Croquet: The Gentleman’s Game? Not where I come from. Growing up, my brothers and sisters used to play this backyard game in very un-gentlemanly ways. We’d send our opponents’ balls flying into the bush, down our long driveway and into the little creek that ran next to our house. Out-of-bounds was for sissies and sending other players flying was as much a goal as winning.
Yes, Extreme Croquet, with all its meanness and mallets-to-the-feet, was a way of life in our backyard. According to Wikipedia, “Extreme Croquet is a variation on croquet mainly distinguished by its lack of any requirement pertaining to out-of-bounds or field specifications.”
Growing up, we stuck pretty close to the standard croquet rules. We set the wickets up in the standard figure-eight pattern and the goal of knocking our balls through all the wickets remained the same. As did the rules of what happens when your ball strikes another player’s: lay your ball next to theirs and strike yours with your mallet, sending their ball flying. You could also choose to rest your foot on your ball to prevent it from moving when struck. But this meant risking hitting your own foot with your mallet. A gamble made more dangerous for a couple reasons: 1) we often played in bare feet; and 2) we swung those mallets as hard as possible to send oppenents flying as far as possible.
We did have a couple exceptions to the rules:
- There are no out-of-bounds and you play it where it lies. Submerged in water, tangled up in thorny raspberry bushes, underneath the car or within the jaws of a rabid badger: you play it where it lies.
- A player that is performing poorly and finds him or herself out of contention may decide to become a “Shadow”. The sole objective of a Shadow is to be a sore loser and make things as difficult as possible for the other players. They chase after the leaders and smash them as often as possible. A good shadow can delay a game for hours. Common Shadow expressions include, “See you in hell”, “Say hi to the creek for me”, and “You lose, ass face”.
Setting up the course in different (and absurd) ways is another common variation to the game. Here are some others from the Extreme Croquet Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_croquet
- “When one ball strikes another, the striker may choose to continue play as the strikee’s ball.
- A player may strike the ball with any part of the mallet, including a billiards-reminiscent style.
- The first player through the second wicket determines the direction of play.
- As each player reaches the starting post after clearing all wickets, he is “poison” and must declare his status to all players.
- A non-poison player can eliminate a poison player by sending the latter through a wicket.
- Passing through a wicket out of order is punished by sending the ball back to the previous post.
- Small children and dogs are legal obstacles, and if they interfere with the ball’s placement, the player must still “play it where it lies.””
There are no love-taps in Extreme croquet. However, constantly striking other players as aggressively as possible takes its toll on the mallets and balls. Feel free to enhance your soon-to-be shattered equipment with sturdier replacements designed to send your opponents further into the neighbour’s garden.
A common enhancement as kids was to replace the short, thin mallet handle with a broom handle. Not only did this allow for stronger strikes but the taller broom handle let you stand up straighter.
Heavier mallet heads help too and some people go as far as to bevel the face of their mallets to add loft to their shots.
Extreme croquet: nothing gentle about it.
What variations to classic games did you play with when you were a kid?
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