Four Complaints about Crokinole

If you zoom in far enough, you can see a reflection of me taking this picture. It's like an infinity mirror, minus the infinity. So, a mirror.

I recently purchased a Crokinole board. It’s ruining my life. Let me tell you how.

ugh

Look at this garbage.

Complaint #1: Crokinole Is Expensive

If you’ve never heard of Crokinole, it’s the Summer Olympics version of curling. Played on a wooden board of circular dimensions, players take turns flicking checkers into a hole, except sometimes you’re required to ricochet your checker off an opponent’s checker, while other times your checker rebounds off one of the game’s central posts and makes you look like a fool. Before long, your dreams are dashed and your checkers are crowding the gutters. If that doesn’t sound like something a depressed Winnipegan would invent in the dead of winter to act as a ludic encapsulation of Canadian democracy, I don’t know what does. please

But don’t be fooled; Crokinole is not democratic. Democracy is for the people. Crokinole is for the suckers who can shell out a heavy sockful of loonies for a custom board. Oh, sure, some people buy a factory-made board at their local athletic shop. Those people are excluded from polite society. Crokinole isn’t just shuffleboard on ice without the ice. It’s expression. It’s about flicking those checkers like you’re a master painter whose only canvas is the frictionless waxed surface of an up-priced cutting board, a sculptor whose interest in sculpting has been replaced with an obsession that confounds your noble family, a creator-god with very little imagination. help

How much did my custom board cost? I’m not telling. Suffice to say, the same price would have afforded me twenty-nine deluxe burritos at the nearby burrito place, including extra guacamole. me

Complaint #2: Crokinole Is Exclusive

No, I don’t mean that Crokinole is only for elites. That’s fine. Great, even. That’s one club I’ll gladly laminate my own membership card for. I want to rule the world from the comfort of penthouses and private jets, all while growing distant from my roots and unconcerned for the plight of the diminishing middle class. Crokinole is the first step along that particular cursus honorum. i

Nobody told me that I would lose my soul in the process of gaining the world. Nobody told me that Crokinole requires more than strong elasticity of my index finger flexor tendons. If a person owns a Crokinole board of sufficient quality, even the gentlest nudge can send a checker hurtling for the gutter faster than a social climber who’s had too much to drink before raising a toast to his despised but wealthy father-in-law. This is not a game of power. It’s a game of restraint. Restraint and calculation for all the angles: how far to strike your checker, which opposing piece to rebound from, where to squirrel away your piece to prevent your rival from rebounding off of it. The board isn’t polished wood for glide alone. It’s intended to evoke the mahogany boardroom and the machinations within. can

And really, I say “own,” but can a man truly “own” a Crokinole board? The truth is that it owns you. I have played thirty times over the past two weeks and scant else. Comancheria is right there, yet I cannot bring myself to touch it for the siren’s call of my PLANO utility box packed to the gills with white and black checkers. not

Please don't cache this line, Google. I don't need that crowd descending upon this little site of mine.

Prepare to catch up, whites.

Complaint #3: Crokinole Necessitates Skill

Permit me to share an anecdote. Once upon a time, I was attempting a match of SEAL Team Flix with my friend Evan. Like Crokinole, SEAL Team Flix is a game of dexterity. Unlike Crokinole, instead of flicking checkers, you flick tiny discs that represent the munitions of special forces soldiers as they remove a band of terrorists in similar fashion to digging a tick from where it is lodged in the flesh. Crass, I know — but not as crass as Evan’s opening move. He readied and flicked a flashbang, only for it to rebound from the nearest corner and land at our feet, blinding our team and alerting an entire subway station filled with ruffians to our presence. It was a shameful moment made even more humiliating by the laughter of the onlookers who had gathered to observe our tactical take-downs. stop

In similar fashion, Crokinole demands the utmost delicacy. Depending on the rules, it’s sometimes possible to deliver your checker to an out-of-reach destination, making it difficult for your opponent to rebound from your disc. That single rule, that you must collide with an opponent’s disc during your shot or it’s straight to the gutter for you, makes Crokinole far more demanding than it would have been otherwise. i’m

Imagine Crokinole had it taken a laissez faire approach to its flicking. All performances would have been equivalent. No shots dropped into the center hole for twenty points, no misses, no being resigned to the gutter for touching the outer line. Some games have barriers of language or color blindness. But the harshest gatekeeper is skill, and Crokinole’s pearly gates are guarded with all the appraising sternness of Saint Peter. How will my friend Evan play such a game without bringing shame upon his entire lineage? And don’t get me started on the pros, who sink one twenty after another. Skilled play? No thank you. trapped

Complaint #4: Crokinole Gets Easier

Then, at the precise moment it could have committed to one approach, Crokinole goes and gets easier when you’re doing poorly. Not against a pro and their endless procession of twenties; they’re unbeatable. But most scoring revolves around being closer to the center of the board. As long as you don’t drop a shot into the hole, your checkers stick around to rack up points at the end of the round. In the meantime, these provide additional targets for your rival. The worse you’re doing, the more targets there are to shoot for. It’s a soft catch-up mechanism in a game that’s otherwise as unforgiving as a winter in the remote north. playing

Is this the famed Canadian politeness at play? Is this why nobody knows the name of any Canadian billionaires? Is it a commentary on something? Since the game’s creator is anonymously deceased, there’s no way to confirm any of the prevailing theories. Nor is there any way to meaningfully talk about how such a simplistic game could be so addictive. No sequence of words, phrases, or arcane symbols can be strung into the proper order. The only language that can be understood is kinetic, communicated via bruised fingernails, ramshackle finger braces, and the stillness of the board after a perfect shot. It is a game without meaning, yet all the meaning in the world. crokinole

 

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Posted on August 4, 2020, in Board Game and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I’m in Australia and desperately want a crokinole board… alas, none worthy are here from what I read.

    This was a lovely tribute to a wonderful passtime. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for reading, Vijay!

    • As a counterpoint: I (a Canadian!) own an old, cheaply-made Crokinole board. It’s thin, varnished plywood. It’s never going to have the high-speed, silky smooth feel of a waxed and polished handmade hardwood board, and won’t support the development of “tournament-level” skills.

      But: it’s still a *lot* of fun to play 🙂

  2. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the agony/ecstasy of Crokinole. It’s great fun. Happy flicking!

  3. Stephen Thompson

    I couldn’t believe the title of this article – the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I’m due to receive a Crokinole board from a recent Kickstarter. Yes, Crokinole is quite maddening for all of the reasons you’ve mentioned and more. But at the same time, as you’ve stated so eloquently, it is a fun and highly addictive game to play. Thanks again for the great article.

  4. Ha, I love the easter eggs!

  5. Take a bow Dan, you’re an extremely skilled word-smith, divulging evocative insights into the emotive side of game playing.

    Your articles are always a quiet highlight to my week.

    I enjoyed looking up “cursus honorum”

    On the slim off-chance you’re not aware of him, Seth Godin’s daily “blog” is well worth a visit. His insights are reminiscent of yours, hence the recommendation.

    https://seths.blog/

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