Form into pairs, standing a metre apart from each other.
Establish (and practice for 5 seconds) a beat by slapping open hands on thighs, about once per second.
Introduce three unique physical gestures, asking your group to mimic them one at a time:
– Safe: arms crossed on chest and fingers resting on shoulders;
– Loading: with fingers clenched and thumbs pointing over the top of your shoulders; and
– Bang: with both hands forming a gun-like gesture in front of the body.
Between beats, an individual will strategically play one of these three gestures – Safe, Loading or Bang.
Safe and Loading gestures can be played at any time, but Bang may only be played directly after Loading.
When ready, each pair resumes the beat.
In each round, an individual aims to win by playing Bang at the same time their partner plays Loading.
All other combinations of gestures produce no result, so the beat will continue until a win is secured.
Play several rounds over 2 to 3 minutes, and then swap partners.
To start with using your own open palms, you’re going to place them onto your own thighs in a beat.
Okay, great. Perfect. That’s all you need to do on that one. Excellent.
So between each beat, much like with Rock, Paper, Scissors, you have one of three options. It’s either going to be this, which is ‘Safe’. Nothing can ever happen here with safe. So you could play the whole game playing safe, you’ll never lose, but you won’t win any friends either because you’re never going to be actually winning. So in this case that’s one option, though.
The second option is between a slap you could do this which means your thumbs are pointing over the top of your shoulders, in what’s referred to as ‘Loading’. Now it doesn’t take much imagination to imagine what I’m loading, because the last one if it’s not Safe and it’s not Loading, it is shooting. ‘Bang’, got you. That’s what it’s trying to do. So it’s either ‘Safe’, ‘Load’, or ‘Bang’.
Now here’s the way the game works. You have only one of those three options to play. Now if you’re trying to shoot someone but they are safe, because you’ll be playing it in partners, nothing happens.
If both of you are shooting each other, nothing happens. If both of you are loading or any other combination, nothing happens. The only way you win is if you are shooting someone who is loading. That is their most vulnerable position to be in.
(Why would you load?)
That’s right. You’ve asked the question Why would you load? What’s happened is that between each of your beats, in order to shoot you must have loaded directly before.
So for example I could go Safe, Load, Shoot. Totally eligible. Okay? But I can’t do this, Load, Safe, Shoot. Notice that I didn’t come just out of loading. So you go ohhhh, I know what I’ll do, I’ll go like this, Load, Load, Load, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot. No, no, no. Okay?
The first one, that’s true, the one directly after the last Load is okay, but after that no. So you have to keep loading in order to use the shoot. Any time you don’t shoot immediately you lose it. You’ve got to go back and Load again. This is where its complexity is. You need to remember what you’re doing whilst watching them.
So for example, if Davey I see him load, he may but he may not, because it’s completely his choice, he may choose to Load and either go like this, or do something completely different. However, if I see that, there’s a chance he might do it so I need to be weary of that.
In a very slow demonstration, Davey you think you’re up to speed with this just a little? Okay. as I said I’m going to go very, very slowly. Are you ready? Here we go.
(Mark and Davey practicing Slap Bang)
Good. You keep going until you manage to catch a point.
You got me. Alright. Fantastic.
So got the idea?
So it’s very slow in the beginning, but you’re looking for that opportunity… As I said it’s complex, it’s does your head in, in some respects. So with your partner whomever you happen to be close to right now, start with them.
(people playing Slap Bang)
How To Play Narrative
Looking for a fun, but more complex alternative to Rock-Paper-Scissors? This is it.
Before we get started, with your group standing before you, you need to establish two critical elements – a common beat, and three distinct movements.
The beat is as simple as slapping your thighs about once every second. And between beats, each person will assume one of three movements/gestures.
One move is to cross your arms on your chest (fingers resting on shoulders) – this action is frequently played because it keeps you ‘Safe.’
The second move called ‘Loading’ (or Ready) is to clench your fists and poke your thumb up and over each shoulder as if you were pointing with your thumbs at something behind you.
