A pub game played with wooden balls and short upright wooden rods (the skittles or "pins"), the object being to topple as many of the rods as possible by throwing the ball at them. Also known as "Ninepins". The rules of this English game vary from region to region, but two broad variations will be discussed below. However, the following features are common to all versions.
The playing area is the alley, often (but not always) situated indoors. At the far end of the alley, there is usually some sort of protective covering on the wall, often steel mesh or sheets of thick leather, and perhaps a trough to catch spent balls. Before this back wall lie the skittles themselves, nine of them, arranged in a square diagonal to the sides of the alley. One side of the alley might also have a ramp or runway running from the skittle end, in order to allow balls to be quickly returned to players. The object of the game is for a player standing with one foot on the mark (or "Coffin") ], to throw the wooden ball at the skittles causing as many as possible to topple. The player's other foot may be behind or in front of the mark, but one foot must remain on it during a throw. A typical alley might look something like this, in plan view:
| O ||
| O O ||
| ] O X O ||
| O O ||
| O ||
Long Alley Skittles
This variant is the only one I have played myself, and is most popular in the East Midlands. The area behind the player's mark, ], generally measures about 10 feet, and the distance from the coffin to the skittles 35-40 feet. The alley is typically 6-8 feet wide. The Long Alley is divided into two parts; the first 25 feet or so from the player's mark is usually a rough surface (e.g. cobbles) while remainder of the alley is flat and smooth (e.g. hardwood or slate).
The wooden skittles used stand a little over a foot off the ground, and are thinner at the extremities than in the middle. They may be capped with metal at either end, to strengthen them and make them easier to set up. The skittle marked X is the "Kingpin". It is slighlty larger than the other skittles, and is sometimes placed at the front of the group rather than in the middle. The skittles are set out a little under two feet apart.
Instead of spherical wooden balls, Long Alley skittles use irregular "cheeses" as projectiles. These are stumpy, oval-ended hardwood logs, roughly three or four pounds in weight, with the appearence of flat-ended capsules. When thrown, the irregular shape can be used to make the cheese move in ways that would be impossible for a ball.
A thrown cheese must bounce just once in the area beyond the line that
divides the alley in two before striking the skittles. Each player's turn consists of three consecutive throws, after which the total number of skittles toppled is scored, and the skittles returned to their starting positions. Fallen skittles remain where they are between throws, except in cases where a pin ricochets off a back or side wall and topples further pins; the rogue pin is removed, and its victims replaced (they do not count). Similarly, pins toppled by a cheese after it has hit a wall are replaced between throws and do not score. If all the pins are knocked over after the first or second throws, they are returned to the starting position. Thus, the maximum score in one turn is 27 points. In some rule sets, scoring does not begin until the throw in which the Kingpin is toppled.
The pins used are slightly shorter than those from the Midlands, standing roughly 9 inches tall with the shape of short, fat cigars. The wooden balls used are spherical, roughly 5 inches in diameter. The alley is shorter (c. 24 feet) and narrower (c. 6 feet) than Long Alley skittles, and is not divided, with a uniform surface all the way along. Again, a Kingpin, X, is used, either in the middle or at the front, and similar scoring variations exist to those played in Long Alley skittles.
Each turn consists of three bowls (rolls, not throws) of the ball for the full length of the alley, and scoring is again dictated by the number of pins toppled.
A typical game to play would be a series of 5-10 legs, each of which consists of one turn by each player. The highest score each leg wins the leg and the player who wins the most legs wins the match.
Alternatively, a team game might involve teams of 12 players taking 5 turns each (so a total of 12×5×3=180 throws or bowls, 15 throws/bowls per player) with the team with the highest final score being the winners.
Please message me with further rules and variations!