A backyard game of croquet probably isn't going to look much like "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," with equipment that has a mind of its own and the Red Queen yelling, "Off with their heads!" But thanks to all the variations in rules and the field itself, it can get heated in a hurry. Here are a few tips to keep things mostly civil:
- Make sure you and your opponents are playing from the same rulebook, or the game is going to get confusing (and likely contentious) fairly quickly.
- Be humble. If you're a new player, start out nice and simple. It looks easy, but variations in the grass and the underlying dirt can make your ball take unexpected turns. There's plenty of time to get more fancy and complex as you hone your croquet skills.
- Know the layout of the hoops like the back of your hand. Or just write it on the back of your hand. If you're shifting the standard arrangement to accommodate the size and shape of the lawn you're using, make sure all players agree on the order and direction before you start.
- Blue, red, black, yellow. Blue, red, black, yellow. Make it your mantra. Repeat ad nauseam. It's very possible to play the wrong ball in croquet, or to horn in on someone else's turn. You snicker, but it really is easier than you might think. If you get confused about the play order, take a quick look at the peg – it's almost always striped in the order players should go.
- Remember that while croquet can be a fun backyard activity or a leisurely weekend pursuit, it can also be a cutthroat competition between blood rivals whose every blown shot is a soul-crushing smack to the ego. Be ready to bob and weave.
So get out there, have fun, and don't do anything that'll make someone want to swing a mallet at your head!