Today, WizKids announced that Star Trek: Conflick in the Neutral Zone, a game about flicking discs at enemy players and gathering resources, will be released this Summer. This game is expected to las...
As someone who owns #Carrom and #Crokinole, I thought I'd chip in with my thoughts on the pros and cons of each. A lot of content has been made about Crokinole, but Carrom is rarely mentioned in the conversation, which does it a disservice. I think the two games cater to different needs and it would be a shame if people bought one when they may prefer the other and not realise. (FYI: both games come in miniature and tournament size).
I created a similar post to this around a year ago on Reddit. Since then, I have upgraded my Carrom and Crokinole boards and so I have now played both budget and high-end products for over a year. My thoughts have evolved, hence why I'm sharing again.
What is Crokinole?
#Crokinole is a dexterity game in which players take turns flicking discs across a circular wooden board, towards a central hole. A disc that slots into the centre will score 20 and be removed from the board. Any discs remaining on the board at the end of the game will score more or less points depending on how close they are to the centre. The catch is that any new disc must touch an opponents disc before settling on the board (or careening off into the gutter, if you're unlucky!). Therefore, the strategic thrust of the game is that you will be trying to remove your opponent's discs while angling your own towards the centre.
Crokinole is an absorbing experience. The back-and-forth rhythm of the game is hypnotic, and each flick feels incredibly tense and important. The thrill of scoring a 20 and the agony of hitting a peg and immediately guttering your disk make each game an emotional rollercoaster. It's a 'flow state' game and we can, and often do, play this game for hours on end.
What is Carrom?
#Carrom is a game which is hugely popular in Asia, but not well known in the west. It is a square board in which players essentially play pool with discs. Instead of flicking discs directly, players use a 'striker' - a heavier flicking disc - to pot the discs of their colour into the pockets at the corners of the board. There is one 'red' queen which each player aims to sink, but after the queen is potted, the potting player must 'cover' it by immediately potting a disc of their own. Whoever clears the board of their coloured discs at the end of each round scores the number of discs left by their opponent, plus a bonus three points if the queen was covered. The strategic thrust of this game is to manoeuvre your discs into favourable positions, aiming to pot as many of your discs in one turn as possible, and avoiding allowing the opponent to pot the queen.
Carrom demands a range of skills such as varied flicking techniques, hand-eye coordination and visual acuity. It involves a satisfying degree of reasoning power and there's a consistent thrill in potting discs. The boardstate is often complex and would reward different approaches.
Portability: Carrom is a portable game, but it is bulkier and heavier than Crokinole, and therefore harder to store and carry.
Accessibility: Crokinole is simpler and more accessible. It has a low barrier to entry but a skill ceiling that's quite subtle to notice. Carrom has a higher barrier to entry; it is a difficult game that rewards patience and practice, but is more satisfying to progress in (in my subjective opinion). To be perfectly honest, when totally new players sit at the board with me, the skill difference can be overwhelming for them. In Crokinole, anyone can sit at the table and do well immediately.
Components: Both of these games have equal tactile pleasure and I get as much joy out of each board, with a slight edge to Crokinole for its glorious waxed surface. Crokinole wax is more satisfying than Carrom powder, which can sometimes be noisy and scrape the board.
Running costs: Crokinole wax is incredibly easy and cheap to acquire. Buying an expensive board usually comes with huge bags of the stuff. Carrom powder can be expensive and acquiring the same amount of Carrom powder as the free wax I received with the Crokinole board, would cost literally hundreds of pounds.
Game length: Crokinole last for a pre-determined length of time (about 5m). Games of Carrom can last for longer if discs aren't being potted and there's more variety in the games patterns and boardstate.
Player interaction: The genius of Crokinole is that every flick affects your opponent. They might miss it completely, flick it off the board, bounce it into a better position etc. In Carrom, even if my opponent pots a few discs in a row, it doesn't normally change anything about how I play, and I might even start daydreaming while I wait for my turn.
Highs and lows: Crokinole is more of a tense back and forth, in which we are usually nervously battling for the initiative, until finally there is a breakthrough that will have us either pumping our fist or hanging our head. Carrom is more of a gentle back and forth and things don't get tense until towards the end. The joy of potting is lower but more consistent in Carrom. Potting three or four discs in a row in Carrom feels as good as potting once in Crokinole, where it's not as common. Potting three or more Crokinole discs in one game feels incredible. The low in Crokinole is when none of your shots are coming off. In Carrom, the low is usually when a game outstays its welcome, and you feel a little bored.
Technique: Crokinole is about perfecting one technique (forward flick). Carrom requires competency with breaking, forward flicks, push flicks, thumb shots, back shots etc. - you get the idea. It's really satisfying to have a bag of tricks at your disposal in Carrom. Technique isn't thought about much in Crokinole, which is simpler. Carrom is a game in which I regularly watch tutorials, observe the masters etc., Crokinole is lighter on technique and less of a rabbit hole in that sense.
