If I ever tell you that I have bad luck in contests, you have my permission to hit me. I’ve won lots of stuff over the years, and I usually use the excuse, “Well, it was a shallow pool,” downplaying the role luck played in my being chosen.
But how do I justify winning a headlining Board Game Geek contest with thousands of entrants?
You might want to just hit me anyway.
One item I won on the Geek, and also the highest-valued item I’ve won, was a brand-new Crokinole board from Mayday Games. Crokinole is an old dexterity game that is very well received but normally cost prohibitive to own. Mayday Games has sought to rectify this with their new line of tournament boards. But how is the quality? Do you get what you pay for?
How It Works
Crokinole is a simple dexterity game for two or four players. (You can play with three if you buy another color of discs, which I tried, but really: this is a two- or four-player game.)
The board is a waxed wooden circle with a wooden ditch surrounding it. The board is divided into four radial quadrants and three concentric circles, worth more points as they approach the center of the board. A disc in the very outer circle is worth zero points, a disc in the next circle is worth 5, then 10, then 15, and finally 20 points if a player is able to land his disc into the hole at the very center of the board. The 15-point circle is guarded by posts.
Players sit across from each other at one of the four quadrants. Each player (or team) is given 14 discs of their color. On a player’s turn, that player must launch one of his discs from the zero-point circle in his quadrant somewhere on the board. If there are no opposing discs on the board, the player must land a disc inside the 15-point circle. If there are opposing discs anywhere on the board, the player must either directly or through ricocheting discs touch an opposing disc. Failure either to land in the center or to hit an opposing disc results in removal of the shot disc and any other friendly discs that were touched on that turn.
When all players have shot their discs, the round is scored. Whoever has more points scores the difference between the two scores. The game is played to 100 points.
There is a reason why Crokinole, a dexterity game, is so highly rated on Board Game Geek. Indeed, I have logged more games of Crokinole in 2012 than any other game, if that’s any indication of what I feel about it.
The crazy thing is, I’m not quite sure why I like Crokinole so much. As a fan of primarily Euro-style strategy games, shouldn’t I like games of calculation, where plans are hatched and executed based on intellect alone?
Well, yes, but there’s something so charming about Crokinole.
First of all, the genius here is that if an opposing disc is on the board, you must hit it. The game would not be nearly as fun if players could launch their discs anywhere they chose. It is this simple restriction that makes Crokinole so fun to come back to.
The first several games I played, I thought the goal was to get all my discs straight in the center. Granted, ideally, that would score the most points, but there are other considerations to be made: namely, putting your discs in a position where they are hard to hit. This forces the opponent to take difficult shots, hopefully miss, and thus not land any discs on the board.
Crokinole is a game of skill in that the better player will usually win, but because there is also a dexterity element, there is always the possibility of a misfire. The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley, as the poet Burns tells us, and this is especially true in Crokinole. After over fifty games of it, I’m certainly better than when I started, but I’m nowhere near having a perfect shot. And it’s usually in my most confident times that I completely botch it. And that’s okay: Crokinole, while incredibly fun and offering a good amount of tension, is not a game I take too seriously. If I’m beaten or if I do the beating, I enjoy the game all the same.
I mentioned in the “how it works” section that the game is for two to four players. The three-player version involves buying another color of discs, and really, it’s not as fun. It throws the game off balance and is much less elegant. This is a game for two or four players, and either way works just as well. (If I had to choose, I like the four-player game a bit better if only because players have more coverage of the board and you can make teams that even out for skill.)
So we all know that I like Crokinole the game. Now to the topic of the Mayday game board itself. Is it any good?
I will say yes, but with a few caveats.
First, what’s good about it. This is a Crokinole board at an affordable price point (or at least affordable for what you get: a wooden game board and all the discs needed to play, as well as a nice scorebox). It’s tournament-sized, and it takes up almost our entire kitchen table. (This is a good thing.) The care instructions for the board are simple, and the board has eyelets on the back of it for easy hanging storage. The discs fly across the board just fine–even better when the board is freshly waxed (which is recommended every 20-25 plays or so).
What’s not good about the Mayday board is purely cosmetic. The ditch doesn’t look the greatest at times and is easily scuffed and nicked. The center-board pegs are cheap dowel rods, but they work. The back of the board looks like particle board (but you don’t see this in use or in storage). The real gripe here is an issue of finish. On four points of the board, it looks like the board was held by clamps when the almost-final coat of finish was put on the board. Thus, if you look closely, you can see four places that are less shiny than the rest of the board. To me, this was noticeable right away (though I take the old saying to heart: “Never look a gift Crokinole board in the mouth”). To my friends, they were so in awe that there was a Crokinole board at all that they didn’t notice this blemish, even after I pointed it out to them. So take this for what you will.
And when I say “purely cosmetic,” I mean it. The top coat is even, the discs scoot well, and any mishaps are my own doing, not the board’s.
I should mention that I’ve also been told that the center hole is a little off center. I’m not good at noticing things like that, and if it is off center, it’s not that off center, so you’ll have to take others’ word for it if that matters to you (and you can judge for yourself from my pictures).
I can’t tell you whether you should buy the Mayday Crokinole board or not. I’ve only played on Mayday boards (but multiple ones), so I have no point of comparison to other boards. Also, I’d feel uncomfortable telling you how to spend $150 of your hard-earned dollars. (And, if I’m honest, I know I wouldn’t have ever purchased this board: not because I have problems with it or it’s not a good value, but just because, dang, $150 is a lot of money!)
What I can say is that I have gotten a ton of enjoyment out of this board–over fifty games in 2012. I can also say that everyone who has played Crokinole on this board has had a great time (with the possible exception of a highly competitive relative). Crokinole is a game of skill, but it’s easy for anyone to pick up and play. I can’t tell you whether you should buy this or any Crokinole board, but I will tell you that I’m very happy with mine.