A Critique of the Style of the Laws
by Louis Nel
A new version of the Sixth Edition of The Laws of Association Croquet (Amended 2008) recently appeared. It is written in the same style as earlier editions. The purpose of this article is to offer a critique of this long used style and to suggest a change. A substantial sample of laws in the suggested style is provided to facilitate comparison.
Some may believe the Laws should be written only for croquet-cultured readers i.e. readers who already understand the basic concepts and use the laws only to make reference to finer points. This may well have been the tacit assumption when the laws were first written. Indeed, until recently it was rather unlikely that anybody else would get their hands on a copy. So, while I’ve strongly disliked the style of the Laws for many years, I’ve kept a stiff upper lip.
However, times have changed. Nowadays, via the internet, a copy of the Laws is potentially within reach of everybody. Recently the WCF President visited China with a view to introducing croquet there. This in particular has underscored the desirability of having more user-friendly Laws.
A Conspicuous Feature of the Current Style
Association Croquet is a relatively complex game. It is a challenge to write its laws properly. The current style responds to this challenge in a peculiar way: the reader is repeatedly confronted with statements involving concepts that have not yet been defined in the laws. Let us illustrate this. Law 4(d) (about when a turn ends) is formulated in terms of several undefined concepts, including roquet. The newcomer needs to look it up in Law 16, where it is expressed in terms of live ball, also undefined. Live ball first appears in Law 6, along with dead ball, which is defined to be a ball that has been croqueted, again undefined. So the newcomer needs to read law 20 where croquet stroke becomes defined in terms of a roqueted ball, where the search started ...
The saddest thing about searches like the one just described is that the newcomer will eventually come back empty handed – if at all. Many more examples of such loops in the labyrinth can be given, involving roquet and croquet as well as several other concepts. The loops are not always as long as the one mentioned above, but none of them can fail to frustrate a newcomer.
Suggested New Style
Laws should be written in a style that adheres to the following Guiding Principle: make no statement in terms of undefined concepts. Accordingly, an undefined concept should be defined in terms of known concepts before it may appear in any statement. There is nothing new about this principle. It underlies instructive discourse generally. Adherence to this principle makes a remarkable difference to the readability of the resulting laws. However, certain questions may reasonably arise. Can it be done? Won’t the rewriting be an enormous task? Won’t it yield awkwardly formulated laws?
The simplest way to answer such questions is to let the proof of the pudding be in its eating. So I have written below, with strict adherence to the above Guiding Principle, a sample version of the core part of the Laws. In this sample (dealing with Ordinary Singles Play, General Laws of Play) forward references are used for no more than an occasional indication of where other related situations will be dealt with, never for the purpose of determining the content or meaning of the law from where the reference is made.
The algorithmic nature of the concept roquet makes it exceptional. Once this concept is taken care of, no other definition presents much of a challenge. One merely needs to be careful about the order in which the laws are presented and to control the flow of information, guarding against saying too much too soon. Much retyping becomes eliminated by the cut-and-paste editing commonly used these days. All told, rewriting the laws in the suggested style is really not a big deal.
As regards the quality of law formulation achievable in the suggested style, the sample laws will speak for themselves. It is worth noting that the reader is never required to read two or more laws simultaneously in an effort to figure out what either of them is saying. And “loops in the labyrinth” are eliminated.
The sample laws are not intended to define a game different from the current one. I am confident that if some discrepancy should come to light, correction could be made without violation of the above Guiding Principle.
The sample makes no pretense at perfection. Its modest aim is to show that the suggested style does offer a practical alternative. I’m hoping that it will put the croquet-powers-that-be in a position where they can instruct a committee to produce a version of the Laws that upholds the Guiding Principle. They should not have to be concerned about whether that is feasible, only about whether they consider it preferable.
