Frequently Asked Questions

What is the game of tiddlywinks all about?

Tiddlywinks is a competitive game that revolves around two key concepts:

  • Potting: shooting a wink into the cup, which gains additional points for the wink versus a wink sitting on the mat. However, once a wink is in the cup, it stays there and is no longer in play.
  • Squopping: shooting a wink so it lands on top of an opponent’s wink, thereby immobilizing it. A wink remains squopped until a subsequent shot results in freeing it.

The game of tiddlywinks involves strategies (how do we want to engage against our opponents to win the game, or at least to gain the most points we can?) and tactics (what shot should I make given the current game situation to improve our position in the game?).

What is a wink, and what is a tiddly?

A wink is the smaller disc that is shot with a squidger (the shooter) in the game of tiddlywinks.  A wink starts off at the baseline edge of a corner of a mat, and is moved onto the mat and around the mat, and into the pot by shooting it with a squidger.  There are many styles of tiddlywinks shots.

A tiddly is part of the scoring system for the game of tiddlywinks.  Tiddly points are counted for each color wink played.  Each wink of the color in the pot is worth 3 tiddlies, and each played wink on the mat is worth 1 tiddly. Each unplayed wink (in other words, never played from its original position behind the baseline corner of the mat) is worth 0 tiddlies.  All of the tiddlies for the winks of the color are added, and are used to determine the ranking of the wink’s color in the final match scoring of the game.  The wink color with the most tiddlies is awarded 4 match points, the next 2 match points, the third 1 match point, and the fourth 0 match points.  If the game ends in a pot-out (one color having shot all of its winks into the cup), then a point is transferred to the winning pair.

Who plays tiddlywinks?

The modern competitive tournament game of tiddlywinks has been played since 1955 when it was established at Cambridge University in England.  Since then, an entire history of universities, colleges, club teams, and others have competed in the game.  In the UK over the years, tiddlywinks has been played by winkers at Cambridge University, Oxford University, York University, University of London, Manchester University, St. Andrew’s University, and many other universities and upper middle schools. In the US, tiddlywinks has been played by winkers at Cornell University, MIT, Harvard,  Ithaca High School, Boston University, and club teams. In Canada, tiddlywinks has been played by winkers at University of Toronto, Waterloo University, Waterloo Lutheran University, and club teams.

I want to start playing winks.  What equipment do I need?

Well, you’ll need a proper, official set  of winks, a good mat to play on, and some squidgers to shoot the winks.  Plus you’ll need to read the official rules to gain a general understanding of the game.  The details and nuances will come in time.  To learn the ropes, your best bet is to contact a veteran winker and play winks with him or her, to gain a direct understanding about the key ingredients of the game. Contact NATwA on all these fronts.

What are the rules of tiddlywinks?

The official tiddlywinks rules are maintained by the recognized tiddlywinks associations, which at present are the English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA) and the North American Tiddlywinks Association (NATwA). The official rules address all topics and issues that may arise in the game of tiddlywinks.  A simplified set of rules is also available to guide new winkers and other interested parties.

Is there an international body governing tiddlywinks throughout the world?

Yes, the Secretary-General of the International Federation of Tiddlywinks Associations oversees the activities of recognized national and regional tiddlywinks associations and addresses cross-organizational concerns.

How are tiddlywinks tournaments organized and authorized?

Tiddlywinks tournaments are organized and conducted by each of the tiddlywinks associations recognized by the International Federation of Tiddlywinks Associations.  At present, two associations are recognized to conduct official tiddlywinks tournaments: the English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA) and the North American Tiddlywinks Association (NATwA).

Squop, squidger? What do all of these tiddlywinks terms mean?

A squop is where one wink covers another wink, so the wink below cannot be shot by the owner of that wink.

A squidger is the large disk held in the hand of a winker that is applied to flick (shoot) a wink so the wink moves about on the field of play.

Check out all of the intriguing words of winkdom in the Lexicon of Tiddlywinks.

When was tiddlywinks invented? And who invented it?

Joseph Assheton Fincher applied for a patent for the game in England in 1888, which was approved in 1889. He also trademarked the name of the game, Tiddledy-Winks, in England in 1890. John Jaques & Son, a prominent game publisher of the time, were the exclusive publishers of the game of Tiddledy-Winks invented by J. A. Fincher. However, other companies brought to market similar games with other names. One company, F. H. Ayres, published Spoof and variants, Spoof Golf and Spoof Croquet. Jaques sued Ayres for patent infringement, and apparently won.

