existed before the early 1970s,” she says. “It isn’t an African game played by generations of Ghanaians. There are no illustrations of people playing Jenga from any culture at any period before now, and there is no mention of such a game in any literature, folklore or anthology of games.” – Demolishing the Jenga Myth

So maybe none of that stuff about Ta-Ka-Radi is true? Then where did Ta-Ka-Radi come from?! Scott says she took the Swahili word for To Build create the name Jenga and releasing it at the London Toy Fair in January of 1983, which is true. But um…

So, Games Workshop beat her to the punch. However, their version, is a Ta-Ka-Radi with the blocks lengthwise with space between them. It seems like the public much preferred the blocks laying flat since Jenga exploded in popularity when it was released.

But, an interesting Butterfly Effect moment to consider: If Towerblox had exploded much like Jenga has, maybe Games Workshop would have leaned more into making toys and games, becoming more of a Hasbro or Milton Bradley. But instead their Towerblox fell by the wayside and they had to put their efforts elsewhere, like maybe into something a little more grim and a lot more dark.

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It seems like we all owe Jenga a debt of thanks for being so successful, or else we very well might not have Warhammer at all.

Thanks for reading!

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