This proposed game of croquet was invented, in 1863, by Charles L. Dodgson, the English mathematician, who of course is better known by his pen name of Lewis Carroll. Himself a connoisseur of the game, Dodgson immortalized it in his famous Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, which was published two years afterward, in 1865.

Castle Croquet, by way of contrast, is a serious variation of the standard game, and, as the reader quickly will see, presents a more complex set of strategic problems than does ordinary croquet. Players owning standard croquet equipment (two stakes, nine wickets, six balls and mallets) should note that Castle Croquet requires, instead, four stakes, four mallets, eight balls and eight wickets.

“Castle Croquet,” published anonymously by Carroll in 1863, as “Croquet Castles,” was republished in this version in “Aunt Judy’s Magazine,” No. XVI, August 1867, pp. 221-224.


By Lewis Carroll



This game requires 8 balls, 8 arches, and 4 pegs: 4 of the balls are called “soldiers”; the other “sentinels.” The arches and pegs are set up as in the figure, making 4 “castles,” and each player has a castle, a soldier, and a sentinel. Before the game begins, each player places his sent within a mallet’s length of his peg, and does the same with his soldier when his turn comes to play.

(N.B. The distance from one gate to the next should be 6 or 8 yards, and the distance from the gate to the door, or from the door to the peg, 2 or 3 yards.)


If a sentinel goes through the gate of his castle, in the direction from his peg, he is said to “leave” the castle; when next he goes through it in the opposite direction, he is said to “re-enter” it, and son on. A sentinel, that has not left his castle, is said to be “on duty”; if he leaves it, he is said to be “off duty”; if he re-enters it, to be “on duty” again, and so on.


To begin the game, the owner of Castle No. 1 places and plays his soldier, and then plays his sentinel; then the owner of Castle No. 2, and so on. Each player has to bring his soldier out of his castle (by playing it through the gate)m, and with it “invade” the other castles in order (e.g., No. 3 has to invade castles 4, 1, 2), re-enter his own castle, and lastly, touch his peg, his sentinel being “on duty” at the time; and whoever does all this first, wins. To “invade” a castle, the soldier must enter at the gate, go through the door (either way), touch the peg, and go out at the gate again.


If an invading soldier touch, or be touched by, the sentinel “on duty” of the castle he is invading, he becomes “prisoner,” and is place behind the peg. He may be released by the sentinel going “off duty,” or by his own sentinel “on duty” coming and touching the peg: in the latter case, his sentinel is at once replaced as at the beginning of the game. The released soldier is “in hand” till his next turn, when he is placed as at the beginning of the game.

When a soldier goes through an arch, or touches a peg, “in order,” or when a sentinel takes a prisoner, he may be played again. Also when a sentinel leaves, or re-enters, his castle, he may be played again, but may not exercise either of these privileges twice in one turn.


If the ball played touch another (neither of them being a sentinel “on duty”), the player may “take two” off the ball so touched, but must not move it in doing so. If, however, the ball so touched be his won sentinel, “off duty,” he may take a croquet of any kind, as in the ordinary game. He may not “take two,” or take a croquet twice in one turn off the same ball, unless he has meanwhile gone through an arch, or touched a peg “in order.”

N.B. The following arrangement of the 8 balls as soldiers and sentinels will be found convienent:

Castle Soldier Sentinel
I Blue Pink
II Black Yellow
III Brown Orange
IV Green Red

Advice to the Player

As it is not easy, in a new game, to see at once what is the best method of play in the various situations that may occur, the following suggestions may be of use to the player.

There are two distance methods of play, which you may adopt in this game, and each has its own special advantages: the one consists in keeping your sentinel “on duty”; the other other, in bringing it “off duty.”

In the first method, your sentinel remains constantly at home, except when your soldier is in danger of being taken prisoner, when it is played up to the peg of the castle you are invading, so as to be ready to release your soldier. In this method, the best position for your sentinel is opposite to the centre of your gate, and a ball’s width from it, so that if a soldier, trying to invade your castle, should touch it, it must have a previously passed through the gate. From this position it is easy to take a prisoner in any part of your castle by the following rule:--Play your sentinel just through the gate; this gives you another turn, in which you play it in again, getting as near as possible to the invading soldier; this gives you another turn, in which you may take it prisoner. The same process may be employed for playing your sentinel up to the peg of the castle you are invading, if it should happen that you cannot play it straight for the peg. This process, however, must not be employed when you have a prisoner in your castle, as it would be released by your sentinel going out.

In the second method, your sentinel keeps with your soldier: when playing your soldier, you carry the sentinel along with it, through one or more arches, by taking “loose croquets” or “split strokes”; and when your soldier can do no more, you either play your sentinel close up to it, ready for the next turn, or, if you soldier is in danger of being taken prisoner, you “take two” off it, getting as close as possible to the enemy’s sentinel in the first stroke, and driving it to a safe distance in the second.

The first method is the safest, when any of the other players is better than yourself, as it enables you to prevent his entering your castle and so to delay him; but as soon as all the players, whom you have reason to fear, have passed through your castle, you had better bring your sentinel “off duty,” and help on your soldier.

The second method enables you to make rapid progress in invading the other castles: you can also take prisoners almost as easily as in the first method, by “taking two” off your soldier, getting near your gate in the first stroke, and entering your castle in the second; this gives you another turn, in which you may take a prisoner. It has, however, the disadvantage of loss of time if your soldier should be made a prisoner, as in this case your sentinel has to got home, get “on duty,” and return, before it can release your soldier.

If your soldier is taken prisoner, and you release it by touching the enemy’s peg with your sentinel, you are in a position in which you may often retard the other players: first, by placing your sentinel (which is done directly after the release) in a line between your peg and an invading soldier which is aiming at it; secondly, by placing your soldier (which is done when your next turn comes) close to your sentinel, playing it so as to drive your sentinel in the direction of an invading soldier, and then taking it prisoner.

It evidently follows from this that, when you have taken yourself a prisoner, and happen to be invading the castle from which it came, you should not wait till the enemy’s sentinel has touched your peg and so released the prisoner, but you should yourself release it (as soon as the enemy’s sentinel has nearly reached your peg) by playing your own sentinel out through your gate and in again: in this case the sentinel, which was on its way to your peg, cannot be carried back at once, but must be played all the way home.

In “taking two” off a ball you may, if you choose, play your own ball so as only just to move it, and then strike it in the direction of the other, and thus drive it a distance. This has nearly the same effect as the “loose croquet” of the ordinary game, but with this difference, that it does not give the right of playing again.

If a soldier, about to invade your castle, is lying near your gate, you may take it prisoner thus:--Play your sentinel out, near the soldier; then hit it with your sentinel, and “take two” off it, so as only just to move your ball, taking care to have the soldier in a line between your sentinel and your gate; then drive both in together; this gives you another turn, in which you may take it prisoner.

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