The idea behind this column is that every game has it's pros and cons, and everyone loves lists. This won't be restricted to board games, or any type of game in general. Also, all games will have five pros and two cons. If there's not five reasons to love a game, it's not worth writing about it. If there aren't two things to hate about the game, you're probably too enamored, and should leave it someone less biased.
Here are five of the reasons I love Jenga, and two ways it could be better.
1. Psychological Warfare
The act of physically removing blocks and placing them on the tower only makes up about 10% of the game. When an opponent is removing a particularly dangerous block, how do you get the edge? Make them laugh, make them cry; anything you can do to physically jostle them, mentally. You're a standup comedian on the side? Tell some jokes. Know some embarassing stories about your opponent? Tell them as he plays. Make sure that you're emotionally ready though, you better expect the same to be done to you.
2. The Money Shot
How fun is it watching the construction of a building over the course of months? Unless you're an architect or engineer, probably not that much fun. What about destroying a building? There are people out there whose jobs it is to make buildings implode safely, for millions of people to watch, both in person and on television. Building a card house? Not that much fun to watch. Impressive, but not to watch every second of. You should be getting the idea of this now, people love destruction in any and all forms. Here are a couple from PLAY.
If you're too good of a Jenga player, and you want to spice it up, it's easy. Wikipedia tells us of some offical Hasbro variants, such as: Throw 'n Go Jenga, Truth or Dare Jenga, and Casino Jenga: Las Vegas Edition. These aren't too hard to think up, just combine a couple games and you've got a gimmick. Write numbers 1-6 on all the blocks, then roll a die before you play, to determine which block to remove. The possibilities are really endless.
I love complicated games with oodles of rules, such as Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Axis and Allies, and Riskopoly*. However, many people don't, and getting them to play a game with you is going to be harder if they're resistant while you're trying to explain page 86 of the rulebook. If they can't understand Jenga, they're too dumb to be hanging out with you. And if they can't appreciate Jenga, they're probably not human. Teaching the rules of Jenga will take about 15 seconds if you talk really, really slow. If you don't use any punctuation, you could probably explain it in about 4 seconds.
This is pretty similar to #4, but there are differences. With many games, if you take the hour or so it takes to learn a game, you can play it in about 30 minutes. Those games are fast, but not simple. If you learn how to play Monopoly, Risk, or Trivial Pursuit, which aren't all that difficult, it's still going to take a while. Even if you're playing with expert, emotionally stable (see #1) players, there are a limited number of blocks, and the tower can only get to be so tall.
a. Tedious Setup
The process of setting up Jenga is pretty tedious. It doesn't take too long, but removing blocks from the pile of wreckage (see #2) can take time. Then you have the flimsy piece of plastic that came with the game to help you line up the blocks right. Unless you take really good care of your games (i.e. don't bring them back and forth to different places on a weekly basis) your box and plastic straightener are probably broken. I don't have a solution to this problem, but I can imagine something that worked like a coin sorter would be helpful, and entertaining, but wouldn't be worth carrying around with you, since it would take up more space than the game itself.
b. Wait Time
Wait time? You should be focusing, even if you're not the person playing at the moment! (See #1.) If this doesn't work for you, play a non-time based game on the side, while you wait. Make sure you can pay attention to both games at once though, you don't want to be the annoying guy that people have to keep reminding to take your turn. Also, remain aware of your surroundings, you don't want to miss the money shot, or get hit in the face by said money shot.
Someone actually wrote a Masters thesis about Jenga; Richard, you must top this.
*I haven't actually played Riskopoly yet, but I really do think I would love it.