Games: Carrom

While my best childhood memories are of Eagle Camp (see my post from a few days ago), I also enjoyed visiting my father’s Cousin Phyllis. That is to say, I enjoyed visiting her house; I was rather intimidated by Cousin Phyllis herself. There wasn’t quite as much to do as at Eagle Camp, but there were some great ways to spend summer days.

My sister and I always spent time looking for shells down at the narrow beach and clambering over the huge rocks that lined the shore, looking for seashells (especially sea urchin shells, though usually they were either broken or still contained live sea urchins). Sometimes we went swimming, though the water was very cold in those Maine waters, even in the middle of the summer.

Indoors, we could play cards. Cousin Phyllis taught us new solitaire games, two of which I still play today. We could borrow Cousin Phyllis’s binoculars and look out to sea and watch the seagulls. I liked drawing pictures of the ocean landscape. But one of my favorite activities, which I didn’t get to do anyplace besides Cousin Phyllis’s house, was play carrom.

I don’t remember whether I played very well, but I loved playing. The one problem was that after a while, my finger started to hurt from hitting the striker piece so many times.

Yesterday I was thrilled to find a Carrom board at a garage sale. I had previously seen one at a garage sale, but the board wasn’t in very good condition. This one was, and it was only a dollar!

I was relieved to find that the instruction booklet was also included, as I remembered nothing about how the game was played. The booklet advertises that there are 110 games to play on this board (including chess and checkers), but the majority of them are variations on the basic carrom game or crokinole, which is played on the reverse side of the board.

The first thing I learned, reading the directions, was that you are supposed to use your finger to push the striker piece, not hit it. It’s not that it’s against the rules to hit it, but it sure does hurt when you do it that way – as I remember so well from playing at Cousin Phyllis’s. I quickly found that I could use the striker quite effectively using the push method.

But I don’t even have to use my finger to move the striker piece. This game set includes a small set of cue sticks, and while I’m not particularly skilled at playing pool, I’ve played enough to be comfortable using a cue stick. With the stick I could get the force that snapping my finger at the striker had given, without the pain in my finger.

Once he saw the board, Al was eager to learn to play. I explained the game: knock your own colored pieces into one of the pockets, along with the black piece (which counts for extra points) if you can. But don’t knock your striker piece in!He has played pool a few times himself, and readily understood the idea.

We both discovered that when a piece is close to the pocket, using the finger push method instead of the cue stick works better – with the cue stick it’s too easy to knock the striker piece in also. He needs more practice with the cue stick, but he did manage to win the first game – largely because I managed to get the black carrom piece positioned nicely in front of a pocket, whereupon he easily knocked it in.

At some point perhaps I’ll check out a few of the variations. But for now, I’m having plenty of fun just playing the game.

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4 Responses to Games: Carrom

  1. Margaret says:

    In the sixth paragraph above, it looks like you accidentally deleted a word before the comma. This post does bring back memories, both at Cousin Phyllis’s, and many years later, but still a long time ago, when I visited a friend’s house and they had a game that looked like your picture. I remember that their pieces were plastic, while Cousin Phyllis’s were wood (of course her game was from her childhood). I wonder if Cousin Phyllis didn’t have the official instructions and learned to hit the striker differently?

  2. Pauline says:

    Thank you, proofreader. I added in the missing word. (I hadn’t deleted a word, I had left a space for a word I didn’t remember how to spell, and then forgot to look it up.)

    My pieces are plastic also. I don’t know if that’s what came with the board, though – on amazon.com I found a kit of replacement pieces, and someone commented on having bought it to replace wooden pieces that were lost.

    It could be that Cousin Phyllis was able to flick her finger with enough force to be effective but not to hurt her finger. I can do it now without difficulty, but I’ve noticed there are a lot of things I can do with my hands/fingers that Al doesn’t have the strenth or coordination to do, and I probably wouldn’t have either at his age. I used to compensate for lack of strength by making a sort of snapping motion with my finger and thumb – it gave me more force, but also meant that I hit the striker hard enough to hurt.

    Of course, I don’t know how much a difference plastic vs wood makes, either.

  3. mommy says:

    We had one of these and always used the “cue.” I never knew it was in the rules that you can just use your finger. My father was an absolute stickler for the rules! It must be genetic, too, because our older son is the same way, even though my husband is the complete opposite (always thinking of “different” rules or ways to play games).

  4. Peter L says:

    We found a carrom game at my in-laws’ house. It did not have the rules, so we just played as we thought it should be played. I guess we were not far off. Next time we are there, perhaps I can get my children to play again (it has been years) and play by pushing. I agree, it does hurt the fingers to hit the striker.

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