(To illustrate a style which adheres strictly to the above Guiding Principle.) [remarks between square braces, as here, are comments and not a formal part of the laws]
Association Croquet is a game between two competing sides played with four balls on a court. One side plays with Blue and Black balls, the other with Red and Yellow. The sides take turns playing. During the Blue-Black turn, one of these two balls becomes the striker’s ball for that turn and the player of that turn may strike it with his mallet so as to change ball positions on the court. Similarly, during the Red-Yellow turn the striker’s ball will be either Red or Yellow and it will be the only ball that may be struck during that turn. Six hoops and a center peg are installed on the court. There is a prescribed order and a prescribed direction in which the hoops have to be run by each ball (one point per hoop per ball) and thereafter hit the center peg (another point per ball) for a maximum total of 26 points. Each side tries to let its two balls run this obstacle course by striking them during the turns they play. The side who first gets all 26 points scored wins the game.
After this brief introduction, with no further rules or guidance, two players would already be able to have fun playing. They might simply hit the balls through the hoops in straightforward fashion, but this could become boring after a while. The players may also squabble over unspecified details. The Laws of Association Croquet contribute in two ways towards the creation of a game of abiding interest. Firstly, the Laws clarify what kind of stroke is allowed, what precisely is meant by a ball running a hoop and so on. However, the Laws do more than that. They are also creative. They permit and encourage a player to use opponent balls to good effect for the purpose of getting his own balls through their hoops. It works like this. By hitting another ball (possibly an opponent ball) with the striker’s ball two additional strokes may be earned. The first of these (a croquet stroke) is a stroke in which both striker’s ball and the other ball are moved -- moved to locations favorable to the striker, of course. The second additional stroke (a continuation stroke) is much like the start of a new turn even though it just continues the present turn. This creates the possibility of playing a series of well-planned strokes that allows the player to run many hoops in one and the same turn.
The possibility of one player getting the innings this way and playing a series of strokes could have the effect of making the game one-sided. Indeed, whoever gets such an innings first would seem to have an insurmountable advantage. The Laws create certain controls against this. One of them is that a player may croquet the same ball again only after a hoop has been run since the previous time it was croqueted. To facilitate such regulation, the Laws assign “states" to the balls. Unlike the physical attributes of the balls (like color, size and weight), which are presumed to remain unchanged throughout the game, the various states of a ball change all the time in accordance with happenings on the court. In particular, at the start of each turn, all balls are in a “live” state. When a ball is croqueted, its live state will have changed to a “dead” state. When the striker’s ball runs a hoop, all dead balls become live balls again. So the mentioned additional strokes (croquet stroke and continuation stroke) may be earned only when hitting a live ball, not when hitting a dead ball. All told, the Laws create a game of considerable tactical richness. This comes at the price of some complexity, but the ultimate enjoyment is worth that price.
THE LAWS OF ASSOCIATION CROQUET
ORDINARY SINGLES PLAY
2. The court.
These two laws can be taken over from the current laws book (laws 2 and 3) with only one minor change: hoop settings should not be talked about before hoops are introduced.
3. Start up procedures.
3.a A croquet game has two competing sides.
3.b One side plays with the Blue and Black balls, the other with the Red and Yellow balls.
3.c The two sides play in turn.
3.d The decision about which colors are used by each side and which side plays the first turn is made with the aid of a coin toss as follows. The side who wins the toss may choose the turn (first or second) or the balls (blue and black is one possible choice, red and yellow is another). Then the opposing side makes the remaining choice i.e. a choice of balls if the turn has been chosen and a choice of turn if the balls have been chosen. Once made, a choice may not be revoked.
3.e The first turn starts when the above opening procedures have been completed. (How a turn starts is regulated by law 8 to follow.) Happenings that cause a turn to end are identified by various laws to follow. A new turn starts when the previous turn has ended.
4. States of a ball and the state of the game.
Balls have certain changeable states, as follows. Where possible, the initial state is indicated. The laws to follow regulate how state changes come about.
4.a At any time a ball is either in play or not. At the start of the game it is not in play.
4.b At any time a ball is in precisely one of fourteen Score States:
If a ball is for Hoop N, then Hoop N is also called the hoop in order for that ball. A ball that is for the peg is also called a rover.
