How to Play the Crokinole Board Game

Megan Mattingly-Arthur

Created in the late nineteenth century, crokinole is a fast-paced dexterity board game that combines elements of classic games such as shuffleboard, curling, and marbles. The game is easy to learn, fun to master, and sure to provide hours of entertainment for players of all ages.

Crokinole Game Objective

Players use their fingers, or small cues, to flick wooden discs toward a hole in the center of the crokinole board. With each successive shot, players attempt to knock their opponent's discs off the board or into rings worth fewer points, while working to maneuver their own pieces toward the center hole which offers the most points.

Board Setup

The game requires a crokinole board and small colored discs or rings. The boards are circular, usually 26 inches in diameter, and commonly made of wood though they can be created from any smooth material including plastic or marble. The crokinole board features a series of scoring rings, as well as a center hole surrounded by posts or pegs that serve as bumpers, making shots to the center hole more difficult.

The board's outermost ring is the shooting line. Most crokinole boards also feature an outer edge, called a ditch, that catches the pieces knocked off the board during the round.

Each player starts with 12 discs in a standard, two-person game. For four players, divide into teams of two and give each player six discs.

Playing the Game

Similar to shuffleboard in its basic game play and objective, crokinole's rules are simple, straightforward, and can be learned in just minutes.

  • Decide which player or team will go first. Flip a coin, or let the oldest (or youngest) player take the first shot.
  • Choose your shooting quadrant. The outer scoring ring is divided into four sections, or quadrants. Players will make their shots from the shooting line of their particular quadrant for the entirety of the game. In two-player games, choose the quadrant opposite your opponent; in four-player games, players sit opposite their teammates.
  • Remain seated in front of your designated quadrant while making your shot. Players are not allowed to get up or move their chairs to make a shot less difficult.
  • Position a disc on your quadrant's shooting line and flick it toward the center hole; if the disc lands in the hole, remove it from play for the rest of the round. If it doesn't, the next player must use their shot to try to knock the disc off the board.
  • The next player will position a disc at the shooting line and take a shot with the intention of knocking the opponent's disc off the board. If that player does not succeed in at least touching the other disc with his, then his disc is taken out of play for the rest of the round.
  • The round continues, with each player shooting one disc per turn, until each player has used all of their discs. The player to the left of the person who started the previous round begins the new round.

Carom Shots

Carom shots, in which a player bounces his disc off a peg or other discs, are allowed in crokinole. When making a carom shot, also known as a combination shot, the following rules apply:

  • The disc must touch an opponent's disc during the shot, but the player is not required to strike the opponent's disc first.
  • If the disc fails to touch an opponent's disc, the played disc as well as any of that player's discs that were moved during the shot must be removed from play for the rest of the round. In four-player games, this rule applies to your teammate's pieces as well.

Finer Points

  • Discs shot directly into the board's lip are out for the rest of the round.
  • If a shot goes off the board, hits the lip, and bounces back on, remove the disc from play for the rest of the round. Do not remove any of the other discs it may have touched.
  • If a disc touches the shooting line after it's been played or hit, remove it from play for the rest of the round.
  • Discs must be completely seated in the center hole to count. If not properly seated, the disc stays on the board and can be knocked in or out of place during subsequent turns.

Scoring

Once all the pieces have been played, the round ends and points are tallied. Successful shots to the center hole are worth 20 points while the point values for other shots are determined by where they land in relation to the board's scoring rings. The area from the edge of the center hole to the peg bumpers is worth 15 points, the next ring is worth 10 points and the outer ring is worth five points. Discs that touch the scoring lines between rings are scored at the lower point value.

The winning team receives the number of points equal to the difference between the scores of both teams. For example, if one team scores 35 points and the other team scores 40, the team that scored 40 would be awarded five points at the end of the round, while the team that scored 35 points would receive zero points for that particular round.

The first person or team to reach a cumulative score of 100 is the winner, though you can also set a different, pre-arranged score that must be reached in order to win.

Tournament Play

Crokinole isn't just for casual play. The National Crokinole Association, an organization dedicated to fostering the formation of crokinole clubs around the world, organizes a series of tournaments each year known as the NCA Tour. The rules for tournament play are a bit more stringent than the rules used during a casual match between friends. Tournament rule variations include:

  • Tournament games are exactly four rounds.
  • The winning player or team receives two points at the end of the round rather than the difference between the two scores; in a tie, each player or team receives one point.
  • Players start with eight discs in two-player games, rather than 12.

The NCA Tour includes the World Crokinole Championship.

Winning Strategies

A large part of the strategy in crokinole is perfecting your aim and regulating the amount of force used to push the discs. Getting a feel for the game board can also help your efforts. How much friction does the surface provide? Are there any rough spots or other irregularities? Small variations from board to board can threaten to throw you off your game but, if you've mastered your aim and shooting force, you'll quicky find ways to use them to your advantage.

Player Aids

Many crokinole players find the following aids useful:

  • Small, billiard-style finger cues can be used to propel the discs across the board. These cues are thought to increase shot accuracy and can be particularly useful for seniors or disabled players who have decreased mobility or trouble keeping their hands steady.
  • Lubricating powders, such as boric acid powder or sprayable anti-setoff powder made of food-grade plant or vegetable starch, are sometimes applied to the crokinole board to help the disc pieces slide more smoothly.

While many crokinole purists revile the use of player aids such as finger cues and lubricating powders, other players wouldn't even attempt a game without their trusty cue or powder at their side.

Eyes on the Prize

In many ways, crokinole is as much about speed and aplomb as it is technique. Take bad rounds in stride and don't let them shake your confidence. If another player pulls ahead with some great shots into the center hole, stay calm and focus on closing the gap in the overall score. Most importantly, remember to have a great time.

Where to Buy

Consider your personal preferences and budget when deciding which type of crokinole board is right for you. Crokinole varies in price from approximately $30 for off-the-shelf games to more than $200 for artisan boards and pieces. Mass-produced crokinole board games are available on Amazon and custom, handcrafted crokinole boards and pieces can be purchased from online retailers, including:

  • Crokinole World: This pair of brothers from Pennsylvania and Maryland handcrafts standard and custom premium wooden crokinole boards in their home workshops. The boards are 30 inches in diameter, with a regulation 26-inch playing surface and are available in a wide variety of stains. Standard boards start at $200 plus shipping; the price for custom boards varies.
  • Mr. Crokinole: When it comes to Crokinole, Wayne Kelly literally wrote the book on it. The author of The Crokinole Book offers an array of high-quality wooden boards in his online shop, in both the traditional octagon and tournament round styles. Boards start at $189 for the classic Stratford model.
  • Crokinole Depot: Located in Ontario, Canada, this small hobby shop sells round, wooden crokinole boards for standard and tournament play, as well as a selection of crokinole accessories, including discs and disc holders. The standard board starts at $120 while the tournament board starts at $160.
  • Crokinole Boards by Willard: This lifelong Crokinole enthusiast has been making custom handcrafted boards since he was young. He learned from his father, who began building boards in the 1970s. Crokinole Boards by Willard offers standard octagon and tournament round boards, starting at $135.

While prefabricated crokinole games will do the trick for family game night, many diehard crokinole enthusiasts swear by their custom boards. Adventurous do-it-yourselfers can even try their hand at making their very own crokinole board and pieces.

Fun for the Whole Family

Classic games like crokinole can bring the entire family together for hours of fun. Once you've introduced your family to crokinole, don't be surprised if they beg to play "just one more game" again and again.

How to Play the Crokinole Board Game