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Cracking the Game of Crokinole

Cracking the Game of Crokinole

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The fast-paced dexterity game of crokinole, also known as pichenotte, can be traced all the way back to rural Canada in the 1860s. The popular blend of older East Indian, German, French, and English games, crokinole includes elements of marbles, shuffleboard, and curling. Over the last 150 years, the rules of crokinole have gone through a variety of regional fluctuations, but with a recent resurgence in popularity the rules have solidified, especially for tournament play.

The Objective of Crokinole

Crokinole is traditionally played with two players or four players in two teams. The players flick wooden discs with their fingers, aiming at a hole in the middle of the circular or octagonal crokinole board. With every shot, players try to knock off the opposing player's discs while maneuvering their own discs toward the hole in the center for maximum points.

The Crokinole Board

To play the game, you must have a board and playing pieces, which are disc or ring-shaped. Traditional crokinole boards are usually 26-inch wooden circles with a middle hole known as the "20 hole." A few inches outside the center hole are surrounding pegs or posts that serve as bumpers to make the center hole more difficult to access. The recessed outer edge of the board is known as the "ditch," where discs are placed when removed from play. The "shooting line" is about an inch inside the ditch. Each player in a two-person game begins with 12 discs. In a four-person game, the game is played in teams of two and each player gets six discs.

Basic Crokinole Rules: Starting the Game

Similar to shuffleboard in objective and game play, crokinole utilizes the following simple, straightforward rules that can be easily learned in a matter of minutes.

  • A coin flip decides the first shot, or you may opt to let the youngest or oldest have the first play.
  • The scoring ring is divided into four quadrants. Players choose their quadrant and play from that spot for the whole game. In a two-player game, you sit opposite your opponent; in a four-player game, you sit opposite your teammate.
  • You must stay in your seat in front of your quadrant while shooting. You are not allowed to stand or switch chairs to improve your shot.
  • To shoot, place a disc on the shooting line in your quadrant and flick it in the direction of the center hole. If it goes in the hole, remove the disc from play for the remainder of the round. If it does not land in the hole, your opponent will attempt to knock it off the board with their next shot.
  • The next player's disc must at least touch another disc on the board, otherwise his/her disc must be removed from play for the remainder of the round.
  • Players continue alternating shots in turn until the discs have all been used. The player to the left of the previous round's starter will begin the next round.

Basic Crokinole Rules: Carom Shots

A carom shot occurs when a player rebounds his disc off other discs or bumper pegs. The following rules apply to carom shots, also known as combination shots:

  • The shot must result in a disc touching an opponent's disc, but it does not matter what the player’s disc strikes the opponent’s disc, the player’s own disc, or a bumper peg first.
  • If the shot disc does not touch the disc of an opponent, the disc that was played must be removed for the remainder of the round, along with any of the player's discs that were impacted during the shot.
  • In a four-player game, the previous rule applies to both the player and teammate.

Basic Crokinole Rules: Details

Once the game is underway, the following rules relate to continuation and finer details of classic game play.

  • Any discs shot straight into the ditch are out for the round.
  • Shots that go off the board and bounce back on should be removed from play for the round.
  • If a disc that has been hit or played touches the shooting line, it should be removed for the round.
  • To count for points, discs must be completely embedded in the center hole. If a disc is only partially in the hole, it may be knocked back out or knocked completely in by other players in subsequent turns.

Basic Crokinole Rules: Scoring

When the pieces have all been played, the round is over and points are added up. Shots to the hole in the center are valued at 20 points. Other shots are scored based on their landing positions, varying from 5 to 15 points. The winning team is awarded the number of points equal to the difference between both teams' scores (if the winning team scored 30 and the losing team scored 20, the winning team receives 10 points) and the losing team gets zero. Typically, the first team to 100 points wins.

Tournament Rules

The National Crokinole Association oversees organized crokinole play in clubs around the world and facilitates a series of annual tournaments through the NCA Tour. Rules for crokinole tournaments are stricter than rules for casual play. Variations include the following:

  • Tournament play includes exactly four rounds per game
  • The winning team or player is awarded two points per winning round, instead of the difference between scores
  • In a tie game, each team or player is awarded one point
  • In a two-person tournament, players begin each round with eight discs instead of 12.

Strategies for Winning Crokinole

Regardless of whether you are a serious tournament crokinole player or just enjoy playing it with your family, there are some simple but important strategies to help improve your play. Improving your aim, learning the amount of force needed to propel the discs, and getting a feel for the nuances of the game board are all ways to increase success in crokinole. Some players also employ billiard-style finger cues, which are believed to increase the accuracy of the shot. Lubricating powders are also sometimes used to aid the sliding of the discs across the game boards.

Traditional vs. Tournament Crokinole Board

If you are new to the game of crokinole, check it out by acquiring a board from Mayday Games. There is not much difference between the traditional vs. tournament crokinole board: the diameter of the outside line of a tournament board must be 24 inches to allow a 26 inch playing area, the pegs must be rubber-covered, and the surface must have a smooth finish. There is a subtle difference between tournament discs, which must be 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and discs for casual play, which are usually 1 1/8 inches.


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