Created | Updated Oct 4, 2010
Coin rugby is a simple game for two players that is most often played in school/office lunchtimes, but occasionally is seen being played in public houses. To play, you will require an opponent, a square-edged flat surface, like a desk, for example, and three (although see variants below) decent-sized coins.
How To Play
The object of the game is to score points, using one of the coins as the 'ball' to score a 'try' or 'touch-down' as in, respectively, rugby or American football.
The two players sit opposite one another across the table. One player arranges on the flat surface the three coins in a sort-of inverted triangle formation so that the apex is pointing towards the player himself. The three coins should be touching. He flicks the coin nearest to him so that the three break, like in snooker.
The same player must then flick the coin nearest to him (ie the rearmost coin) so that it passes between the other two coins. The process is repeated (ie always flicking the nearest, rearmost coin) gradually working the three coins across the table.
The Art of Flicking
There is some debate as to what constitutes a flick and coin rugby, being a social game, does not have any firm rules or regulating body governing it. As such, the legality of the way in which players contact the coins is largely a matter of 'gentleman's agreement', but by and large it is accepted that comfort counts. Players who elect to start the game with one coin overhanging the rear edge of the table may allow themselves a sort of shove-happy, shove-ha'p'ny slap with the palm of the hand. For most outfield play, however, players generally prefer to use a 'bogey-flick' movement which involves attempting extension of the index finger against the resistance of the pad of the thumb or just the table. Eventually the finger springs forward, the nail impulsing with the coin to transfer momentum thereto. This 'bogey-flick' seems to combine power and control. Other players prefer to use the side of the index finger, tucking the end of the thumb into the nook created by bending the finger at both knuckles, and scraping the middle third of the finger along the surface of the table until contact is made with the coin and movement is imparted. Regardless, what constitutes 'illegal' should be agreed between players before play commences.
Scoring a Try
Eventually, it should be possible to flick one of the coins between the other two coins and leave it hanging over the far edge of the table (ie near to the other player). This last flick typically requires the deftest of touches to avoid shooting the coin off the table edge (dead ball) but can be effected with a lucky 'poke-and-hope' from distance.
Achieving this, (ie one coin hanging over the far edge of the desk) is a try and is worth five points.
If en route across the table, it is impossible to flick one coin between the other two (a snooker) then the coins are gathered up and returned to the other player, who embarks on a try-scoring run.
Similarly, if one coin reaches the far edge, and topples off the edge before it can be flicked up for a conversion attempt, the same nil points and play reverts to the opponent.
Scoring a Conversion
Having scored a try, the same player must then embark on the conversion, a two-stage affair which, if successfully converted, will earn a bonus two points.
Stage one requires the player who scored the try to lean over the table towards his opponent where he should place his middle 'naughty' finger under the coin which is hanging over the table edge. Then, he is required to flick the coin up into the air and attempt to catch it (some say single-handedly using the flicking hand only). Should the coin escape from his grasp the conversion attempt is over; but if the catch is made the kicking phase of the conversion begins.
In preparation for stage two, the opponent establishes the goal posts, by creating two L-shapes with the thumb and index-finger of each hand. With thumbs pointing towards each other, touching tip-to-tip to create a crossbar and the tips of the extended straight forefingers touching the table perpendicular to the plane of the surface, the posts are complete.
The original player may then, without restriction on the number of hands, spin the coin gyroscopically on the table. Before the spin dies, the player should attempt to trap the coin between his two thumbs. Timing is all so important and a mis-timed lunge will see the coin stopped then topple onto its side. Without lifting knuckles off the table, the successfully trapped coin should be catapulted up over the posts and into the opponents lap by a quick rotation of the wrists. Voilà! - converted try - two more points.
Play then reverts to the opponent, who sets up the coins in the original triangular formation and attempts to repeat the process working back across the table.
Either play 'first across the finish line' to a predetermined points tally, or to a time either fixed in advance or by convenience. Obviously, the winner is the one with the most points.
Selecting Your Equipment
Coinage should be firm and meaty in dimension and weight. Unfortunately out of circulation, the old British 'shilling-bit1' is commonly believed to have been about par in terms of diameter, thickness and weight. Nowadays, British players are likely to use two 2p coins and a 10p, but in restricted playing areas - say on a table on a train - two x 1p coins and a 5p can provide a challenging alternative. Regardless, and particularly pertinent to school-players, the game will probably be played with whatever coins are available. Canadian players, for example, assert a preference for the 'loonie2'.
It is essential that the selected table top is flat and even as the art of 'skimming' coins across the surface is a fundamental part of the game. Moreover, square-edgedness is a vital attribute as, at some point, coins will be expected to hang over the edge of the table. Any proud vinyl-edging or convex-bevelling will render the pitch unplayable. Notably however, the pub version of this game pays little cognisance to 'conditions' which can range from dry, through to somewhat sticky, to downright waterlogged.
Players will probably have little control over the physical suitability of their opponent.
There are, of course, a number of variations, some of which are described here:
Instead of starting with the coins in triangular formation, only two of the coins are touching to begin, and the third coin can be shoved from anywhere convenient to the attacking player.
Whereas it is usual to allocate one perhaps denominationally-unique coin to be the ball, some players hold that the try or touch-down can be scored with any of the three coins.
Whereas the game is commonly played with three coins, some players see fit to use one coin only.
Moreover, perhaps in tune with American football, the number of shoves or flicks allowed is limited to three or four instead of being unlimited. Likewise, Rugby League devotees may allow six shoves.