Crokinole for the (Aspiring) Curler

Posted by Emily Ogle on

You probably have some idea of what curling is, whether you’ve played before or you witnessed the U.S. men’s team take home the gold last year at the Winter Olympics. One player throws a rock (or stone) down a long rectangular stretch of ice, while two other team members slide alongside the rock and furiously scrub at the ice with brooms. Then, the opposing team repeats the process, with teams alternating and roles rotating until all stones are delivered down the ice, toward circular targets at the opposite end. The teams try to get their stones as close to the center of the circle as they can, and points are calculated based on the stones’ positions to decide the winner.

In many ways, it’s similar to the 19th-century board game crokinole, which also involves targeting the center of a circular playing space with pieces. Instead of an ice rink, however, a wooden board is crokinole’s play area: players sit around a table and use their fingers to flick disks through eight central pegs and into a 20-point hole in the center. If you enjoy watching curling and are interested in playing, crokinole can be a more convenient alternative or the perfect introductory game.

Below are five reasons why the aspiring curler might want to give crokinole a try. 

1. They’re both about as Canadian as you can get.

Curling and Crokinole, Made in CanadaMade with love from our Northern Neighbor

After curling originated in Scotland, immigrants brought the game to Canada, where it has since become extremely popular. In 2015, Curling Canada reported that approximately 1.5 million people (4.8% of the population) play curling. If you read up on the history of crokinole, you’ll find that it’s a uniquely Canadian creation stemming from other dexterity-based board games from around the world. Perhaps even more Canadian is “crokicurl,” which combines curling and crokinole. It’s played on ice with two teams of two, who try to throw stones into the center of a circle, and it just might be the most Canadian thing ever.

2. Crokinole’s equipment and components are much easier to set up.

Crokinole Carrying CaseJust like carrying the curling rink with you

The basic equipment for curling includes curling stones, a broom/brush for sweeping, and the curling sheet of ice itself. If you want to play outdoors, you’ll need the weather to cooperate, and you’ll also need someone to mold a patch of ice into a curling sheet. If it isn’t icy outside, you’ll need to find an indoor rink, which can be quite a task. The Granite Curling Club in Seattle is one of only two dedicated curling clubs on the West Coast of the United States, excluding Alaska (the other club is Evergreen Curling Club in Portland, Oregon). Most experts will recommend that you also bring a helmet for safety, flat-soled shoes, stretchy curling pants, curling gloves/mittens, and warm clothes (because, you know, there’s a ton of ice). Other than a table, all you need to play crokinole are the board and disks, which you can purchase online and have delivered right to your doorstep.

3. You don’t need to assemble seven people to play crokinole with you.

Crokinole can be played with just 2 players Less is more, or greater is fewer. Fogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

In curling, the two opposing teams consist of four members each, who all have a specific role revolving mainly around who is throwing and who is sweeping. To start your game, you need to find a total of seven other people. In crokinole, you can play solo against one other player, each of you being the masters of your own destinies! If you mainly enjoy the part of curling where you’re throwing the stone down the ice, then you can cut out the sweeping step by playing crokinole. Also, if there is one member of your family or gaming group whom you trust, you can play crokinole in two teams of two, which means that you need three other people, at most, to play. For those who are tired of herding cats in their gaming groups, crokinole could be a nice change of pace.

4. Both translate well to competitive tournament play without alienating children or casual players.

Kids and Crokinole
You know, for kids! (with zero apologies to The Hudsucker Proxy)

Curling makes for a thrilling spectator sport, especially in such an atmosphere as the Olympics. If you live for this kind of intense competition, you will also get a kick out of crokinole’s international tournaments, such as the World Crokinole Championship. They’re both games that are easy enough to understand as an audience; and, once you have this understanding, you can truly appreciate the skill levels of professional players. The games’ general concepts are quite similar: try to get your objects into the center of a circle, and make sure the other guys can’t get their objects into the center. As such, children and casual players can easily jump into either game—only hand-eye coordination and a basic understanding of how the games work are required.

5. Curling looks cool, but you could do without all that physical activity.

Sit crokinole 7 wonders
Play crokinole underneath the Bough/A cup of tea, a slice of pie—and Thou

Curling involves a lot of standing and bending over with a broom; also, that rock looks heavy, and I don’t think I have the upper-body strength for that. Luckily, crokinole is played sitting down at a table. In fact, there is a crokinole tournament rule that states that at least “one cheek” of the player’s posterior must touch their chair when they are flicking a disk. Personally, I am a fan of rules that excuse my sedentary lifestyle.

Crokinole and curling share similarities in concept, but they are distinct enough games that each provide a different experience for the player. If you know where to look, you can find resources that will help you to become involved in these communities (such as leagues offered by Granite Curling Club or local groups on Meetup), and you would no doubt be welcomed with open arms.

Do you have a place where you play curling or crokinole? Let us know in the comments!

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