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Three's a Crowd or Three's Company?

What do you do when there are three people and you want to play the greatest game on earth? Crokinole is traditionally thought of as a 2 or a 4-person game, therefore you have a problem; or do you?

What you learn below could save you from the uncomfortable conversation of asking your friend (co-worker, sister, brother, child, mom or even your grandmother) to leave so you can play crokinole. Here are two options that can have everyone feeling included and above all, can be a ton of fun to add some variety to your crokinole game time.

Two-V-One Crokinole

Firstly, we will cover what is referred to as ‘2 v 1’. Two people play against one person.  The two people who are playing together as a team will sit across from one another and each will have 6 buttons of the same colour just as they would in a regular doubles match.  The person playing on their own will sit directly across from the empty space. This player will have 12 buttons.

Three Players - Image - Tracey Boards
Three Players - Image - Tracey Boards

Who's on my team?

Player A is on his/her own (Team 1). Players B and C are a team (Team 2).

I highly recommend, although it is not mandatory, that the person playing on their own gives a name to their imaginary partner.  At our crokinole table that missing person is often referred to as ‘Jim-Bob’, but feel free to use any name you like.

Getting Started

Player A will start the play by shooting first. Player B shoots second. Next, player A will shoot on behalf of ‘Jim-Bob’.  Note: Player A does NOT get up and move to the other side of the table, player A stays in their own seat for the entire game. After Player A has shot for Jim-Bob it is Player C’s turn to shoot. The shooting rotation is: A - B - A - C - A - B - A - C - A and so on until all of the buttons have been shot.

Starting Round Two

Just like in traditional doubles match the second round will start with Player B taking the first shot. 

Where this often gets confusing

What often creates confusion in this format is the start of the third round of play.  The third round starts with Player A shooting on behalf of the vacant seat. At this point, Player B may instinctually want to shoot next. However, because player A is shooting for the vacant seat, it is Player C who will shoot second.

The Silly Solution

It may seem silly that we name the imaginary player, but it is at the start of round 3 that this name comes in handy. Player A will say out loud, “OK, I’m shooting for Jim Bob” or “Jim Bob starts this round” or something along those lines. This reminds everyone at the table that player C should shoot next.

One of the great things about this format of play is that it can help balance things out if you have different skill levels around the board.  We have found that it works best if the strongest player partners with the weakest player to make for a more even match-up. You may choose to have the same person be player A each game or you may choose to take turns being player A.

Scoring for Two-V-One Crokinole

To understand the scoring systems you can use for Two-V-One Crokinole, click here and check out our blog post that explains your scoring options in detail. We typically use the NCA (National Crokinole Association) Scoring system for this style of gameplay. We encourage you to try it with both scoring systems then comment below which system you prefer playing with for your Two-V-One Crokinole matchups.

Video of Two-V-One Crokinole in Action

With the help of Jon Conrad and Reid Tracey, we recorded a quick game of Two-V-One Crokinole. We don’t explain it in the video, we just played and had fun!


Here, we will cover, the second option for managing three players at the table. Play a game of what we call, ‘1 v 1 v 1’.  We first learned about this variation of the game from a gentleman by the name of Wayne Scott. We met him at an NCA (National Crokinole Association) Tournament.  This is one of the many great reasons to attend crokinole tournaments and events.  You may pick up nuggets of wisdom and new ideas, in addition, to all of the fantastic people you meet while you play. 

In order to play in this format, you will need three colours of buttons. Each of the 3 players will start with 8 buttons of their own color. Play proceeds clockwise around the crokinole board until all the buttons have been shot.

Shameless Plug Alert

If you don't currently own a third colour of buttons click here to check out our current selection of fun colours.

Which Scoring System Should You Use?

You will find it best to use the more traditional scoring method of counting points rather than using the NCA’s 2 points per round scoring system. Let me explain, at the end of each round you will take the lowest score and subtract it from all three scores.

Below are two examples of how you will count the score at the end of a round.

Scenario 1

  • Player A: 65 points
  • Player B: 25 points
  • Player C: 40 points

The lowest score with 25, therefore 25 will get subtracted from each score.

  • Player A: 65 points minus 25 points = 40 points
  • Player B: 25 points minus 25 points = 0 points
  • Player C: 40 points minus 25 points = 15 points

Scenario 2

  • Player A: 20 Points
  • Player B: 25 Points
  • Player C: 20 Points

The lowest score is 20 points therefore 20 points will be subtracted from all scores.

  • Player A: 20 points minus 20 points = 0 points
  • Player B: 25 points minus 20 points = 5 points
  • Player C: 20 points minus 20 points = 0 points

The players can simply take turns starting each round and continue playing until one player reaches a total of 100 points. Here is a variation that we have found to be a lot of fun as well as a great way to even the playing field a bit. When playing in this format you will find that shooting first is a huge disadvantage and that shooting last is a huge advantage. With this in mind, it can be fun to make the rule that the player who is leading in score shoots first. This gives the other players a chance to catch up.  In the situation where 2 players are tied, the first shot is taken by whichever of those players previously had the higher score.

Whenever people are playing outside of a tournament that has established rules I always encourage the idea of adjusting the rules to make this game as fun as possible for everyone at the table. This 1v1v1 format is no exception. Tweak the rules and above all, have a blast.

Video of One-V-One-V-One Crokinole in Action

Jon Conrad and Reid Tracey joined me again for a quick three rounds of One-V-One-V-One Crokinole. As before, there is no editing done or explaining as the game goes on. This is just for you to see this style of play in action. Enjoy.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, make sure there is always room at the table for Gramma! Let everyone play.  There are always options to get everyone in on the game.  Get creative. Make up your own rules. Invite new friends to play and share your love for the greatest game on earth!