4.c At any time a ball in play is in precisely one of the following states:
4.d At any time a ball is either the striker’s ball or it is not. At the start of every turn, the side playing that turn nominates (usually by the action taken) one of its two balls to be the striker’s ball and the player of that ball becomes known as the striker. Once a ball becomes the striker’s ball it remains in that state for the entire duration of that turn and it is always the only ball in that state.
4.e At any time a ball is either live or dead. At the start of a turn every ball is live.
4.f The state of the game is the information relevant to its continuation. This includes the states of the balls, details about the positions of all balls at rest and any information that may influence future entitlements of the players or states of balls. The state of the game needs to be recorded in written form when the completion of the game has to be postponed to a later time possibly on a different court. Such recording is known as pegging down the game.
4.g The winner of the game is the side who first succeeds in getting both of its two balls pegged out. The game ends when it has a winner.
5. Further definitions
5.a An outside agency is any agency unconnected with the game. Examples include animals, spectators, a referee other than the players, the players or equipment from another game, a ball in hand, a ball not in play, a clip not attached to a hoop or the peg, the peg extension when not attached to the peg and other stray objects. Neither weather nor loose impediments are outside agencies; exceptional circumstances may be dealt with under the current Law 55.
5.b An outside agency should be moved or removed if it might affect play.
5.c A 2-group is a set of two balls at rest in contact with each other.
A 3-group is a set of three balls at rest such that one of these balls is in contact with a ball that is part of a 2-group.
A 4-group is a set of four balls at rest such that one of these balls is in contact with a ball that is part of a 3-group.
6. Strokes and related terminology.
6.a A stroke is played when a player, in order to change the state of the game, strikes with his mallet at a ball that is at rest, making contact only with the end face of the mallet, subject to the following provisions:
6.b The start of a stroke is when the mallet head has passed or leaves the ball on the final backswing that the striker intends to make before striking the ball. If no backswing is used, it is the moment when the forward swing starts.
6.c The end of a stroke is the moment when every ball moved in consequence thereof has stopped moving for at least 5 seconds.
6.d The striking period starts when the stroke starts and ends when the striker quits his stance under control. If the striker does not quit his stance before playing the next stroke, the striking period ends when the earlier stroke ends or, if sooner, when the next stroke starts. [suggested better law: it ends when the striker has completed the final forward swing of his mallet.]
6.e A continuation stroke is a new stroke that a striker may become entitled to play under certain circumstances (examples will be encountered in 10.d.2 and 13.e).
6.f Striking faults. A striking fault occurs when, during the striking period, the striker
6.g If a stroke is played and a striking fault occurs, then the turn ends and the fault is rectified i.e.the balls are replaced in the positions occupied before the stroke was played unless the adversary elects them to stay where they ended after the stroke.
6.h Consequences of a stroke. If a stroke is played and a striking fault does not occur, then the turn continues, under regulation of various laws in which the phrase “as consequence of a stroke” will typically occur.
[ Remark: a stroke may cause the striker’s ball to score a hoop point (Law 10) or to score a peg point (Law 11) or to make a roquet (Law 12) or to take croquet (law 13) or to earn a continuation stroke (Law 10 or Law 13) or none of the above, in which case the turn ends; the turn may also end because of a striking fault (6h) or if a ball leaves the court (Law 13) or because of errors in play]
6.i Waiving a stroke. A player may waive a stroke that he is entitled to play.
In that case the turn ends. If the player had not played a stroke that turn, waiving the stroke means that the turn is also waived. Then 8.d applies i.e. the player has to nominate a striker’s ball in order to establish responsibility for its position.
7. Wired balls.
7.a A ball ("the relevant ball") is said to be positioned with impeded swing toward another ball ("the target ball") if there is any part of an end face of the mallet that the striker used in the turn before the relevant ball was positioned with which he would be unable to strike the centre of the relevant ball in order to drive it freely with his normal swing towards any part of the target ball. However, the swing is not impeded merely because a hoop or the peg interferes with the striker’s stance.
