Happy Hanukkah, friends! This year's celebration of the festival of lights might not be quite as traditional as most others, with celebrations and family gatherings curtailed by Covid restrictions. But you can still enjoy some of the hallmarks of the season from afar with friends, and honestly who needs an excuse to eat more fried foods anyway? Tis the season to treat yourself. But if you're craving some of the more playful and social traditions of Hanukkah this holiday season, here are some helpful digital dreidel replacements to play with friends and family online.
Firstly a refresher (or fresher, for those new to the tradition) on the rules of the game, which is primarily a low-stakes gambling affair to spice up the winter nights:
At the beginning of your session, every participant puts one game piece into the center "pot". (You may need some creative solutions for this over the internet, but we have suggestions below!)
Every player also puts one piece into the pot when the pot is empty or when there is only one game piece in the pot.
Each player spins the digital dreidel substitute once during their turn. Depending on which side is facing up when it stops spinning, the player whose turn it is gives or takes game pieces from the pot:
- If נ (nun/nisht) is facing up, the player does nothing.
- If ג (gimel/gants) is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.
- If ה (hay/halb) is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. If there are an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half the pot rounded up to the nearest whole number.
- If ש (shin/shtel arayn) or פ (pe/nes gadol hayah poh) is facing up, the player adds one of their game pieces to the pot.
If the player is out of pieces, they are either "out" or may ask another player for a loan.
Discord n' Dice
Like with most of our coping mechanisms for keeping in touch with family this year, Discord may be indispensible this Hanukkah, too. As dreidel relies simply on a random roll outcome (albeit, in real life, from a spinning top) you can make a serviceable virtual game through the chat app. Bots like Dice Maiden or Avrae can perform the rolls (1d4, assigning the numbers 1-4 with the letters above) in chat for everyone to see while you're on a video call, but if you're missing the suspense of watching the dreidel spin to its conclusion, one of you can screenshare the Google tool that pops up when you search simply for 'dreidel'.
As for the chocolate gelt replacements, you could combine your dreidel game with another game in your collective library. Ante up a few of your weapons in Diablo, or some of your hard-earned bells in Animal Crossing, or any other game that lets you trade items with other players. Don't make the bets too steep though, Legendaries are not equal to raisins or chocolate coins and half the fun of dreidel is turning something low stakes into something you take oddly seriously.
One way of combining these acts together with up to four players is this Fortnite Creative map created by Demon-Rebel. Use the code 9029-4165-3519 in Fortnite's creative map Create-A-Server to let your friends join, then you can use weapons as game pieces. The giant dreidel in the middle will run the spins for you, while the map surroundings are appropriately themed for Hanukkah, plus you don't have to keep swapping to Discord for spins.
As with any user-generated content game like Fortnite, Minecraft also has its own player solution for a spinning dreidel. If you can follow the process that the legendary SethBling has used to create a working dreidel, complete with animated spin and tantalizing wobble before the result, you too can play in a server with friends. Again, decide a resource to use as gelt and you can spend time between spins building something, too. The only downside is it appears you need a PhD in Redstone Engineering to get this one going, so maybe there isn't enough time left in the holiday week to get this one running. Very impressive, nonetheless.