All 11 entries tagged An Introduction To Glassball

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January 22, 2005

Glassball: The Brave and Noble Game

January 20, 2005


This page is dedicated to sharing with the general public inside information and (relatively) up-to-date statistics and variations on the Brave and Noble game that is Glassball.

Colin demonstarting Glassball for the masses

Please note, on the advice of our lawyers we must include the following warning:
No responsibility will be accepted for the loss of or damage to such items as sleep or work which may, and, let’s be honest, probably will, come about as the direct result of over-indulgence in the new and exciting sport we are about to introduce. If you are not prepared to leave said sleep and work for holidays and retirement, or if you feel that getting a degree is more important than staying up until a quarter to stupid o’clock in the morning with fellow devotees merely to hit a ping-pong ball with an ashtray across a kitchen table divided by a line of beer bottles, please stop reading now.

The following content is thus liability-free, but we sincerely hope that you find this game as enjoyable and exciting as we do. Please note, we will not be liable for any breakages to equipment or participants during the course of the game. We do not condone playing this game while drunk. However, it is useful to be on friendly let-me-have-your-empties-when-you’re-done terms with someone who drinks, for the purposes of equipment procurement. In our unorthodox usage of ashtrays, we are not displaying any prejudice or intolerance towards those students who prefer to aid cancer research by using ashtrays as they were originally intended and hence adding another valuable statistic to the NHS databases. We scare because we care.

A Brief History of Glassball

Cast your mind back to Term 1 Week 5. What were you doing at 2am on Tuesday? You probably can’t even remember. To be quite honest, neither can we. But it was just such a night when the brave and noble game of Glassball came into being. It was born from the fertile imagination of some of the greatest minds of the university (probably the best university in the world). They were faced with the seemingly unanswerable problem of an urgent desire to play table-tennis, while not possessing any of the basic rudiments beyond a ping pong ball. Most people may have solved the table problem with relative ease – we went for the adjoining kitchen table method. But a net??? Now this is the point at which most of you would have squashed the ping pong ball in frustration and sloped off to the bar to drown your sorrows. Not so our heroes. Partly due to the fact that they are both teetotallers, and partly due to the dogged determination of the indomitable spirit that dwelleth within, they persevered.

Eventually they settled on a row of used Stella bottles to suffice in place of a net, but with a new and original name: The Bottles. Not for them the confines of ordinary convention – 13 bottles lined up in the middle of the table with a gap of approx 4 5/8 inches at either end to allow trick shots around the Bottles (more on these later). In addition, paddles needed improvisation. Among some of the less practical ideas were fridge doors, Wellington boots and step ladders. We experimented during the development phase with shoes, a dustpan, cork placemats, saucepans, and, finally, (what a stroke of genius!) the proliferate but entirely useless ashtrays. Thanks to the foibles of Warwick accommodation, our whole corridor, although having applied for non-smoking rooms, and also voting to ban smoking from the corridor entirely, were furnished with exactly one more ashtray each than we would ever need. But Warwick is always right, and so we knew that, although in our feeble minds we could not fathom the reasoning, there was some sensible and lofty logic behind the generosity concerning ashtrays. Made in France, these miracles of construction even have dimples set at 0, 90, 180 and 270 degrees about the rim for ease of handling, and fit comfortably into the average hand (well, they work fine with me). With a higher coefficient of restitution than even the top quality paddles professional table-tennis champions angle for, these so-called “glasses” (consistent with the name of Glassball, which, in true circular reasoning style, was so called due to the proliferation of glass objects), have been in constant service through the early hours of many happy mornings. Despite numerous guest appearances, there have been but few regular players. These few now bring you the totally un-patented game for your free delight and amusement. Rather like the inventor of the match (what a guy!) we have chosen to share our knowledge of our own match (the Glassball match) totally royalty-free. Don’t thank me, thank my sponsors:

Left: Colin, Right: Richard, Right: Mr Baldwin

We approached a minor subordinate of the famous games shop, Bishop Games of Coventry, and were fortunate enough to secure his whole-hearted affiliation of himself and, insofar as he was permitted, his employers, with the brave and noble game. Left: Colin Thomas – Co-inventor, Right: Richard Baldwin – Co-inventor, Right: Mr. Baldwin, Bishop Games rep.

