Yaddy-Yadda Haiku

For 3 or more players

To play this game, you need a Yaddy-Yadda Deck as well as pencils and paper for each player.


Each player will create a haiku based on letters drawn from the Yaddy-Yadda Deck. The title of the haiku will be chosen by one player who will act as moderator. The moderator will also judge the winning haiku based on criteria given at the start of the game.

Preparing to play

Remove both X's and Z's from the deck. They won't be used in this game. Shuffle the remaining cards and place them in the middle of the table.

Next, choose a player to be the moderator for the game. Her role will be to choose a title and the criteria for judging a winning haiku. After all other players have written their haikus, she will also pick the winning poem.

A haiku in this game

The definition of a haiku will be in very general terms for purposes of these rules. Here, a haiku will consist of a title and three lines. The first and third lines will have five syllables each. The second line will have seven syllables.

Here's a simple example from one of our games:

Cold Day

Under my blanket
I keep warm in pajamas
It's freezing outside

Traditionally, the haiku is simple, dealing with ordinary life and seasons of the year. A moderator may always give a more specific definition of a good haiku for any session. A brief introduction to the art of the haiku can be found here.

Playing the game

First the moderator will turn over the top two cards of the deck. These two letters must be used to form a title for the haiku each player will write. There must be a word in the title that begins with each of the two letters just revealed. In the above example, an "D" and "C" were revealed giving way to the title "Cold Day". The order in which the moderator uses the letters is irrelevant. Also, there can be more than two words in the title, with other words beginning with any letter. However, it's best to keep titles very simple for this game. Players should write the title of the haiku at the top of their papers at this time.

After the moderator chooses a title, she then must tell players the criteria she will use to judge the winning haiku. As examples, she may judge haikus based on...

The moderator's criteria may be a single aspect of the haiku or she may wish to list a few aspects she'll base her decision on. It's completely up to the moderator.

Next, the moderator turns up three pairs of letter cards from the deck onto the table. Each pair should be arranged in a separate row, so that players can easily see which letters are paired up. Each of these pairs of letters will be used to begin words in each line of the haiku. For example, if the first pair of letters was "H" and "M", the first line of each haiku must have a word that begins with an "H" and one that begins with an "M". As with the title, the order of these words in the haiku is irrelevant. So, given this example, a player could write "My hands shake with cold" or "A hundred or more-". The second pair of letters will be used for words in the second line and likewise with the third. Back to the "Cold Day" example above, the letters we had to work with are highlighted:

Under my blanket
I keep warm in pajamas
It's freezing outside

At this time, players work on their individual haikus until everyone is finished. While the moderator can't make and judge her own haiku, she may choose to make one that would represent the criteria she chose for the game.

When everyone is done, the haikus are passed to one player (other than the moderator) who will read each aloud. If the moderator chose to write one herself, she can begin by reading hers. Then the player reads each haiku to the moderator. She may request that any be repeated as often as necessary to make a judgement. Her judgement as to the best haiku is final, but a winning haiku should at least relate to the title given at the start of the game and it must follow the rules above regarding syllables and the use of the letters on the Yaddy-Yadda cards.

Further games

The game can be repeated any number of times. If each player is moderator once, an overall winner may be determined by keeping track of who wins each game. It's likely several players may tie for victory in this case, but I hope it's clear winning isn't the only enjoyable goal of this game.

Players may choose to vary the poetry in many ways. Instead of writing only haikus, poems of any type can be created as the moderator chooses. Since words are chosen based on letter cards, the maximum length of the poem will always be dictated by the moderator. Game time, of course, becomes a major factor with longer poems. The moderator may create a rhyme scheme the players have to follow, or that may be left up to the individual players.

Some thoughts on the development of Yaddy-Yadda Haiku

In the summer of 2003 I had a major shift in focus with my designs. I'd recently grown tired of games that turn everything into numbers, then compare "high" versus "low". I envisioned (and still do) games where players create some work of art and the winner is determined through more subjective means than usual. When I attended Protospiel 2003 in Lansing, Michigan, I had a few good discussions with James Kyle, Kory Heath and Dave Chalker. With their help, I came to accept that games may end up looking very much like activities and moderators could oversee games without having to be able to win.

I first set out to tackle a poetry game. While I've never considered myself a poet, I've written a number of songs that many people have enjoyed. I had also played a game called Inverse: The Poetry Game designed by Stanley Anderson. It wasn't something I'd play often, but it was an incredibly fun game I'll never forget. In Anderson's game, players scored their own works by converting various aspects to numeric scores. I wanted to avoid both of those mechanics in my own game, but I can't deny the game influenced some of my earlier thinking.

After Protospiel, I decided I wanted to have a moderator judge the poems using criteria presented before the poems were written. At this late stage, I did a web search and came across this site. I soon realized that what I was attempting was nothing new! This Windows Workshops site was very vague and I didn't spend much time reading all the pages. It was here, though, that I realized I could use my Yaddy-Yadda deck to generate the poems. I tried to come up with a little more structure than those techniques (games?) on from the Windows Workshops site. My earliest playtests concerned me that time would be an issue. I ended up going with the shortest form I knew--the haiku.

I'm fascinated with games where players take random events and shape them into something with order and this game accomplishes that nicely. I'm glad that Yaddy-Yadda Haiku took shape as it did, fulfilling my recent design goals and offering yet another use for these little cards with letters on them.

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Last updated August 2, 2003.