Carrom is a tabletop game with resemblances to snooker or billiards, and also the more modern games of subbuteo and air hockey. It can be played by two or four players.
The aim of Carrom is simply to “pot” (as in snooker or billiards) your carrom men or pucks before the opponent pots their own pieces. Carrom is played with lightweight wooden discs or pucks which make up the carrom men and the queen plus a heavier disc called a striker.
These are nine pieces or carrom men for each team or player plus one red piece called the queen. Carrom is played by striking or flicking the comparatively heavy striker disc at the lighter carrom-men discs with the aim of propelling them into one of four corner pockets.
The carrom board is a square flat board with pockets in each of the corners as on a snooker table. Two lines are marked out along the diagonals which are the “foul lines”. There is a boundary area marked on the board which is known as the base line and within the square there is a central circle.
The players sit facing each other across the carrom table. If playing with four people in teams of two, partners sit opposite each other.
The playing board is set up by placing the carrom pieces in the centre circle of the carrom board. The red queen is placed at the centre and the white pieces are positioned so that they form a Y shape, with the two branches of the Y of aiming towards the opposite corner pockets. The other colour carrom men are arranged around these pieces so that all the carrom men form a circle.
The player playing white starts carrom – this can be decided by tossing a coin or by whatever means is decided. Each player can only strike from the side of the carrom board that they are sitting at. When the striker is positioned on the board to shoot, it must be placed within the base lines and touch both sides but it must not touch the diagonal arrow line. It is allowed to touch or cover the end circles. The player attempts to aim the striker at their own carrom pieces or at the queen and sink them into a corner pocket.
Each player’s turn continues as long as the carrom men continue to be potted as in snooker. When a player fails to pot or if he commits a foul, then that is the end of the turn and play passes to the opponent.
Styles of carrom are individual to each player. There are no hard and fast rules in carrom as long as the striker is flicked and not pushed. It is usually better to position your body so that it is in line with the prospective target pocket. However all parts of the body, including feet and knees must remain behind the carrom table and stay in the players quadrant within the foul lines. This prevents players leaning over to their opponents side Some people like to sit down and play carrom, for others it is a more active game. However no part of the body, except the hand, may cross diagonal foul lines nor may the elbow protrude over the foul lines.
Any finger can be used in carrom. For forward shots the index finger, middle finger or the scissors shot can be used. The thumb can also be used in certain positions such as back shots.
The queen can be pocketed at any time and scores three points. However the queen must be “covered” in order to score. This is achieved by potting another carrom piece after the Queen has been pocketed. Once the queen has been potted both players try to pot the remaining Carrom men. The winner is the first player to clear their carrom men from the board.
The winner gets one point for each of the opponents carrom men left on the board at the end of the game plus three points if the queen has been successfully potted and covered. If the queen was potted and covered by the losing player these points are not counted. Only the winner’s points are scored.
The winning score of a game of carrom is 25, a round of carrom is called a board and the game is over once a player reaches the score of 25 or 8 boards have been played – whichever comes first.
The opening player is allowed three attempts to break the central group of carrom pieces – what in snooker would called be the frame. The striker is allowed to hit any of the carrom men in the opening moves. It does not matter if the opponents carrom men are hit first. If the striker pots the queen and at least one of his own carrom men, the players turn continues. If the player does not pot any carrom men or commit a foul, the turn is over.
A player can only pot and cover the queen if at least one of his carrom man has been already potted.
If a player pots the queen before being allowed to, his or her turn continues but the queen is replaced at the centre of the board at the end of the turn.
If a player pots the queen and another of their own carrom men at the same time, this counts as covering the queen and points awarded.
If a player pots the queen but is unable to cover it , the queen is replaced to the centre circle by the opponent.
Carrom pieces that are returned to the centre can be put on top of other carrom pieces within the main circle if there is not enough space to lay them flat.
Any carrom pieces that come to rest on edge or overlapping any other carrom pieces are simply left until they move naturally during the course of play.
If the striker comes to rest under a carrom piece it should be moved as carefully as possible so as not to disturb the board any more than strictly necessary.
If a player commits a foul his or her turn ends immediately and they receive a penalty. This is that one of their carrom men already potted is returned to the board by the opponent. The carrom piece can be placed anywhere within the main circle and obviously should be positioned to give the best possible advantage to the opponent. All penalty pieces incurred by either player are replaced by their opponent in this way.
In the event of a foul being committed but the opponent having no potted carrom men to return to the centre , the penalty is simply owed until a piece becomes available. Once the offending player has potted a carrom man , this is returned to the centre circle at the end of his turn. If the opponent fails to remember this before the start of the next turn any penalties owed are lost.
Carrom is a fascinating and addictive game that can be enjoyed by all ages and can be played at all levels, from simple games at home right up to international competition level.