The game was described on images in Theban tombs. Romans played a variant called micare digitis (of which Cicero said “you must have great faith in the honesty of any man with whom you played in the dark.”) The French, who still teach it to their children, call it la mourre. And in Appalachia, starting tomorrow on through Sunday, you can find morra contests being played at the 33rd annual Italian Heritage Festival over in Clarksburg, WV.
To the un-initiated, morra may appear to be a convoluted, grownup version of rock, paper, scissor that we’ve all seen kids play. It is played by two contestants, and merely consists of holding up, in rapid succession, any number of fingers desired, calling out at the same time the number one’s opponent is showing.
In Italy, centuries ago in the town of Massa, close to the marble mines of Carrara, this game was imported by woodmen and coal dealers from the northern regions. It was played at home or at some inn with good wine. And when those same yeomen immigrated to America to find a better life, they brought morra with them. The Sardinian Morra Championships, which have become the championships for morra players in Europe, are held every August in Urzulei, Sardegna.
Object of the Game:
Guess the total number of fingers extended by you and your opponent.
How to Play:
Determine how many rounds a person must guess correctly in order to win the match.
Start the game by having the two players face each other.
The hand that you are using generally remains visible to your opponent and the other hand is usually placed to the side or behind your back.
Either at the count of three or some sort of predetermined signal the players extend their fingers and shout out a number from zero to ten.
The fingers are counted to see if anyone guessed the total number of fingers correctly.
If one of the players guessed correctly that person wins the round.
If no one guessed the right number then neither player wins that round. If they both guessed the correct answer then it is a draw and neither gets credit for winning the round.
Play continues until one of the players reaches the number needed to win the match.
Note: Zero is represented by extending your hand and making a fist.
“Miscellaneous remarks upon the Government, History, Religions, Literature, Agriculture, Arts” by John R. Peters, 1845, Eastburn’s Press
Related posts: “Growing up Italian in Clarksburg WV”