Balance Battle!




Introduction: Balance Battle!

First at all: if you have not seen people playing Johan Sebastian Joust, you shoud take a look on videos about that game.

Friends from BQ invited me to join a JSJ match. It was a really fun and awesome game, BUT you need a videoconsole and a bunch of remotes to play. You can find another version using one of those tiny computers, a Raspberry Pi.

I started to plan a simplified standalone version, using Arduinos, motion sensors, batteries... This mean a lot of (interesting) work, and a lot of time I do not have (did I mention I have two children?).

Then, a supersimplified, console-free, battery-free, almost-everything-free version came to my mind:

Just a ball on the top of a pipe for every player. If your ball fall down, you die.

After some testing with different pipes and balls (avoid easy jokes, please :-) I decided to go with these easy to find elements:

  • 25mm (or 1") PVC pipe
  • Table tennis balls

To build the game you will need some tools:

  • A saw (I used a japanese one)
  • Measuring tape & pencil
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintings (I used a spray can becase I hate painting)
  • Craft knife

Step 1: Chop the Right Pipe

The most (if not the only) important part of the game is that the balls must be in a delicate equilibrium on the top of the pipe.

If pipe diameter is too wide the game will be boring, or impossible to play if too narrow. After some test matches with different pipes -including pool noodles-, I found a 25mm pressure-type PVC pipe worked pretty well. Besides it is really cheap and easy to cut.

You can also make cardboard tubes, or buy different pipes (copper, aluminium). This is not an olimpic game so components are not standarised...yet :-)

Pipe length is another important issue. For a challenging battle, your pipes must be 40cms/16" long at least.

I had many pieces of PVC pipe around, enought to cut six sticks of 44cms/17" long.

Use a mitre box or any other method to make clean perpendicular cuts, or the balls will fall down too easily and the match will not be fair for some players.

Step 2: Sand Them

Use fine grain sandpaper and a block of wood to get a flat surface in both ends of every stick.

Avoid sanding sponges, as they do not keep a flat face.

Step 3: Paint Them (optional)

Players must grab their sticks using only the bottom, so I decided to mark this section.

Although you can start playing right now, a good finish will give the game a professional look.

Mark your sticks at 1/4 of their lenght (11cms/4" in my case) and apply masking tape before painting them.

I hate painting, so I went the easy way, hanging my sticks from a rope and using a spray of red acrilic. A serious maker probably would sand the full stick lenght, and use some kind of primer. But for me, time is adamantium :-D

Be careful when peeling the masking tape off. If the paint is not a bit wet, nor you use a craft knife to mark the end of the painted section, you can pull it.

It is not the end of the world. You can cover little disasters with washi tape.

Step 4: Battle Rules

How to play Balance Battle?


Every player get a table-tennis ball and a stick. Hold it vertically so the hand is on the gray section and this points to the floor. The red section is forbidden! (now you understand why is red) :-)

Place your ball on the top of the stick and make someone say "GO!".

Players start moving and pushing the others. If one player's ball fall down, she is out of the game.

Pushing, tickling, blowing, yelling... is allowed, as far as sticks nor balls are touched.


The original game uses music tempo to change the speed players can move. We do not have complex electronic accelerometers here, but you can simulate something similar:

One D.J. plays two different themes. When theme is A, only gray section is allowed. But when theme B sounds, players can grab the red section of their stick (and move faster).

If you are playing outdoor, it is a good idea to fence in an area for the battle.

For little players, allow them to use the red section if they want to, and give them extra balls.

Step 5: New "Pocket Version"

What if you want to go to a Pub and play Balance Battle?

Should you take your PVC pipes with you?

Well, now you can just grab a bunch of old CDs or DVDs, and put them in your pocket (jacket or cargo pants required). And do not forget the balls!

When you and your friends have your drinks, deliver one disk and one ball to every player. Each player just need to place her disk on her glass and hold a ball in the disk hole.

Then, start the game as always: Do not drop your ball, and do not spill your drink either!

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