7.b A ball ("the relevant ball") is wired from another ball ("the target ball") if:
7.c A player becomes or remains responsible for the position of any ball that:
belongs to him, in the event that he played the first stroke of a turn with an adversary’s ball, or by declaring that he was leaving a ball where it lay without specifying which.
However, a player does not become responsible for the position of any ball replaced to correct an interference.
7.d If at the start of a turn the striker’s ball is wired from all other balls and the adversary is responsible for the position of the striker’s ball, then the striker is entitled to a baulk-line lift. This means that the position where the striker’s ball is at rest may be changed, at the option of the striker, to any unoccupied point on either baulk-line, possibly in contact with a another ball.
7.e If the striker lifts a ball under Law 7.d, that ball is thereby selected as striker’s ball and the striker is then obliged to play that ball from a baulk line.
7.f The striker may ask a referee to conduct a wiring test only at the start of a turn when a wired ball would entitle him to a baulk-line lift. He must otherwise rely on an unaided ocular test to determine whether or not one ball is wired from another. The striker is entitled to the benefit of any doubt in an adjudication of whether one ball is wired from another.
8. How a turn starts.
8.a Each of the first four turns of the game starts as follows. The player entitled to play (see 3.d) must place one of his balls on any point of either baulk-line and play the first stroke of his turn from there. In the first two turns either of his two balls may be selected, but in the third and fourth turn the ball selected must be the one not previously selected.
8.b The ball selected under 8.a becomes a ball in play and remains a ball in play until pegged out. It also becomes the nominated striker’s ball in terms of Law 4.d.
8.c At the start of a turn after the fourth, the player entitled to play must select one of his balls as striker’s ball for that turn. The selection is normally made by playing it either from where it is at rest or, in case it is found to be a wired ball, from an unoccupied point on either baulk-line in accordance with Law 7.
8.d The striker may waive the turn without playing a stroke. In that case he must nevertheless nominate a ball as striker’s ball, thus to assume responsibility for its position. After the waive announcement and the nomination the turn ends.
9. Adjusted ball positions and states after a stroke.
9.a A ball leaves the court as soon as any part of it would touch a straight edge raised vertically from the boundary. It then becomes a ball in hand and an outside agency. The striker must consult the adversary before testing whether or not a ball is off the court if the position is critical.
9.b A ball that moves as a consequence of a stroke ceases to be a ball at rest and becomes a ball in motion until it has stopped moving for at least 5 seconds.
If it is not pegged out and has not left the court and is not in the yard-line area, it then becomes a ball at rest.
9.c At the end of each stroke any ball in the yard-line area, other than the striker’s ball, becomes a ball in hand. If the striker’s ball is in the yard-line area at the end of a stroke it is played from where it lies unless the turn has ended and in that case it becomes a ball in hand.
9.d At the end of each stroke and before the next stroke a ball that has left the court must be replaced on the yard-line at the point nearest to where it left the court; and any ball in hand in the yard-line area (see 9.c) must be replaced on the yard-line at the point nearest to where it came to rest.
9.e If a ball cannot be replaced in accordance with law 9.d because of the presence of:
it must be replaced on the yard-line as the striker chooses in contact with any ball that directly or indirectly interferes with its replacement.
9.f If the striker’s ball is a ball in hand it must not interfere with the replacement of a ball under Laws 9.d and 9.e.
9.g If two or more balls have to be replaced, the order of replacement is as the striker chooses.
9.h The striker must replace balls on the yard-line with his back to the court unless he has a choice of replacement positions under 9.d and must take special care to ensure that such replacement is accurate. He must consult the adversary if he is in any doubt whether a ball may have to be replaced in contact with another ball.
9.i Every ball that is replaced under 9.d or 9.e becomes a ball at rest immediately after its replacement.