Experience: Carrom is a logic game to some extent ("Do I pot that disc, or leave it there? Should I break up the pack, or let my opponent? Should I risk covering the queen, or would that let them get ahead in points?"). I check my brain at the door with Crokinole and mostly play on muscle memory (which makes it easier to lose yoursel than with Carrom). Sometimes with Carrom, I sit at the table straight puzzling what my next shot will be. This gives the game a relaxing, ponderous atmosphere. Crokinole is fast and furious and is a bit more "emotional" if you like.
Solo mode: The main advantage of Carrom is that it is an excellent solo game. The basic solo game for Carrom players is to attempt a 'slam' (potting all the discs of one colour in one turn). It's incredibly fun and relaxing for me to crack open a beer and play Carrom on my own, and it therefore gets played a lot more often. It's possible to attempt trick shots and the like in Crokinole, but the novelty wears off after a few minutes and it only ever comes out when my playing partner is with me.
If you have a regular partner to play with and you would prefer the feel of a perfectly smooth, waxy board that's easy to store and cheaper to run, Crokinole could be right for you.
If you want a relaxing, satisfying way to hone your skills on evenings alone, and a rabbit hole of techniques to fall down with a partner, Carrom could be up your street.
Thought it would be a very appropriate start to this week's challenge to talk about my first impressions of the game I recently won right here on BGA: Catacombs!
I wrote previously on why I ended up getting Catacombs (it surprised even me) so I won't get into that here. I had been intending to write a proper review once I had had the chance to play it a couple more times but this is the perfect opportunity to give my first impressions after playing it once with my partner: so here we go!
(I only remembered to take a photo right towards the end of our game: the last two remaining heroes valiantly about to go down fighting against the overwhelming forces of the dungeon lord)
First off, it takes a while to prepare this game out of the box, there are must be somewhere in the region of a hundred small wooden disks (I should have counted) that each have one or two stickers to be stuck on. Fortunately I had a lazy evening to spare and happily spent a couple of hours sticking them all on sat in front of the TV: it was actually pretty fun as it made you look at and appreciate each individual piece of artwork in a way you might not if just presented with 100 pre-stickered discs. I was constantly pausing to look up what a Minotaur could do, or how the gelatinous cube (an amazing addition to the game) worked. Really built the excitement to play the game.
However, once that is done, when it came to actually setting up the game it was pretty swift even the first time: you pick your heroes and take there starting abilities/items (mostly just 2-3 cards except the wizard where you have to pick a whole heap of spells from a deck). The overseer (Dungeon master type player) chooses a bunch of scenarios and shops for the players to explore and who the big-bad will be (They could even just choose the first scenario and do the rest while the first game was playing out if you wanted to be efficient). Then you pick a board, put discs on and away you go. We played with the recommended beginner set of dungeons which seemed to give a good variety.
Each 'room' in the dungeon has the same objective: kill everything, so the variety really comes from the match up of heroes and monsters, and there are a bunch of both. 6 heroes (of which you chose 4) and dozens of monsters (usually 3-4 types in a given room), each with intuitive but different styles of play. The flicking makes every shot tense, there are very few givens (you'd be surprised how easy it is to mess up a seemingly easy shot) but also a nice variety of 'success' to be had: you generally do damage when you collide with an enemy disc, but you can also use these shot to try to reposition yourself and your enemies/allies ready for the next shot: it seems like there is a skill curve to be had but still plenty of fun if you are completely awful as the basics are pretty achievable (discs are big enough to hit and the map is small enough that you don't have to flick too far.
The arc of the game is pretty interesting, the heroes are unlikely to 'lose' any of the early missions, you're health does not automatically replenish between rooms (there are way to heal) so it is about killing the monsters as efficiently as possible so you go into the harder levels more prepared. While each hero has individual health allowing for theoretical player elimination, it is unlikely you will go from full health to zero in one or two rounds so you can easily go and hide if you feel at risk and play more cautiously until you get the chance to heal up. Similarly, it would be easy for an eliminated player to just join the overseers' team, especially before the final battle, without disrupting play, and I'm sure would create a lot of laughs. In our game, all four heroes made it to the final room with limited but okay health left (they spent a lot of gold on healing throughout).
Also, when players encounter safe rooms they get to either heal or acquire new items and abilities with the gold they have earned from monster slaying: these weapons and abilities are generally one use per room but very powerful and stop the game feeling repetitive. Suddenly you go from being a thief, to being a thief with a poisonous knife or an armadillo friend, which allowed some really fun narratives and jokes to come out (my partner could not understand the point of the elf's familiar and so would hilariously just flick it randomly, leading to the narrative that the familiar was just following the elf around without permission and the elf was sick of it!). I can imagine that this would become even more the case when each player was controlling a single character so would embody them even more so.
The game felt a little slanted in favour of me as the overseer, so I can imagine taking on a slightly more DM type role, trying to make the game engaging rather than trying to 'win'. But that could well be because my partner was very timid with her flicking and made a few fatal errors, it remains to be seen with future plays.
Overall though the flicking is great fun, it creates hilarious events when things go very wrong or surprisingly right (a single fireball 'accidentally' wiping out all my beautiful trolls before they had a chance to do anything). In a way that wouldn't happen in a more 'normal' board game. While, it turns out dexterity games are not my partner's cup of tea, she still enjoyed the game as a whole, and I cannot wait to get it to a table with a group of friends.