So, you think you know who your friends are, do you? Well if you're confident, take some time off from playing civilised games like Counterstrike and play some croquet with them. Played properly, croquet is more vicious and infuriating than any other non-contact sport, and if you aren't tempted to use the big heavy wooden mallet you're using to hit your opponent at some point doing the game you aren't human.* And if you think the fact that it's turn-based makes it bad, it only makes it more infuriating, as there is nothing you can do if you make a mistake, and have to watch your opponenet capitalise on it.
Croquet was imported from Ireland to England in the 1830s it was popular because everyone, including women and children, could play it. It spread through the British Empire and it is believed that snooker was invented after several rainy days stopped play in India. Unfortunately the rise of tennis lead to the demise of croquet as a major sport, particularly as croquet lawns were also ideal surfaces to be converted into tennis courts. Today croquet is still mainly played in England and the Commonwealth countries, although some is also played in the USA. International competitions regularly occur, and croquet is organised in England by the Croquet Association.
A proper game of croquet should be played on a carefully maintained croquet lawn of 35x28 yards, but most croquet is played on the nearest flat lawn of roughly similar dimensions. Specific croquet sets can be bought which contain everything else you need to play. Depending on the number of players, either four or two mallets are needed, and four balls, two for each team, usually coloured red, black, yellow and blue. A set of six metal hoops is set up on the croquet lawn, with a wooden stump or post in the middle, like so:
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Usually the order of play is determined by the order of the colours on the post, if you have a croquet set. In the case of most of the sets I've seen, this means blue goes first, then red, then black and finally yellow. The ball is placed within a mallet's length of the post, and hit with the mallet. The ball can be hit in any way, provided the feet are pointing in the direction the ball is will be hit. The aim is to hit both your team's balls through all hoops in the following order:
| 4 | | 1 | (first circuit)
| 9 | | 8 | (second circuit)
| 5 |
O Start and finish
| 6 |
| 3 | | 2 |
| 10| | 7 |
The game can consist of either 6 hoops (one circuit round the lawn) or twelve (two circuits, one in each direction). A ball finishes and is removed from play when , having gone through all hoops in the correct order, it is then hit into the middle post. The winning team is the one which does not have the ball which finishes last (this is to encourage teamwork
, so the team with 2nd and 3rd will beat the team with 1st and 4th). A bonus shot
is awarded to a player each time he successfully passes through a hoop.
That may have sounded very calm and genteel, but the really important bit of croquet is the roquet: if one player hits his ball into another’s, he can be awarded a roquet. He is allowed to move his ball and place it touching the hit ball, where the hit ball stops. He then hits his ball, which must also move the hit ball, and finally he is awarded another shot. For a skilled player this should allow him two extra shots, plus the placing the other ball in a better or worse position depending on whose ball it is. Not only that, roquets can be strung together in combos so that the best players can get round several hoops in a single turn. Each ball is allowed one roquet against each of the other balls once it has passed through the first hoop, as it passes though each hoop, these roquets are refreshed. This is the most infuriating thing about croquet, watching as your "friend" goes through two hoops in a row, using your ball to get extra shots and at the same time sending you to the other side of the pitch.
Posting is the ultimate of croquet skills, and the height of viciousness. During the game, if a ball hits the post before it has gone through the final hoop, it is sent right back to the beginning of the game. Skilled players can use this tactic to roquet an opponent into the post, sending him back to the beginning, and giving the roqueter an unquestionable advantage. Postings are still relatively uncommon because they are very difficult, and there is a significant risk in some cases of hitting your own ball into the post.
If you can find a good place to play, and a group of good friends to play it with croquet is a great game, particularly in the Summer. It may be slow at time but its fun and has an element of strategy not found in most similar games.
*BaronWR takes no responsibility if you actually hit them, hell, they're your friends.
Information from www.croquet.org.uk and my own experience