We play crokinole almost every day, therefore we occasionally we like to throw in fun alternative rules to shake things up. Share your idea in the comments and maybe we will demonstrate your version in a future video.

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6 comments on “Three's a Crowd or Three's Company?”

  1. How come when I watch Crokinole on tv that they always play with a round Crokinole Board. All the tournament I watched they use the round Crokinole Board. Is it because they’re special made. Mine is not round. I paid over 200.00 which is called the Baltic Crokinole. No problems with it. PS let me know if I can get a manual to play with three people. Thanks Bernie

    1. Hey Bernie,
      Thanks for the comment and questions here. At NCA Tournaments and the World Crokinole Championships as well as the World Cup of Crokinole all the boards are round. The great thing about the round board is that your hand positioning stays the same regardless of where you are shooting from. Octogan boards are great too but I definitely prefer a round board and that is all we make. As for a manual, this post is pretty much the manual. It is just meant to be a fun variation and I always encourage people to make 'house rules'.

  2. Hi my name is Richard Violette from South Portland, Maine. I made up my own rules for "Reverse Crokinole". Please try it with your friends and have fun. Maybe you can demonstrate this version in the next future video.
    This is for experience players that already know the rules for regular Crokinole. This will be a fun exercise with a twist.
    Object is to force opponent to reach a total of 100 points or more for the win. In other words, if you lose you WIN.

    Shooting With No Opponent's Discs on the Board:
    • The first shooter, and any subsequent shooter who takes his turn with no opponent's discs on the board tries to shoot into the 15 zone. If a disc lands completely within the hole, it's removed and set aside in the 20 cup for scoring at the end of the round.
    • If the disc doesn't fall into the 20 Hole but remains on the board, and is either in the 15 Zone or at least touching the 15 Zone line, it remains on the board.
    • If there are no opponent's discs on the board and a shooter's disc winds up in the ditch, 10 Zone or the 5 Zone, it's removed from the board for 20 points and placed in the 20 cup for that player.
    • If only the shooter’s discs are on the board then he can knock out as many disc into the ditch. If the shooter fails to hit his disc, the disc that he shot is placed in the 20 cup.

    Shooting With the Opponent's Discs on the Board:
    If one or more opponent's discs are on the board, the shooter must try to hit one of them. NOTE: This can be done directly, by ricochet off a post or another disc, or even by knocking another of the shooter's discs into one of the opponent's discs.
    The strategy is trying to hit opponent’s disc and send it to the 10 zone, 15 zone, or at best the 20 Hole and your disc to the ditch. NOTE: After making contact to opponent’s disc all disc going in the ditch remains in the ditch.
    If the shooter fails to hit an opponent's disc, the disc that he shot is placed in the 20 cup. In addition, if the shooter fails to hit an opponent's disc but hits any of his own discs (or his partner's), those also are placed in the 20 cup.

    The Ditch:
    If a shooter’s disc goes off the board hits anything off the main board and bounces back on is placed in the 20 cup and opponent’s disc that bounces back on are placed in the ditch. Any discs it touched remain where they wound up.
    At the end of each round, scoring takes place.
    Each player or partnership counts their discs within each Scoring Zone. If a disc is touching a scoring line, it counts as the lesser value.
    Discs in the 15 Zone are worth 15 points each; in the 10 Zone, 10 points each; in the 5 Zone, 5 points each.
    Each player or partnership also adds any 20 points from the 20 cup.
    Subtract the smaller score from the larger. The player or partnership with the larger score receives the difference in points. EXAMPLE: The tan player has 60 points. The red player has 35 points. The tan player is awarded the difference, 25 points.
    If neither player or partnership has reached a total of 100 points or more, the next round is started by the person sitting to the left of the lead shooter.

  3. I've seen one board maker, of whose boards I have one, who has lines for a three player game added on the OUTSIDE of the play area towards the ditch. For one player the zone is the same as in a 2 or 4 player game. For the others they each have a 90 degree section equally spaced. Each player is shooting from a 120 degree separation. I have two boards now, one with the three player lines and one without, as well as a Tracey on the way with traditional lines. The three player lines really makes it easy to add the extra person without is becoming one player sandwiched between two others. I highly recommend this being looked at as an option.

  4. Suggestion for a 1v1v1 house rule scoring system:
    2nd place gets 0pts.
    1st place gains the difference between their points and 2nd place.
    3rd place loses the difference between their points and 2nd place.
    Winner is first to 50, or highest points if someone drops to -50. If using a point tracker, start your pegs at 50 and stop when someone hits 100 or 0.
    Possibility for a long game.
    Scenario 1
    Player A: 65 points
    Player B: 25 points
    Player C: 40 points
    A: 25, B: -15, C: 0.
    Scenario 2
    Player A: 20 Points
    Player B: 25 Points
    Player C: 20 Points
    A: 0, B: 5, C: 0.
    Scenario 3
    Player A: 30 Points
    Player B: 30 Points
    Player C: 20 Points
    A: 0, B: 0, C: -10.

  5. Very interesting strategy. I was thinking of drawing a separate set of dotted lines on our board, each set at 120 degrees so both my wives can play along with me. Oh, and having grown up a stranded English-speaker in the French-speaking (if you call that French) Laurentian hills of Quebec, those are not "buttons" but "crokes" that go in the "hole". Hence croke in ole.

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