During the course of the year, we have played numerous exciting matches, gradually improving our own knowledge of the game, inventing new techniques, and even new rules (rather like the popular game, Fluxx – see the Fluxx blog which, incidentally, doesn’t exist and, as long as I have any say in the matter, never will). Read on for set-up, rules and variations…

But first, a word on…

Health and Safety

Unfortunately, Glassball has not all been laughs and smiles. The current recorded number of fatalities stands at zero, but that’s not to say we haven’t had a couple of close calls. Perhaps the most traumatic moment to date came during a particularly ferocious rally between the co-creators, as an attempted backhand shot resulted in a smashed glass, broken into so many slivers on the floor. This could easily have resulted in cuts and scrapes, or even a full-scale invasion from the kitchen below, but luckily the only outcome was a slightly embarrassed player and an earlier bed-time than normal. Although an isolated incident – other dropped glasses have, inexplicably, bounced – the daily life of the hardcore Glassball player is one plagued by peril and tormented by… torment. Being hit by a table-tennis ball may sound like only a minor occurrence, and indeed it is… but imagine for a moment if the ball had been a football. Or a basketball. Or a particularly sharp knife. Then what would have happened? So remember, kids – don’t play Glassball without the supervision of a responsible adult (or, preferably, an irresponsible student). And don’t play with sweaty hands.

Meet the Creators

Hi, I’m Colin, co-creator of the Brave and Noble Game of Glassball (and co-plagiariser of that slogan). I was named after my father, by about 32 years, and other sports I have had a hand in inventing include Canman and Countdown Fluxx. Among my notable contributions to Glassball are the name (hence the pronunciation – see below) and some of the more pointless rules. My interests include watching Neighbours, watching Friends, maintaining websites about both, and trying to hide from my general acquaintance the fact that I maintain websites about both Friends and Neighbours. In my spare time, I attend maths lectures. Attempting to define triple (and quadruple) sarcasm was the main pursuit in my life for many months, and was achieved with help from Richard, not long before we collaborated on the invention of the brave and noble game that is Glassball.

Hello, I'm Richard – co-creator, 'sponsor' and a generally-fun-to-be-near kinda chap. My non-Glassball pursuits include participating in and teaching youth drama, playing board games and juggling. I am personally responsibe for the modern configuration (largely because I own a suitable plank of wood – from a rola bola) and have made a significant contribution to just about every major Glassball decision so far (yay!). At some point in the future I will be adding a section on the specifics and finer points of glassball technique and tactics, since I have been appointed (by myself) the expert in that area. So feel free to ask me questions about anything Glassballish. I play with a more defensive style, favouring a kind of slice shot to stay low over the bottles. Then, when the moment is right, I move in for the kill … but enough of that. I'm off to try and catch up on some sleep…

Lastly, a somewhat more passive co-creator, Anthony who, though not being in on the very beginning (to be fair, who is? Did you go to see the Beatles live before they were famous?), was a willing participant from the very early stages of the game, suggesting developments and trying out groundbreaking methods and equipment before release to the general public. He is also the official camera-man of the game, and the fact that he studies maths makes him look even worse when he fumbles the 8th term of the Fibbonaci series (see game variations). For the minority who are desperate to unravel the enigma that is Anthony, please see my website: Glassball related habits include a working knowledge of Kipling (see game variations), an uncanny ability to put away vast quantities of orange juice (see Semi-classic configuration) and the discovery of the only Glassball poem ever written (see Glassball Lullaby).


The game is called 'Glassball' if you live South of Birmingham. It is called 'Glarssball' if you live North of Birmingham. If you live in Birmingham, you can't play. Consequently, the pronunciation of 'Glass' (see Essential Equipment) relies heavily on the long 'a'. Pronunciation of any other word related to Glassball is as you'd expect. Unless you come from the USA, in which case you ought to know that 'Warwick' has a silent w. No, the second w.

Essential Equipment

Ashtray... I mean, GlassTable Warwick University standard issue kitchen tables are perfect – we use two.

Glasses Ingredients: Warwick University standard issue ashtrays. Method: Pick it up underside uppermost. [edit: alternative ashtrays of similar (but not exactly the same) size and shape are now available]

Bottles Preferably standard size Stella bottles, but any form of physical barrier suffices - see Equipment Variations.

