Yesterday, I was talking to Kelly about an idea for a game. Here’s the idea: Invent an original game that can be explained completely and with no prior knowledge INSIDE a limerick. Yes, we are that cool.

I was speculating that you could fit chess in a limerick, but she convinced me it’d be hard due to explaining initial placement. Plus, I realized the movement of a pawn adds a lot, since it moves one space, unless it’s the first turn, or it’s en passante, and also if it gets to the other side you can change to any other piece. Shit. We speculated that checkers, with some cleverness, might be possible.

Today on my walk to the pier (I have a theory that if you can see the ocean, you can write), a more interesting version occured to me. I call it Minimum Optimized Poem Unit for Gaming (MOPUG). A mopug is the smallest possible poetic form which can contain all the rules for a particular game. Minimum is defined as fewest syllables. Poetic form includes traditional western forms of poetry (no free verse and blank verse is frowned upon) and, of course, the haiku.

So, without any real prior planning, here’s my theory: the mopug of chess is the sonnet. The mopug of checkers is the limerick. The mopug of rock-paper-scissors is the haiku.

Remember, the goal is not to make an easy read, but rather to make an explanation that leaves minimal ambiguity.



Ro beats sham beats Bo
Beats ro. Reveal your choices
At the same time. Wooh!

Hmm… that was easy. Let’s try checkers.


On a grid that is square, eight by eight
Inner sides share two colors. The fate
Of your checkers
Is double deckers…

No… nevermind, not possible. Confirmed: the limerick is not the mopug of checkers. Someone write Popular Science. I think there’s an article in this

Shit. Let’s see what happens with my sonnet theory…


A checkered grid of eight by eight is needed
And players white and black put pawns in rows
With 8 apiece at 2 and 7, seated
Near their owner. Next, the bishop goes

At columns 3 and 6, just aft a pawn.
At corners rooks, at 2 and 7, knights,
A black and milky spot remain, and on
The one you match, put Queen, then King alites.

To kill a piece, get yours upon its space.
The pawn moves up its column, kills at angles.
At first, 2 spaces goes, then half that pace.
The rook…

Damn. This didn’t work either. I suspect what’s gonna kill me is the complexity of the pawn and the castling rules. BALLS.

Lessons Learned:

Well, first, this is harder than I thought. I suspect it may be even harder than the “make up a game in a limerick” challenge, in which you can make games that are easily expressible.

It seems like the big trip-up is what you might call “inelegant” rules. Chess is a very elegant game, but there are a few “muddy” things like en passante and castling. These are fine for gameplay, but can’t be expressed in simple mathematical terms. In fact, any time something didn’t obey cute logic (like in Queen placement) it took a little longer. Notice that queen and king placement took almost as much space as pawn, knight, rook, and bishop.

It’s possible boardgames were a poor choice. Card games, for example, require no explanation of spacing. Poker is basically a listing of hand types, which could conceivably fit in a sonnet. Go fish might be another.

So, it seems so far I’ve found only one possible mopug. Wanna see if you can find more?


PS: I hope you like posts at this level of geekery, because it’s ooooonly gonna get worse.

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28 Responses to MOPUGs

  1. Omnitarian says:

    Take cards 1 through 9 in 4 colors
    In turns place them on top each other
    Play a card of same hue
    or number value
    Else draw from the deck another.

    Unfortunately, nuances of the rules (e.g. wildcards and declaring ‘uno’) must be sacrificed ;(

  2. Randy says:

    I got Conway’s Game of Life into a haiku:

    Infinite square grid.
    Three neighbours makes cell alive;
    Two lets it survive.

    This seems like it could be compressed even further. What smaller poetic forms are available?

  3. ZachWeiner says:

    Rhymed couplet, I suspect. I suppose the shortest possible poem would be two syllables that rhyme.

    Here’s the mopug for evolution:

    Have some fry
    Before you die

  4. Demadaha says:

    Pong goes into a haiku

    Two paddles bright white;
    Move to stop the dot between.
    Past the paddle scores.