Is tiddlywinks a current trademark?

Tiddledy-Winks was the registered trademark for the game in England in the 1890s but it is now in the public domain, as are the modern variants of its spelling: tiddlywinks, tiddlywinks, tiddleywinks, and tiddlywinks. It was never a registered trademark in the United States.

What are the key events in competitive tiddlywinks history?

In 1955, the Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club (CUTwC) was formed by Bill Steen and R. C. Martin.  It sought competition from Oxford and newspaper employees and elsewhere, without much response, during its bare formative years, which are documented by Guy Consterdine in the seminal publication, On the Mat.

In 1958, CUTwC  winkers read in the newspaper The Spectator an article entitled: Does Prince Philip Cheat at Tiddlywinks?. CUTwC wrote a letter to Prince Philip, challenging him to defend his honor at tiddlywinks. Prince Philip responded by nominating The Goons, a famous UK radio comedy troupe (with Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, and others) to compete on his behalf.  The famed Goons Match took place on 1 March 1958, with CUTwC of course beating the Goons, who sported long gowns and were lively in riling up the crowds. The Goons Match was a pivotal winking milestone; shortly thereafter, due to the substantial publicity surrounding the event, winking competitions mushroomed throughout the UK. Guy Consterdine’s publication, Winks Rampant, tells the story of the spread of tiddlywinks fervor in the UK following the Goons Match.  Later in 1958, the English Tiddlywinks Association was formed following a match involving Cambridge University and Oxford.

In 1962, the Oxford University Tiddlywinks Society (OUTS) toured America under the sponsorship of Guinness, the well-known beer brewing company. The tour lasted around six weeks, and the OUTS team (Peter Freeman, Elizabeth King, Philip Moore, Dave Willis) went from coast to coast playing football players, celebrities, newspaper columnists, and most notably, a Harvard team.  After Oxford returned to the UK, the game was afoot among mostly Ivy League colleges including Harvard, Brown, Columbia, Holyoke, and other universities.  Life magazine featured an article on a match between Harvard and Columbia in its 14 December 1962 edition.

On 27 February 1966, the North American Tiddlywinks Association (NATwA) was formed following a match involving Harvard, Harvard Medical School, Waterloo, and Waterloo Lutheran University.

I have an old tiddlywinks game.  When did it come out, and what is it worth?

Winker Rick Tucker avidly collects antique and modern tiddlywinks tiddlywinks games and is always interested to hear from people who have old tiddlywinks games.  Contact Rick and describe what you have. However, we are not able to assess the value of your old tiddlywinks games.

How can I host a tiddlywinks tournament?

There are two ways you might host a tiddlywinks tournament:

  • Connect with one of the recognized associations (ETwA and NATwA) and work with them to organize and sponsor the event.  The tiddlywinks associations ordinarily plan and conduct their own events, and so this is unlikely unless there is a compelling common ground.
  • Hold your own, which won’t be recognized as an officially-sanctioned tiddlywinks tournament.  If you organize your own event, please don’t assume that ETwA or NATwA will endorse it. We may be able to help you in preparing for it, but we may or may not want to endorse your event, depending on the circumstances.

How can I contact a winker for the video, blog, podcast, or article I’m doing?

We’re always happy to connect with the media, authors, bloggers, researchers, and others interested in communicating directly with veteran winkers.  Please check out the site map of Tiddlywinks.org to gain background.  Please contact us to discuss your needs!  We can connect you with winkers around the world based on your needs and interest, depending on their availability and interest to participate.

Where can I find  tiddlywinks images to include in my article or post?

A majority of images on Tiddlywinks.org are protected by national and international copyright as noted on individual pages and also on the Legal Notices page and cannot be reused without prior, explicit, written permission by contacting NATwA.

We’ll shortly be adding a collection of tiddlywinks images (under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License) that can be used without prior, explicit permission solely for editorial purposes (books, articles, social media, or blogs online or in print), though they remain copyrighted.  These tiddlywinks images are not authorized for use in commercial logos or prominent advertising themes of a commercial expression (those uses require prior, explicit, written permission from NATwA). If you choose to use any of these images, please provide credit to us using “Credit: Tiddlywinks.org” or “Source: Tiddlywinks.org” in association with your use of the image.  Please send a message to us informing us of your use of these freely usable tiddlywinks images (online, in print, or otherwise).

Some stock photo sites have generic images of tiddlywinks that are available for you to license at a wide range of licensing fees, though we find many of them to be rather too generic.

 

See also the tiddlywinks FAQ of the English Tiddlywinks Association.