Decorations These are generally a given of the chosen area, and come in the form of walls, ceilings, post-boxes, fridges, etc. So named after the extensive festive paraphernalia of the Christmas season necessitated a clarification of the rules concerning mistletoe entanglement and spontaneous Christmas tree bauble replacement.

Equipment Variations

Classic Made with 13 (un)washed Stella bottles arranged symmetrically along the join of the two tables

Semi-classic Made with a measly 3 Stella bottles, and all of 8 Tesco value orange juice cartons arranged imaginatively in place of the missing 10. This is a variant recommended for use if your urge to play coincides with some or all of the following drawbacks: being a teetotaller, playing against a teetotaller, having too much orange juice knocking around than you know what to do with.

Modern Made with a plank of wood balanced precariously on edge in the middle of the table. More predictable bounces if you happen to hit it, but not quite as exciting. A similar gap either side of the “bottles” (the name is preserved rather like woodwind instruments which have been made of metal for years).

Suggested Tactics

- Almost any tactic adopted from table-tennis will fail in this game. Particularly, smashing and/or spin will result in the ball flying past the end of the table about 90% of the time, and hitting the bottles about 9% of the time. But good luck to you.
– Not strictly speaking a tactic, since it is adopted by all but the most useless of amateur Glassball-players, the recognised service technique is to place the ball in the glass, then throw the ball upwards (with your hand over the top of the glass) and hit it on its way down (as in table-tennis, the ball must hit both sides of the table). It is advisable to make sure your hand doesn't cover too much of the top of the glass, so the ball doesn't hit your hand on the way up, and to throw the ball quite high, giving you time to manoeuvre.
– Playing a backhand shot is not as intuitive as in table-tennis, but can be achieved with a little practice. Holding the ashtray in your hand, base facing away from you, twist both arm and wrist anti-clockwise so that the base of the ashtray is still facing away from you, but your thumb is at the bottom of it (your elbow should be raised quite high). Since this shot is difficult to pull off, especially for beginners, playing to your opponent’s backhand is an often adopted tactic.
– It has been suggested that the most important aspect for (right-handed) Glassball players is the positioning of the left arm: the more dramatic, the better. Conclusive research has shown this suggestion to be completely and utterly false, but it still holds a place in Glassball folklore.
– Due to the positioning of the bottles, there is always a gap between the end of the bottles and the end of the table. Playing the ball through this gap is perfectly acceptable – indeed, it is positively encouraged – and such shots are called ‘round the bottles’ shots. Being that there is no obstacle in the gap, the ball can be played low and thus be more difficult to return – this is even allowed in the serve, although can be difficult to pull off, and makes it easier for the opponent to play a round the bottles shot in return.
– Except in the serve, the ball can hit the bottles on its way to the opponent’s side, and the unpredictable nature of the bottles (particularly in Classic Glassball) can cause the ball to shoot off in almost any direction, which is a blessing or a curse depending on several factors – whether you win the point or not being the overriding one. The more practised players can deliberately attempt to play a shot off the bottles (easier in Semi-Classic Glassball than in Classic Glassball), but it is usually accidental.

Variations on the Game

For all those Kipling fans out there who reckon they know enough of the famous poem If ( or whose Glassball abilities will never bring them beyond verse 1, try reciting alternate words. A typical such exchange will go like this:

Thirteen green bottles
A variation on the well known song (, where the {ping}s and {pong}s attempt to match the rhythm. Note: must be played while in Classic configuration.

For all those maths enthusiasts out there, here is a simplified version of The Song with Many Verses:

0 ( n green bottles standing in a row * 2 )

SUM ( And if 1 green bottle should accidentally fall, )

n=i ( There’ll be n-1 green bottles standing in a row. )

Round the kitchen
Rather like the traditional Round the Table version of table tennis with more than two players, but with optional counting out loud in one or more of the following ways:
Ordinary (boring): 1,2,3,4, etc – the natural numbers
Shunning the primes: 1,*,*,4,*,6,*,8,9,10,*,12,*,14,15,16, etc (as above, but only say the number if it is non-prime)
2^n (specially designed for computer geeks): 2,4,8,16,32,64,128, etc (makes it sound more impressive for short-term spectators)
Fibbonaci series (professionals & maths students only): 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34, etc

Kneeling Glassball
Played like Glassball, but instead of standing, you kneel. Not advisable for people who are short or rubbish at Glassball (or, most particularly, both).

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