Crokinole is one side of the Carrom Game Board & enjoyed by many
By Gary Wasielewski
I’m so excited to write this piece for the Carrom Company, a business rich in history and the manufacturer of the carrom game board. Remarkably, except for mostly cosmetic differences, this game has changed little since its introduction in the 1890’s. While the company based its namesake on carroms, it’s the back-side offering that I find so intriguing.
The game is Crokinole. Say it with me, Crokinole. Can you say Crokinole? Crokinole! Crokinole.
It is one of most enjoyable games that you probably have never heard of or played. Ask your oldest relative and you might get lucky. Or take it to a local pub like I have and be shocked when people, with a bit of nostalgia in their eye, approach you and ask if that really is a crokinole board. They will tell you about days as kids playing it with family or having one hanging on the wall at camp or a cottage entertaining them late into the night.
Pronounced ‘crow-ki-nohl,’ the game originated in Ontario, Canada. The first known board is from the 1870’s but the game is most likely older. Mainly a pastime for rural families and communities, it jumped the border into the US when a young man, M.B. Ross, bought the 1880 US Patent from another entrepreneur, and began mass producing and peddling it across the country. When the patent expired in 1897, companies like Carrom (once the Ludington Novelty Company) started to include it on its carrom boards. Crokinole took the US by storm and was the ‘it’ game to play well into the 1920’s.
It has made a resurgence and once you try it, you can see why. It’s easy to play. Easy to learn. It appeals to all age groups. Different skill-levels can play together. You can team with a partner or one-on-one. You can even practice by yourself. It includes flicks and crashes and of course caroming (a term for ricocheting) along with finesse to avoid posts and to sink your disk or ring into a hole. It compliments perfectly with conversation and beverages and holds people’s attention even as spectators.
Here’s a crash course. The game is played on a circular board with players taking turns flicking 12 disks or rings. The goal is to land them in the center or as close to the center as possible. There are concentric or smaller circles on the board used to designate points. Sounds easy right? But there are twists that sabotage this simple mission. A circle with pegs surrounds the center hole to frustrate your efforts. These gatekeepers seem to jump in your way on what you thought was a simple shot. But wait, your opponent has disks on the board? You can’t just shoot for the center; you need to hit one of their pieces to stay on the board. Better yet, smack one of their rings out of bounds while keeping yours in play. All this while not moving your seat (the one cheek rule) to adjust for a shot. A game that at first sounds like the skill-set needed to take free throws in basketball has become a fully obstacle-filled contact sport.
Players take turn shooting their rings toward the center hole to position for max points. If it lands in the center, the ring is pulled out and put aside for point count after the round. Inner circle counts as 15, circle beyond pegs is 10, outer circle is 5, beyond is out of bounds. As mentioned, if you shoot and your opponent has a ring on the board you must hit one of their pieces; the best shots knock your opponent’s pieces off the board while positioning yours closest to or preferably in the center.
Once all rings have been used, points are totaled. This part is similar to horseshoes or cornhole where the difference between the point totals is the final sum. In other works, let’s say you had 50 points and your friend had 30, your point total for the round would be 20. Usually a game ends after a player hits a predetermined point total (usually 100), so rounds are played until that total is matched or surpassed. Totaling points: each center shot set aside during the game is 20 points, any ring in the designated circles counts as 15, 10 or 5 points. Any ring touching or overlapping a circle’s perimeter counts as the lower point total. For example, a ring that is over the 15/10 line counts as 10. Any rings touching the outermost perimeter are out of bounds and removed from play after the flick. All out of bound rings count as 0.
Amazingly this game grabs the attention of my little kids, who famously have little attention for things, but can play this for hours. It is still considered cool to my teenagers, and not a bit ironic to my twenty-somethings. I host crokinole parties with my friends and have two boards being played without rest all night.
Now take action and get yourself a board, start playing and enjoy the experience with others. You won’t regret it. The Carrom Game Board is a great cost effective product to get you started playing crokinole. Click here to get one!
About Gary Wasielewski
I live in Havre de Grace, MD with my wife, Amanda, and have seven kids. We collect both antique and contemporary games, and we live to play! I am an educator for over 21 years and I love history and research into games, especially crokinole and its manufacturers like Carrom. Currently we have over 25 examples of crokinole boards at our home.
For more articles by Gary Wasielewski on Crokinole and it’s history check out his blog, “The Crokinole Chronicles”