The third and deadliest move, labelled the ‘Bang,’ can only ever be used directly after the ‘Loading’ move, and involves pointing your index fingers forward and thumbs up as if you were holding a gun (in each hand) at your partner’s tummy.
Note, a person is not obliged to move into a ‘Bang’ straight after producing a ‘Loading’ move, but it is the only way a ‘Bang’ may be effective.
The object for each person is to catch their partner off-guard by producing a ‘Bang’ while the other is ‘Loading.’ Naturally, if a ‘Bang’ is attempted at the same time as a ‘Safe,’ then nothing happens, and the beat continues.
A little hint for the slap-bang-savvy, if you see your partner move into the ‘Loading’ position, be prepared for the possibility (but not certainty) of a ‘Bang’ at the next beat. Also, if two ‘Bang’s meet each other, they cancel each other out, and the beat continues.
Okay, once you’ve nailed these moves, here’s how it all comes together…
Ask everyone to find a partner who has a similar-sized thumb, and stand facing them about a metre apart. Each person starts with a slap of their own thighs, and moves immediately into one of the three gestures, and then a slap, another gesture and so on. The slapping and gesticulation continues until a successful ‘Bang’ is made.
For example, this is what a sequence could look like for me “slap-Safe-slap-Loading-slap-Bang…,” while my partner moves to the same beat with “slap-Loading-slap-Safe-slap-Loading…” which means I earn a brownie point for scoring a ‘Bang’ at the same time my partner was ‘Loading.’
Stick with a partner for a few minutes playing several rounds, and then ask your group to swap partners.
Practical Leadership Tips
Consider the ‘zero tolerance’ environment of your particular setting. In some schools and organisations, you could not introduce this exercise in its standard form because some would say that it promotes violence and guns, etc. Fair enough. If this sounds like your group, then take a look at the alternatives described below (see Variations tab.)
A good sequence to prepare for this exercise is to first present any Rock-Paper-Scissors or Ro Sham Bo variation you know. This will introduce the concept of three game-like gestures, any one of which can beat another.
Remember, like most play and adventure-based activities, the purpose of the exercise is more often discovered in the doing, which often means a lot of fumbling, rather than getting it right. So, focus on the energy this activity generates more than whether everyone is doing it properly.
For the record, I referred to this game as the ‘Henry-Robert’ game for many years because it honoured the names of two summer campers from whom I first learned it! Sorry boys, but now, in the absence of any other name, Slap Bang works much better to express what the game is all about.
Circle Elimination: Form a circle. On a predictable, possibly slower beat, each person assumes one of the three poses. All those who chose to ‘Bang’ will aim directly at one person across the other side of the circle, and if the latter is ‘Loading,’ this person is eliminated. Naturally, to ‘Bang’ one must have ‘Loaded’ first, and nothing happens when two people ‘Bang’ towards one another. Aim of the game is to be the last person standing.
Gotcha: To adopt a less aggressive set of gestures, dispense with “BANG” and make it “GOTCHA” with a simple pointing of one’s index fingers forward only.
Kinder Gestures: Re-frame each of the three gestures to produce a positive result. For example, the Safe gesture means ‘I’m happy at home,’ the Loading gesture means ‘Come out to play,’ and the Bang gesture means ‘Okay.’ An individual scores a point each time their ‘Okay’ meets their partner’s ‘Come out to play.’
RPS Duels: Take a look at Evolution and Giants Wizards Elves to explore two fun group games which also leverage a type of Rock-Paper-Scissors partner-duel.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you ever used a quick game-like exercise to decide who, among one or more people, has to do a chore. For example, at summer camp, the last person to notice that everyone else at the table had their finger on their nose, meant they had to wipe down the table. ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ is another popular variant. Well, this exercise takes the familiar ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ concept to a whole new, more-complex but much-more-fun level.
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this strategically fun partner game:
Describe your level of competence in the beginning.
What did you notice as the game progressed?
Was it difficult to focus on both your own and your partner’s moves at the same time? Why?
Where else do you try to do two things at once?
The inspiration for Slap Bang, and many more fun, energetic partner exercises, was sourced from the following publication: