In some corners of the world, Tiddlywinks is a serious game that is used to demonstrate strategy. In particular, it’s popular in the United States, England, and Scotland, where it was often played in university settings. Although the game has a number of rules, if you take the time to learn them, you can play the game well.
Getting the Right Pieces
- Make sure you have all of the pieces you need to play Tiddlywinks. These should be in the game itself upon purchase, and you will need all of them to play it right.
- Winks are small plastic discs that you try to get into the pot. The squidger is a larger piece of round, thicker plastic that you use to propel smaller discs into the pot. Winks come in yellow, red, green, and blue. There are 6 winks of each color.
- The pot is the container that you try to put the winks into. The mat is basically the playing field. It’s usually 6 feet by 3 feet. Place the mat on a flat surface in order to play. The mat has lines etched on both ends. This indicates the field’s boundaries and baselines. The mat is usually made of felt.
- Understand the game’s object. The goal of Tiddlywinks is to propel as many winks into the pot as you can.
- You can either play Tiddlywinks in two-person teams or against another player. It’s also possible to play the game with three people. Only 2 to 4 people can play Tiddlywinks.
- The verb “to squidge” means you propel or flick the smaller plastic discs toward (and hopefully into) the pot using the squidger.
- The way you squidge a wink is by putting your squidger on a wink. Apply pressure to it, and it should pop the wink forward. It can be difficult to squidge a wink when someone else’s wink is on it. The wink below another wink is said to be “squopped.” You must only touch the top wink in your color sequence. If all the winks are squopped, the game is over.
- Use the right squidger. Some people sandpaper their squidger down. This will make it so they have less sharp edges.
- Some people use different size squidgers for different shots. Squidgers must be round and between 25 mm and 51 mm across and no thicker than 5 mm.
- They cannot damage the winks. You may only use one per play. However, you can use different squidgers throughout the course of a game.
Starting the Game
- Choose a partner if you want. Partners use blue and red winks or they use green and yellow winks. Once you have a partner, you should stand diagonally across from your partner on the mat’s opposite corners. Blue winks are put in the corner diagonally positioned across from red; the same is true of green and yellow.
- If you’re playing in a team, each player should take one of the two colors of the pairs above. Team play in Tiddlywinks is called “pairs.”
- If you just playing against another person, one player will use blue and red winks and the other green and yellow winks. This is called “singles.” It’s possible to play with three people. In that instance, one of the people controls both colors and the other two each control one other color.
- Start with a squidge-off. This means that you see whose winks get closest to the pot or into it. If yours makes it into the pot or is closest, you get to start.
- Place the pot in the middle of the mat. Place the winks behind the baselines. Each corner of the mat should contain winks of only one color. Arrange the colors clockwise in alphabetical order from the English language (blue first, and then green, etc.) Tiddlywinks turns then move in clockwise rotation after the squidge-off.
- Play a wink of each color from behind the baseline in the direction of the pot. You always want to make sure you stay behind the baseline when you play a wink. The wink in or closest to the pot is the winner. Then, put the winks back behind the baseline.
- Time the game. Generally, games of Tiddlywinks last 20 minutes for single matches and 24 minutes for pairs. Start the clock after the squidge-off.
- The game can end before the time runs out, though, if someone squidges all the winks of their color into the pot. Games with three players usually run 22.5 minutes.
- You can also choose to play until all winks are potted. There is usually a round limit period after the ending of the time period if all the winks are not potted. That means you continue playing until the turn of the color that won the squidge off. Five further rounds of the color are played, with each ending after the turn of the color that won the squidge-off.
Playing the Game
- Begin play. Start with the color that won the squidge-off. The colors take turns in alphabetical order of the English language. Use the squidger to propel the winks toward the pot when it is your turn.
- If you get the wink inside the pot, that is called a potted wink. If the wink stops on all or part of another wink, the top wink is the squopping wink and the lower wink is the squopped wink.
- Winks that are not potted or squopped are called free winks. When it is your turn in the clockwise rotation, see how close you can flip one of your color’s Tiddlywinks toward the pot. Be careful. If you send it off the mat, you lose your turn. If you get your color in the pot, you get another shot.
- If a person’s shot causes a wink of the same color to go off the mat, the next shot with that color is forfeited.
- Pot out. Potting out means you empty out the pot to see how many winks are inside of it. You “pot out” if all of your winks are in the pot.
- If all six winks of a single color are potted, that color is “potted out.” The person controlling that color then wins the game. If you pot out, you also get an extra point and your opponents score one less point.
- If all of the colors are not potted when the time runs out, add up the score for each color. Every potted wink is three points. Every uncovered wink is one point. Squopped and unplayed winks don’t count. So, for example, if blue has 3 potted winks and 2 free, the score is 11. If yellow has 4 winks in a pot and 1 free, the total is 13.
- The top scorer gets 4 points, the second scorer gets 2 and the third gets 1 point.
- Be strategic. Tiddlywinks is not just blind luck when it’s played well. Some people will squop another person’s Tiddlywinks in order to stop another person who has potted colors.
- For example, if a player has five of his color in the pot but the sixth is squopped, he or she can’t do anything until his or her partner frees it up.
- There are many possible game plans, but a standard strategy is to try to build an area of friendly winks close to the pot, and to squop as many enemy winks as possible. Trying to put winks in the pot too early may end in disaster as your remaining playable winks become captured.
- Hold the squidger with a firm but relaxed grip. Hold it high up so your fingers don’t get in the way of the flick. Place the edge of the squidger on the middle of the wink, about 45 degrees to it.
- Handle squopped winks right. You cannot play a squopped wink. This means that a wink is covered even a tiny bit by another wink. You can, however, play the top wink of any pile if it is yours and follow through to any wink directly under it.
- If someone pots out, the time limit no longer matters. The game continues until all winks of a partnership are in the pot. All squops must be squidged. Covering winks are moved to 2mm away from all other winks. Play continues in the regular order. First color to pot out wins.
- To play a squopped wink, you first play the upper surface of the unsquopped wink. Winks vertically below the wink you first touch can be hit by the squidger. The shot has to be short and continuous from start to finish. You could play a pile shot in which you send the enemy wink far away. This is called a boondock.
- You may have to press the squidger harder if the wink is very close to the pot.
- A full copy of the rules can be downloaded for free from Tiddlywinks Associations.
- If you're in a close game, figure out which of your colors has the best chance for first place and try to make sure of that.
- In tournaments, game scores are usually aggregated, so individual wins and losses are not as important as the actual scorelines. So if you are losing, try to lose 3-4 rather than 1-6.
- The squidger is used to direct the wink. The mat has springiness to it that will help propel the wink.
- Practice potting from 3-4" and squopping from 1-2". Playing these shots solidly will win many games.
- There are many Tiddlywinks terms, and some shots have colorful names like the Bristol, the Carnovsky, and even the John Lennon memorial shot.
- Don’t use much pressure on the wink with the squidger.
- Tiddlywinks can be a choking hazard. Make sure to account for all your winks if you are playing in a household with small children.
Things You'll Need
- A table or other hard surface suitable for playing on (rectangular and at least 6' x 3').
- A set. This consists of 24 counters or "winks": 6 each of blue, green, red and yellow. Each color has 4 small winks and 2 large winks.
- A pot. Usually red, it's a couple of inches high, round, and smaller at the base than at the rim.
- A mat. The most expensive item you'll need, a tournament quality 6' x 3' mat is made of industrial superfelt, but in a pinch you can use any non-pile material that has a reasonable amount of springiness.
- Squidgers. These are the discs used to play the winks (do not mistake large winks for squidgers). You can make your own from any thin plastic disc between 1 and 2 inches in diameter, and you can use different squidgers for different shots.
- A timer. Any standard (preferably digital) countdown timer or watch with appropriate functionality will work.
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