A Brief History of Crokinole

Posted by Emily Ogle on

Crokinole game night
Crokinole game night

We are in the midst of a board game renaissance! Hobbies that were niche just a few years ago are attracting attention like never before. As a result, new games are being created in a frenzy, and older games are being dusted off and varnished anew.

One such “older” game from the 19th century is the dexterity-based board game (or table sport) crokinole, in which players flick small discs across a board, aiming to hit opponents’ pieces out of position or to make it through eight inner pegs to reach a central, shallow hole. As of the writing of this post, crokinole is ranked 76 of ALL board games on BoardGameGeek and ranked in the top 5 in family games.

The exact details of crokinole’s origin around the 1860s are unclear, but we can determine its etymology. The French “croquignole” translates as “flip” or “flick” in English, alluding to the shooting action used by players to propel their pieces across the board. In this action, crokinole is likely derived from other dexterity-based games such as squails from Victorian England or carrom from South Asia.

Crokinole as a game eventually found its way into the mind of Eckhardt Wettlaufer of Sebastopol, Ontario, Canada, who crafted the first documented crokinole board in 1876 and gifted it to his son as a birthday present. This board currently lives in downtown Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, at the Schneider Haus National Historic Site, which was built in 1816 by Pennsylvania-German Mennonites and where the Annual Classic Crokinole Tournament will take place in April this year.

At its essence, crokinole is a game by and for families, and it became popular within communities most likely for serving as a family-friendly alternative to other entertainments with more “unsavory” elements like gambling. 

At the turn of the 20th century, crokinole provided amusement for gatherings of families, friends, and neighbors who had to find creative ways to entertain themselves without the future luxuries of radio or television. Crokinole withstood the test of time into the 21st century; since 1999, the World Crokinole Championship has been held annually in Tavistock, Ontario, Canada.

Just as crokinole brought households and neighborhoods together in the 1800s and established itself as a fundamental part of Canadian and American culture, it has the potential to bring people across the world together now—we just have to guide it through the pegs.

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