Strategic Rock Paper Scissors

Whenever I play Rock Paper Scissors for fun, I like to play a more strategic variant. I can’t have been the first one to have thought of this, but I can’t seem to find it described online, so allow me to describe it.

I developed this variant almost ten years ago as a simplification of Club Penguin’s Card-Jitsu game. Card-Jitsu required a special deck of cards; each card had a number, a colour, and an element. There were three elements—water, fire and snow—and each would “beat” another: water puts out fire, fire melts snow, and snow freezes water; yes, it was inspired by rock-paper-scissors. Each round, both players would choose a card to play, and the player whose card trumped the other card either by element or by number if the suit was the same would win the round. To win the game, one would have to have won three rounds with either a single element or one of each element (e.g. three waters, or a fire, water and snow), and each of the cards that are counted towards the win must be different colours.

The rules of Card-Jitsu showing what beats what and how to win

The basic rules of Card-Jitsu.

I simplified this to work with rock-paper-scissors. Each round is a regular throw of rock-paper-scissors and uses the same winning rules. Winning the game uses the three-of-one or one-of-each rule. It’s basically Card-Jitsu with the numbers and colours taken out, and the elements replaced with rock, paper and scissors.

Example

Let’s walk through an example game. I like to keep score on a 3×3 grid, one for each player.

Player 1 Player 2

The scoreboard starts empty.

Round 1

Player 1 throws rock. Player 2 throws scissors. An R is recorded for Player 1.

Player 1 Player 2
R

Round 2

Player 1 throws paper. Player 2 throws scissors. An S is recorded for Player 2.

Player 1 Player 2
R S

Round 3

Player 1 throws rock. Player 2 throws paper. A P is recorded for Player 2.

Player 1 Player 2
R P S

Player 2 can now potentially win with a rock (since one of each element).

Round 4

Player 1 throws rock. Player 2 throws paper. A P is recorded for Player 2.

Player 1 Player 2
R P S
P

Player 2 can potentially win with a rock (for one of each element) or with a paper (for three papers).

Round 5

Player 1 throws scissors. Player 2 throws rock. An R is recorded for Player 2 and Player 2 wins.

Player 1 Player 2
R R P S
P

Player 2 wins with one of each element.


It’s a small twist, but I find this version to be a lot more satisfying than plain rock-paper-scissors. There’s more strategy involved and games can get pretty intense. Try it with a friend today!

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