Saturday, October 15, 2011

Board Game Review: Crokinole

If you've ever played Jenga than you've played at least one Dexterity game in your life. One of the things that I learned when I started really getting into board games is that Dexterity games are hard to make well and even harder to get into mass production. I also discovered that most of these games are large, heavy and I find them to be way fun.

Crokinole is a game that was created in the 1800's in Canada I believe. Crokinole is a large circular game board with a number of circles on the board representing scoring areas and the innermost circle has a set of pegs around it helping block the very center of the circle where a small hole is drilled into the board. Your goal is to score points up to a pre-determined amount and that center hole is the fastest way to do it.

Each player is given a number of playing pieces generally called discs although I've heard other names and the goal is to place your disc on the outermost circle line of the board and flick it into that center hole. If you get the center hole then you retrieve your piece and earn 20 points. If not than you simply sit in the middle until your turn comes up again. The catch here is that once there is a piece on the board of your opponents than you must hit it at some point during your move with your piece. This is where the skill comes into the game.

Ricochet shots are key. You bounce your piece off of the pegs in the middle, off of your own pieces and off of your opponent’s pieces. If your piece fails to contact an opponents or contacts one of your own and then it or the one it hit fails to contact an opponent’s piece than your pieces are removed and you'll get nothing for them. After each opponent has flicked all his pieces scoring is completed. A Crokinole Board has 3 quadrants for scoring. The outer most quadrants is worth 5 points, 2nd is 10, the middle circle inside the pegs is 15 and the hole in the center is 20. Scoring is done in a negation way. So if I scored 30 and you scored 20 I would only actually earn 10 points.

I'm not certain what is about this game that really makes me happy to play it. I suppose it’s the direct player confrontation that exists. You’re specifically playing against an opponent. I suppose it’s the same thing that made me like Chess even though I was terrible at it. There is more strategy than you'd think looking at it. That strategy involves high amounts of skill also. You have to be able to flick well and judge your geometry. I guess it’s kind of like a board game version of Pool. Another game that is in the same ilk as Crokinole is Carrom and that really is tabletop pool, but using wooden discs instead of balls and flicking the cue ball/disc instead of hitting it with something.

One of the most bothersome things about Crokinole is that a game board is generally made of really nice high quality wood. That means the game is not only a beautiful game but also very expensive. Just like a fine piece of art or furniture you can expect to pay upwards of $200 USD for a board. This is because nearly all the makers of these boards hand build them and it takes a lot of effort and love. There is a company (Mayday Games) who has begun producing a mass production board for $150 USD that is okay quality; but if your really going to buy a board than you may as well spring the extra $50 and buy the really nice one.

There is a cheaper entry into the game. A tournament board is 26" across and then they have an outer area or ditch for pieces that fly off the playing surface or are knocked off to keep them from flying across the house. However in the late 1800's early 1900's the Carrom Company was mass producing smaller boards as family game deals. These boards are seen quite often but many have no idea what they are. They were double sided, usually one side would have the Crokinole Board and the other side would be a Carrom Board with a checker print/backgammon and other games of those types made on the board so that you could averagely play 5 to 10 games or more on the single board. You can find these older boards at garage sales, estate sales, or even eBay for fairly cheap.

This is the board I got.  I got it for $35 USD from eBay. As these boards were smaller the game was made with wooden rings instead of discs; but it still provides a great entry into the game. Honestly if money wasn't an object to me (Sadly it is) I would happily buy a handmade board because I have seen some truly majestic boards on-line from the companies that make them. I highly recommend this game as I find it extremely entertaining and it can accommodate 4 players at a team level. Super fun, I suggest you all check it out!

Link to the BGG Page for Crokinole

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