  5. Porphyro says:

    Magic: the gathering- mopug is probably something of Lamia-esque length

  6. Westicle says:

    Three by three, you draw
    Place X or O, other go
    Three in a row wins

    I’m sure you can figure it out (haiku)

    (also, Zach, second line, know -> no)

  7. viashino says:

    There once was a grid of dots,
    players (in turn) join adjacent spots.
    Another turn if you dare,
    for completing a square
    The winner is the one with most plots.

    • viashino says:

      line 3 should probably be “Another turn but take care” because “if you dare” makes it seem like passing is an option

  8. viashino says:

    Take half deck each; snap pairs ’til all cards yours.

    Tried to squeeze Snap into a single Iambic Pentameter. It’s missing a bit.

  9. POL says:

    I do enjoy this level of geekery, please keep it up.
    I do not, unfortunately, have an advanced enough understanding of english poetical forms.

    Sorry, I’ll try one in spanish in haikú form:

    “Triqui” (“Tic Tac Toe”)

    En un cuadro de nueve
    compiten dos
    gana el que junte tres.

    (That’s something like:
    “In a square made up of nine
    two are competing
    whoever gets three together wins”)

  10. viashino says:

    Take an object that all can sqiz.
    Tell all what the first letter is.
    They guess what you spy
    with your little eye
    correct guess then spies. Gee Whiz!

  11. John Small Berries says:

    I’d hoped I could find something to describe with the Old Norse dróttkvætt form (, but it imposes so many structural rules that I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s too inefficient to be used as a MOPUG for any game.

    For example, to describe a chessboard, which you managed in a single sonnet line of eleven syllables, took me an entire helmingr, or 24-syllable half-stanza, to do in dróttkvætt:

    Bloody plat of battle
    Brackets red with blackness:
    Counting eight tall columns
    Crossed against eight straight rows.

    (Six syllables per line, each line ending in a trochee; three alliterative syllables in each pair of lines, two in the odd line and the third in the even; pair of rhyming syllables in each line, one of which must be the penultimate syllable, though the odd lines may have a “half-rhyme” where the vowel sound is different but the consonants following the vowels are identical…)

    A far more accomplished poet than I could probably trim that down significantly, but even so, I don’t think it could beat eleven syllables.

  12. Rick says:

    Here’s my attempt at one. A haiku for the game Go

    Nineteen by Nineteen
    Black and White ring each other.
    Conquer the most land!

    Some subtleties of the game are missed, but I think this is an overall good description of the game.

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  14. Olax says:

    One bullet inside
    Ev’ry player shoots himself
    You win if you live

    • Randy says:

      You can’t peek. You can’t point it away. You can’t shoot other players.

      Your rulebook should be a fuckin’ novel, man.

      • Olax says:

        You also can’t use the bathroom in between turns, and probably I should add a rule about not raping the losers. Anything else you can’t do?

        (I thought “shoots himself” was pretty clear on not pointing it away or shooting other players.)

  15. Mopug is a game
    Where you write rules as poems.
    This shit just got meta.

  16. Mike says:

    Hmm… although I’m too lazy to do my own, I’ll bet Prisoner’s Dilemma can be done in a haiku. If not, a limerick, definitely.

    • Jim C. says:

      Hmmm – couldn’t fit it in a haiku, but got the essence of it in a limerick:

      If both prisoners confess, then they’re sad,
      if just ones does, then for him it’s bad,
      ’cause the other goes free
      So obviously
      No confessing makes both of them glad.

      • Yoda Auxilliary says:

        you have the prisoner’s dilemma backwards in the second line. The one who confesses (if only one does) gets off free. Otherwise, it’s not much of a dilemma

        • Yoda Auxilliary says:

          also the police aren’t trying to get confessions from the prisoner’s, they’re trying to get them to rat on each other. That would probably help make more sense of it.

  17. Kewangji says:

    All players sit ’round a biscuit
    The one who comes last is defeated
    Hands on their members, they risk it
    The player who loses must eat it

  18. Michael says:

    I came up with an inferior haiku for Go (I am disappointed that there has been no poem thus far):

    Any board you like
    Place stones on dots surrounding
    Other stones for points

    (I could replace the first part with “nineteen by nineteen”, but that would be incorrect)

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