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Skittles Rules

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Skittles can be played by any number of players, either playing in teams, pairs or as individuals. Any number of teams can play in the same game of skittles as long as the team numbers are not too large (giant skittles can equally only be played by teams that are not too large!).


Skittle matches in pubs are played between two teams who play a series of legs or rounds. The legs are then counted and the skittle team that has won the greater number of legs wins the skittles match.


A skittles match can be played until a specified number of legs has been played. In many pub games, the first team to win five legs is the winner of the skittles match. For a large number of individual players, playing against each other, a predetermined number of legs can be set, or the first player to reach a certain score can be the winner of the skittles match. If a lot of people wish to play skittles the classic game of “Killer” can be played, see the rules for Killer below.


The usual number of players in a pub skittles team game can be anything between 6 and 12 depending on local conventions and the local skittle league. The size of a skittle team does not really matter to the enjoyment of the game as long as both or all of the skittle teams have a matched number of skittle players.


Each skittles player’s turn consist of three throws or bowls at the skittles (giant skittles or otherwise!) and their score for their three throws is added up and counted towards the total score of each leg. The team with the greatest total wins the leg.


A leg is over once every player on the skittles team has taken one turn.

Scoring in a skittles match is easy, and just as easy in our giant skittles version. A point is awarded for each skittle toppled so the maximum score for one player's turn could be 27 points.


West Country giant skittles (our version of West Country skittles!)


Arrange the giant skittles around the king pin which should be placed in the centre of the group. The giant skittles should be arranged in lines of three in a diamond shape (a square with one corner facing the direction of play) around the king pin and there should be enough space between the giant skittles so that the ball can pass between them, without necessarily knocking more than one giant skittle over. A typical giant skittle square should measure approximately 45 inches from the middle of the front skittle to the middle of the rear giant skittle but this can be easily judged by eye.

The balls should be bowled at the skittles from a distance of approximately 24ft.

Rules vary and some giant skittle games require that the king pin has to be toppled before a score can be made. In this case, any giant skittles toppled before the kingpin is knocked over are not counted.


For a large number of individual players, playing skittles against each other, a predetermined number of legs can be set. Alternatively the first player to reach a certain score can be the winner. For two people playing giant skittles this could be the first player to reach 101 or the first player to win 11 legs.


Long alley skittles

In long alley skittles the distance between the player and the skittles is much longer - approximately 34 ft long – obviously this can be easier if the skittles are of the giant skittle variety!


The playing surface of the first 25 ft from the bowler’s position can be rough ground because the cheese (as the ball is called in long skittles) is thrown so never touches the surface closest to the giant skittle players.


The remaining 10ft or so, situated in front of the skittles should be smooth and flat and some sort of back stop should be arranged behind the skittles to stop the balls from either being lost or damaging property. In skittle allies that play long ally skittles, the back wall is often used to bounce the ball back to topple the skittles from behind. Giant skittles in allies is quite rare – generally they are conventional size.


The skittles are arranged in the same way as with West Country skittles (or our Giant West Country skittle version!). In a true game of long alley skittles the skittles themselves are a taller thinner shape than the west country skittles and the king pin is taller.


In long alley skittles the king pin is usually positioned at the front of the skittles - at the head of the diamond.


The true long ally skittles ball is called a cheese and is unusually shaped in a spherical shape and is not the even round shape of a skittles ball. Good skittle players use the shape of the cheese to their advantage and can judge the angle of bounce to good effect.


The scoring and procedure of long ally skittles is the same as with the west country rules.


The main difference to the long ally skittles game is that the ball must be thrown and not bowled at the skittles. Also the ball or cheese must bounce once before it makes contact with the skittles.


If the cheese does not bounce before hitting the skittles or if the cheese bounces too early, in the rough area, the score is not counted and the skittles are reset.


Killer skittles

Killer is a fun way of playing a game of skittles when a large number of people want to join in. It resembles the popular game sometimes played in darts.


Each player has a set number of “lives”, usually 3 or 5 and the order of play is decided. Usually each player contributes a small stake to a pot of money and their names written down and this forms the playing order of the skittles game.


The first player bowls or throws, usually using their left hand (or right hand if they are left handed). This sets the skittles score to be aimed at. The second player must beat that score or lose a life. Following players have to beat the previous players score or lose a life. Once a player has lost all their lives they are out of the game. The winner is the last player left in the skittles game and consequently wins the pot. Giant skittles is effectively played in exactly the same way with the rules above.