The following article was submitted by Rick Tucker to THE GAMES ANNUAL 1998. This periodical was produced by Matthews-Simmons Marketing, 5575 Arapahoe Road, Boulder CO 80303 USA, and first appeared on newsstands in November 1997. (Courtesy ordering information: THE GAMES ANNUAL issue was labeled to be on display at newstands until May 30, 1998. Editions are published annually. Single copy orders (of the 1998 edition) are $7.95 + $3.00 first class shipping from the Boulder CO address above. Foreign order require $5.00 shipping.) Below is Rick Tucker's submitted contribution, edited by Bruce Whitehill, and published on pages 118-119, with additional web links. The actual published text may differ from the edited submission included below.
by Rick Tucker
Tiddlywinks. You played it when you were five years old... or perhaps more recently. It's the epitome of frivolity.
Winkers (as the players are called) from Cambridge University and St. Andrews in the UK, and MIT and Harvard in the USA compete feverishly for a national championship, to gain a challenge to a world title. The winks respond amazingly to the winkers' shots with their sharp squidgers. You'll catch on... a squidger is the large disc used by winkers to send the winks where they want: close to the center of action, into the pot, onto two or three enemy winks, to bomb an enemy pile of winks to free friendly winks, or to carefully poke out a friendly wink from a messy pile of a dozen winks. Your mind is thinking ahead, as it should. After all, winks has become a game of keen strategy and tactics. Should you boondock the enemy wink to the edge of the mat, or should you lunch the enemy wink? "Lunch"? oh, yeah, that means you flick your squidger on a pile of winks and launch one of those enemy winks hiding in the pile up and into the pot. Stuck there for the rest of the game. You see a quick squop: pick up your high-tech PVC squidger and shoot your wink to land on top of that pair of enemy winks five inches away, immobilizing them. Your objective: keep your winks on top, roaming around the felt mat looking to control territory. You must get to the end-game with a numeric advantage.
The game's a century old. A rampant fad in the 1890s in Victorian parlors worldwide, tiddlywinks transformed itself into a competitive collegiate game in the 1950s in England, then in the USA in the 1960s, and has resulted in major transatlantic winks championships ever since. National tournaments are held every year in England, Scotland, and the USA for Singles and Pairs championships. Team tournaments are also held several times a year, and often (particularly in the UK) in conjunction with a few visits to the local pub. The winning winkers challenge current world titleists for the ultimate in winks accomplishment and glory.
The official tournament game is played with 24 winks (six each of four colors) and a pot on a felt mat measuring six-feet by three-feet, and involves two pairs of winkers playing as partners against the other two. When played as a Singles game, one winker plays both colors or a partnership. A game can take up to an hour to play. The game can end in a shut-out when one partnership puts all of their winks into the pot before their opponents, or in a free-for-all where any score might ensue. See the sidebar for a run-down on the rules. Check the website for the latest rules covering every circumstance ("I shot the wink and it landed on the rim of the pot, balanced perfectly.").
Winkers also have invented or updated all sorts of variations of tiddlywinks. To tell the truth, winkers call these variations "perversions". Baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, etc., etc. Using the pot as a squidger on a wink instead of a larger disk. Some of these perversions have been included the Guinness Book of World Records. You have 12 winks placed 3 feet from a pot. How many shots do you need to get them all in the pot? Go ahead, give it a try. The record is 21.
Tiddlywinks offers you the opportunity to take a century-old game in any direction you want. New winks clubs are starting to crop up. You can start in the privacy of your own home, secretly squidging and squopping to your heart's content. Then... taking a bold step, you can wink with other winkers in your well-groomed neighborhood. Sooner or later, you'll form a new team, delve into national and transatlantic competitions. Finally, you're flying around the world--and it all began with a wink.
Rick Tucker has been playing tiddlywinks for over 25 years, ever since his first day as a Freshman at MIT. Two-time National Pairs champion and a National Teams champion, he edits "Newswink," the newsletter for winkers in North America, and maintains the historical archives on tiddlywinks. He has over 200 tiddlywinks sets, antique and modern, and is a member of the American Game Collectors Association.
Rules and Nomenclature
Tournament Tiddlywinks is a game that requires both strategy and manual skill, differing greatly from "children's" tiddlywinks. The children's game involves merely flicking the winks into a cup (known as "potting"). Tournament Tiddlywinks uses two additional basic shots: the "squop" shot, the most important shot in winks, in which a player shoots his wink onto opposing winks, thus immobilizing them, and the approach shot, in which a wink is sent to a key position from which it can protect friendly squops, attack enemy piles,or set up a strategic area.
The game is played by pressing or flicking a wink with a squidger on a three-foot by six-foot felt mat. Games may be won by either getting all of one color into the cup ("potting out"), or by establishing more points, based on a time-limit point system. In tournament-level play the typical strategy is to gain control by squopping enemy winks rather than by focusing solely on potting one's own winks.
It's Not Just Squidgers and Squops
Winks has a vocabulary and subculture all its own. At a tournament, you might overhear, "I can't pot my nurdled wink, so I'll piddle you free and you can boondock a red. But if Sunshine gromps the double, I'll lunch a blue next time." In English this translates to, "My wink is too close to the cup to pot it, so instead, I'll gently shoot you out from under the pile and you can shoot an opponent's red wink off the table. But if Sunshine captures two of our winks with only one of his, I'll pot an opponent's blue wink on my next turn." (Sunshine, the nickname given a famous American winker--whose real name is not used--is an MIT graduate who plays with either hand, and on special occasions will hold a squidger in his feet and shoot winks.)
The name tiddlywinks probably comes from a British slang term for an unlicensed pub, where people regularly play games. In most other languages, tiddlywinks is known as the Game of Fleas--for example, "jeu de puce" in French. This name comes from the idea that fleas tend to be hopping about all the time, just like winks into the cup in the game of tiddlywinks.
Information in a Wink
NATwA publishes an informal newsletter, "Newswink", to keep winkers informed of recent events. NATwA maintains close ties with ETwA, the English Tiddlywinks Association, and ScotTwA, the Scottish Tiddlywinks Association. Further information about NATwA can be obtained by contacting Rick Tucker. You can check out his website in a wink: http://www.tiddlywinks.org (the old site was at http://www.cpcug.org/user/rwtucker/tiddlywinks.html).
Rick can also help you if you want to buy a good set of winks. Nowadays it is challenging to find (at least in the USA) a quality set of ) winks in the chain stores. The international tiddlywinks community uses winks from Italy, pots from Brooklyn NY (yay!), and felt mats from either New Jersey or Wales. And squidgers are another story. NATwA can help you if you want to find winkers in your area and if you want to establish a new club.