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Even if you don’t know what shuffleboard is, you’ve definitely seen it. It’s the thing that you often see people playing in movies on a cruise ship deck. The game where people slide big pucks across the ground with what appears to be some sort of pitchfork, as they aim for a set of numbers on a triangle painted on the ground.
While shuffleboard may look like a boring game played exclusively by seniors, this is not quite the case. It can actually be quite an exciting game to play. Today we are here to teach you everything you need to know to play a riveting game of shuffleboard.
What Equipment Do You Need to Play Shuffleboard?
Something to keep in mind is that there is a variation of this game known as table shuffleboard, which is played on a large table. This is not what we are talking about here although the rules are essentially the same.
Here we are talking about a full-size game of shuffleboard that is played on a 52’ x 10’ court that players stand on, one that has triangles painted on each end, with the triangles being divided into sections, with each section containing a specific numerical value.
So, the first thing that you will need to play this game is of course that 52-foot board complete with the scoring triangles.
To play shuffleboard, each player requires the stick with a fork at the front, also known as a tang, as well as four discs per team (generally six inches in diameter, with one team’s discs being black and the other team’s discs being yellow). The discs are affectionately referred to as biscuits.
How Many Players Can Play Shuffleboard?
Shuffleboard can be played either by two players (one vs. one format), or by teams of two (two vs two format).
Technically speaking, seeing as each side has four discs, the game could also be played by four people, although this is not a common occurrence.
How to Play Shuffleboard: The Rules
Before we get into talking about specific rules, it is important to be able to visualize what the scoring area in shuffleboard looks like.
The scoring area, from your perspective, is a triangle with the tip facing you. The tip of the triangle has a section worth ten points, and behind that are two sections (side by side), worth eight points, and behind those are two sections (also side by side), worth seven points, with the end of the triangle being the 10-off area.
The objective of this game is very simple: it’s to propel the biscuits using the tang in order to get the biscuits into the scoring zone at the other end of the court. The aim is to get as high a score as possible, and the player or team to achieve the set score is the winner.
Players can choose what the winning score should be before the game starts, with either 75 or 100 being common scoring objectives.
Generally, the game is played in ten rounds, so the game can be won either by getting to the predetermined score limit before ten rounds or by having the highest score at the end of ten rounds.
Starting the Game
A coin toss is used to determine which team or player starts the game. The winning coin toss will get the yellow biscuits, as the yellow biscuit goes first. The other person or team gets the black biscuits (the order is simply a tradition, just like the white pieces go before the black ones in chess).
Teams then take turns alternating shots, with each team getting one shot per turn, and so on and so forth until all biscuits have been sent into the opposite scoring zone. Once all eight biscuits (four per team) have been played, the players move to the other side and then resume play in the opposite direction.
For those that don’t know, shooting in the game of shuffleboard is often referred to as “sending”. You don’t shoot the biscuit, you send the biscuit. The biscuits must start in the 10-off area at the base of the triangle (remember that the 10-off area is divided vertically into two), with the four yellow biscuits starting on the right, and the four black biscuits starting on the left.
A shot in shuffleboard must begin inside of the 10-off area, and the biscuit can be released from the tang no further than the tip of the scoring triangle, the front ten. Moreover, biscuits must be shot in one fluid and continuous motion, with no pauses in between the motion. Shots must also be straight. There are no hook shots allowed in shuffleboard.
First off, the score for each round is only counted once both teams have finished sending all four of their biscuits into the scoring zone, so after all eight have been sent. Scoring works as follows:
- Points are worth as much as indicated on the field of play (the ten provides ten points, and so on and so forth).
- A biscuit must be totally within a scoring area to receive points. A biscuit that is touching the outer lines of a scoring area does not count.
- If a player shoots the biscuit to the side of the scoring area (out of the sidelines), if it does not reach the scoring area (beyond the first line), or if it is propelled out the rear of the scoring area, a penalty of ten points is the result.
- If a biscuit is shot into the 10-off zone, a deduction of ten points is made, and if a biscuit is touching the lines of the 10-off zone, a deduction of five points is made.
- Just like in the sport of curling, in shuffleboard, it is legal to aim and shoot at the opposing team’s biscuits with the aim of removing said biscuit from the field of play, or even into the 10-off zone (which would cause the opposing team to suffer a penalty).
Other Notable Rules
There are just a few other rules that you need to consider before you start a game of shuffleboard:
- Players must wait until the biscuit of the opposing team has stopped moving before they can shoot.
- Play always starts at alternating ends of the court after each round has been completed.
- If you play another player’s disc, you get a ten-point penalty.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
Lastly, let’s take a look at some tips and tricks to make your game better:
- If you have a good score with a couple of biscuits, for instance, if you manage to get two biscuits into the eight-point zones, you can attempt to use your other discs to guard them, so that the opposing team cannot knock them out of the scoring zones.
- You will have to figure out how hard you need to send the biscuit, which you have to do through some good old trial and error. Remember, getting the biscuit either too far or not far enough will result in a penalty, so learning how much power is required will take some time.
- Where your biscuit starts within your 10-off zone (when you first shoot), can make a difference too. Always keep shooting angles in mind when deciding what specific position to start your shot from. Remember that the biscuits can only travel in straight lines.
Shuffleboard is definitely not an action-packed or super high-paced game, but it does make for a rather relaxing pastime, and yes, it can get quite competitive at times. There are, of course, two versions of this game, with one being played on a large court and the other on a smaller table.
While the full-scale version arguably looks cooler, table shuffleboard is a great alternative to play indoors. As mentioned in the introduction, the rules above more or less apply to either version.