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Subject: Fastlane Fails at Games Review #3: Crokinole rss

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Bryan Lane
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I'll save you a bit of time. Crokinole is one of my absolute favorite games.

I tend to like a lot of deep games with big rule books that tend to intimidate some of the non-gamers I might want to play with. Even when they're willing to hang in there, some of the games require rather lengthy rules explanations. For this reason, playing games like Mage Knight with my family is a total pipe dream. With them, you have maybe ten minutes before the calls of "can we just start and you can teach us as we go?" begin. It's great if you can, but if you can't... Ugh.

Similarly, really long games are a hard sell.

Not with Crokinole. Game explained to a first timer in thirty seconds, game plays in 15 minutes. Tops.

It goes like this: you take turns flicking discs from the shooting line of your quadrant, trying to end up with the most points. If you shoot and there's one or more opposing discs on the board, one of your discs must make contact with one of the opponent's discs. If there are no opposing discs on the board, your shot must come to rest within the center-most ring. If you fail - you don't make contact with an opposing disc, or there are no opposing discs but your shot doesn't stop in the center-most ring - the disc shot and any discs of yours it touched are all moved to the ditch. Discs that stop in the center hole are removed from the board and are worth 20 points at the end of the round.

After both sides have shot twelve discs, any disc touching the border between two rings are moved to the lower ring (discs touching the outer line are moved to the ditch). Then discs are scored: 5 points for the first ring, 10 for the second and 15 for the center ring. Add 20 per disc that was removed from the middle hole and subtract the lower score from the higher, then the round winner adds the difference to his score. Games are typically played to 100 points.

Oh, and one more thing. You have to have at least one cheek on the chair at all times. No getting up and walking around to get a better angle. No moving your chair. You may only lean to make your shots.

That's it.

It has everything you could want. Fast gameplay. The skilled player is going to win (but the you don't call your shot like in pool, so lucky shots do happen). Very little downtime. No involved setup. cleanup is almost as fast. Goes well with a nice craft beer. Plays great with two or four, and alright with three. I can play it with anyone (even my three year old is keen to play, but doesn't quite grasp all the rules yet). Replay? Absolutely.

Drawbacks? Yeah. There a couple of notable ones.

The first glaring one is the price. A nice high-quality tournament board will run you about $200 or so. Lots of options there for that kind of dough. Now, I'll admit, that's a lot of cash for a game. I can promise you it's worth it, but I can also tell you there are cheaper options. The game is better with those fancy boards, but perfectly serviceable with cheaper, mass-produced boards. They're not always easy to find,but they're around if you look. I got my start with two boards I found at local thrift stores (@ $5 and $8). One of them is all-pine, and could maybe use a coat of wax, the other is mass-produced and made of that fiber pressboard type stuff so common to Ikea furniture. Alternatively, some department stores carry cheap ones (often with checkers or Carrom on the back) and I know Seeing is Believing stores carry them around the holidays for $60 or so, if not year-round, should you live here in Victoria (or close enough to make the trip).

My three year old challenges me on my first board, found at the Salvation Army for $5. The board, that is. Not the kid.

The other (minor) complaint is transportation (and to a lesser extent storage). These things don't fold, and you generally don't want to stack stuff on top. Nice boards usually come wall-mountable, and the handcrafted ones look quite handsome up on the wall. Cheaper boards... well, they don't. So you'll need to figure something out. I leave my thrift boards up-island at the cabin because I can't be bothered to cart them back and forth. I generally don't bring my tourney board out to game days because its a major hassle and i worry about damaging it... I need to buy a nice gong bag for mine, I think.

As for nice boards, I got mine from Muzzies, and couldn't be happier. If you live in Canada's pants, I really have to recommend the Hilinski brothers, who make the most breathtaking one-off custom boards I've ever seen. Absolutely gorgeous. Mayday is mass-producing tournament boards, which look to be pretty good value at a lower price point, but earlier versions had some quality issues though they have been attempting to address them with newer versions.

My Crokinole board has been the best gaming money I have spent to date, and it's so well made, I expect it to last forever. It's always fun to pull it off the wall, crack a nice beer and play a few rounds with whoever happens to be around. Easy to teach, hard to master, games are fast. Deeply rewarding. Yes, buy-in is steep, but almost everyone I've taught has fallen in love with it.

Number of players: 2-4
Play time: 15 minutes
Table space required: fits on a standard card table
BGG link:
Fastlane's rating: 10/10. An ideal game that just doesn't age. Worth every penny and more.
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