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I've always been rather confused about how to set up a Jenga tower. There is a cardboard piece that comes with it that covers two sides and either the top and bottom of a completed tower. It's clear to me that this is supposed to help in setup, since doing it free hand leads to a less stable tower.

But how do you actually use this insert? If you use the horizontal side is on the top, it gets in the way of placing blocks and doesn't help much with stability (you would obviously take it off before playing).

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If it's on the bottom, it's more stable, but you can't get it out when it's time to play.

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So how do you properly set up a Jenga tower with the cardboard piece?

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    I'd always assumed that was just to make getting the set back in the box easier... – Matthew Jan 31 '16 at 12:39
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    If you don't get a satisfying answer here, I recommend asking again at Lifehack SE. – freekvd Feb 3 '16 at 13:28
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    @Matthew The instructions do say "To set up the game, use the included loading tray to create the initial tower." – Cascabel Feb 3 '16 at 16:14
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The official Jenga rules from 2000, which are printed on Hasbro's website, have this to say about setup:

SETUP

  • Empty the blocks onto a flat surface

  • One person uses this loading tray to build up the tower by placing layers of three wooden blocks at right angles to each other. (See photo on package back.) When you finish, you'll have a solid, 18-story tower that can more than double during play!

  • Carefully stand the loading tray upright, then remove it so the tower stands by itself.

The rules indicate that you should lay the loading tray on its side, with one of the long sides resting against the table. Fill the loading tray, then tip the tower upright so the free end is on the table.

A picture was included in the 1986 edition rules (the insert in that version was transparent plastic):

1986 Rules Setup Diagram

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  1. You make the stack (without using the insert).

  2. You put the cardboard insert over the stack, with the horizontal bit on top, and push all the blocks into the insert to make sure they're all straight.

  3. You take the insert off and start playing.

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    How on earth would you play with the insert on? – Nuclear Wang Feb 4 '16 at 11:34
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    @Matt - That confused me too. I thought that was what the OP meant when he said "If you use the horizontal side is on the top, it gets in the way of placing blocks". But re-reading, I see that he knew you have to "get it out when it's time to play". So it would appear that the OP was trying to create the stack inside the insert, rather than creating the stack freely before using the insert to straighten it. Answer revised to reflect this. – AndyT Feb 4 '16 at 11:53
  • I did mean that it gets in the way of placing blocks. I've clarified the question. – Thunderforge Feb 4 '16 at 18:04
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I always build it upside down. So you put the cardboard retainer at the bottom, then build the tower. Finally, you slowly flip the tower using the retainer to keep everything in place.

This doesn't work well for everyone, but it's how I learned to do it as a kid.

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Simple, you set the guide on its side and fill it with blocks. Afterwards, it's just a simple matter of lifting one side so that it's right-side up. I base this answer on the fact that the guide is placed as such in all the JENGA boxes that I have ever played with.

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