North American Tiddlywinks Association

NATwA founded • 27 February 1966

Tiddlywinks is a partnership game for four colors of winks. In singles, each player has two colors. In pairs, each player has one color.

The colors are Blue, Green, Red and Yellow. Each color has four small winks and two large winks.

Blue always partners Red and Green always partners Yellow. At the start of the game, each color is placed at a corner of the mat so that Blue is opposite Red and Green is opposite Yellow. The colors must be arranged so that alphabetical order runs clockwise. This makes it easier to remember whose turn it is.

The pot is placed in the middle of the mat.

To play the winks you have a squidger, a counter from 1 inch to 2 inches in diameter.

To decide who starts, one wink of each color is played towards the pot. This is called the squidge-off. The color nearest the pot wins the start. All winks are then taken back to the corners and play begins. Play goes clockwise.

Say Green wins the start. Green begins the game, then Red plays, then Yellow, then Blue, then Green again, and so on.

You can play your winks in any order.

You have one shot per turn, with an extra shot for each wink of your own color that you pot. If a wink balances on the rim of the pot, it is counted as potted and is put in the pot.

If you send one (or more!) of your own winks off the mat, you lose your next shot. This means that if you are Blue and send a blue wink off the mat, you lose the next Blue shot. The wink is put back on the table where it went off, but must be 10cm from any other wink. If you send off a red wink (the partner color), or an opponent wink, nobody loses a shot.

Squopping: A wink is squopped if it is covered, even very slightly, by another wink. Sometimes you need to get an umpire to decide this. A squopped wink cannot be played. But you can play the top wink of any pile, provided it is yours, and follow through to any wink directly underneath it. Look at this diagram:

A blue wink at right is squopping a green wink in the middle, which is squopping a red wink at left.

Red cannot play the red wink, and Green cannot play the green wink. Blue can play the blue wink. Blue can also hit the green wink in the follow through from playing blue. Blue must not hit red because the blue wink is not over the red. Now imagine that the top wink is a red rather than a blue. Red can play the top red wink, and follow through to the green one. But Red cannot touch the bottom red wink.

Free turns. If your color is squopped out (all its winks squopped), you cannot play. If this happens to you and your partner, the opponents cannot go on having turns for ever. They are allowed as many free turns as they have winks on the mat not covering or covered. This does not include winks that have not been played at all or potted winks. During or at the end of the free turns, they must free at least one wink of your side, and let it have a turn. Not until after that can they squop it again.

6. If a player pots out (all winks in the pot), all squopped (covered) winks are desquopped, and squopping ceases. Everyone goes only for the pot (still in turn). If a wink is accidentally squopped, the squopping wink is moved clear by hand.

Scoring: Suppose one color has been potted out (all winks in the pot). That color scores 4 points, the second 2 points and the third 1 point. Fourth place gets zero. If a color is potted out, the game is always played to a finish (all 12 winks of one side potted). Then one point is transferred from the losing side to the winning side. Here is an example: Green pots out, then Red, then Yellow.

  • Green gets 4
  • Reds gets 2
  • Yellow gets 1
  • Blue gets 0

One point is transferred from Blue/Red to Green/Yellow, so they beat Blue/Red 6 – 1.

BUT there is a time limit, 25 minutes for pairs games and 20 minutes for singles. After the time limit, play continues up to and including the color that won the squidge-off (the right to start). Then five complete rounds of turns are played and the game stops with the last turn of the color that started. So if you start, you finish.

If nobody has potted out by the end of round 5, the scoring is as follows: Each wink in the pot counts 3 Tiddlies (they had to come in somewhere), and each free (uncovered) wink on the mat counts 1 Tiddly. If a wink is squopped, it does not count. If a wink has not been played at all, it does not count. You probably need an example to help.

  • Blue has 2 winks in the pot and 1 free, making 7 Tiddlies.
  • Green has none in the pot and 5 free, making 5 Tiddlies.
  • Red has 1 wink in the pot and none free, making 3 Tiddlies.
  • Yellow has 4 in the pot and 1 free making 13 Tiddlies.

That is not the score, which has to be on the 4–2–1 scale outlined above. So the color with the most tiddlies gets 4 points, the second 2 and the third 1. Fourth place gets zero. Look at the example again.

  • Yellow (13) is first with 4 points
  • Blue (7) is second with 2 points
  • Green (5) is third with 1 point
  • Red (3) does not score

Yellow/Green beat Blue/Red 5 – 2.

Because two or three way ties are possible for first and second places, and a two way tie for third, the following scores are possible: 7–0, 6–1, 5½–1½, 5–2, 4⅔–2⅓, 4½–2½, 4–3, 3½–3½. Work out how!

In a match, winning is decided not by games won, but by points scored. Suppose Catherine de Medici plays Diane de Poitiers and the scores (Catherine first) are, 6–1, 3–4, 5–2, 3–4, 2½–4½. Catherine wins by 19½ to 15½, and gets the Château de Chenonceaux, even though she won two games to Diane’s three.

Again, if William plays Harold and the scores (William first) are 7–0, 3–4, 3–4, 2–5, William is William the Conqueror by 15 points to 13, not William the Loser by 3 games to 1.

The real rules of Tiddlywinks attempt to cover every situation in detail, and run to 11 pages. But you can use these as a guide.

If you are interested in buying a set, check the web site at:

See also rules on other ways to play tiddlywinks.

(U.S. edition, 10 January 1999)