10. Scoring a hoop point.
10.a To say that a ball passes through a hoop means that it satisfies the conditions in the current Law 14 and the illustrative diagram given there, except that in 14(d)(3) the words If a ball in hand is placed for a croquet stroke should become replaced with if a ball in hand is placed in a position at rest immediately before the start of the stroke and the second sentence in 14(d)(4) should become replaced with Alternatively, it may complete running the hoop in a subsequent stroke or turn unless it becomes a ball in hand, in which case it must start to run the hoop again.
10.b To say that a ball runs its hoop in order or that it scores a hoop point means that it passes through a hoop as a consequence of one or more strokes subject to the following conditions:
10.b.4 in case the ball is not the striker’s ball, that ball is said to be peeled through the hoop.
10.c If a ball runs its hoop in order it gets the Score State that follows the one it had before e.g. if it was for Hoop 1, it is now for Hoop 2; if it was for rover, it is now for the peg.
10.d If the striker’s ball runs its hoop in order, then
11. Scoring a peg point.
11.a The striker’s ball scores a peg point for itself if it is a rover and hits the peg as a consequence of a stroke, provided that it did not make a roquet before hitting the peg.
If the striker’s ball simultaneously hits a live ball and the peg in order, it scores a peg point unless the striker claims a roquet by taking croquet.
11.b If the striker’s ball is a rover then another ball that is also a rover scores a peg point if it hits the peg as a consequence of a stroke.
11.c A ball that scores a peg point becomes pegged out. However, it remains in play throughout the stroke in which it is pegged out and may cause other balls to move and score hoop or peg points. It may only be moved, picked up or arrested in its course if the state of the game will not be affected thereby. At the end of the stroke in which it becomes pegged out it ceases to be a ball in play. The striker must then remove it and the corresponding clip from the court before the next stroke. However, if he is about to peg out the striker’s ball in the next stroke and the pegged out ball is unlikely to interfere, he may delay doing so until after the next stroke.
11.d If the striker’s ball is pegged out then the turn ends at the end of that stroke.
11.e If the striker’s ball roquets a ball and the roqueted ball becomes pegged out in that stroke then the turn ends at the end of that stroke.
11.f If, at the start of a turn, the striker’s ball is a rover in contact with the peg, it is pegged out in a stroke unless it is hit in a direction away from the peg.
11.g If the striker’s ball is a rover and hits, or causes another ball to hit, another rover that is in contact with the peg, that other rover is pegged out unless it is hit in a direction away from the peg.
11.h If the striker’s ball, being a rover, and another rover ball that it causes to hit the peg do so simultaneously, they are deemed to be pegged out in the order nominated by the striker.
11.i A ball at rest cannot be pegged out solely as a result of the peg being moved or straightened.
12. Making a roquet.
12.a If a stroke causes the striker’s ball to hit more than one live ball, it will usually be clear which one was hit first. If not, the striker will decide which ball should be deemed to be hit first.
12.b Deadness law. If a stroke causes the striker’s ball to hit one or more live balls, then the first live ball hit becomes dead.
12.c The striker’s ball makes a roquet when, as consequence of a stroke,
it hits a live ball with which it was not in contact at the start of the stroke and which is the first live ball it hits in that stroke. The striker’s ball is then said to have roqueted that ball or to have made a roquet on it.
[The contact situation may arise when a ball is peeled through a hoop.It is worth noting that if the striker’s ball roquets a ball according to the definition just made, then the roqueted ball becomes dead (12.b), so it cannot be roqueted again until either the striker’s ball has run its hoop in order (10.d.1) or until a later turn starts (4.e).]
12.d If the striker’s ball makes a roquet then it remains a ball in play throughout the stroke and may therefore cause other balls to score hoop or peg points; accordingly, it may only be moved, picked up or arrested in its course if the state of the game will not be affected thereby; it becomes a ball in hand at the end of the stroke; unless the striker’s turn ends by virtue of 11.e, the turn continues under Law 13.
12.e Exceptional roquet situation. If, during a stroke, the striker’s ball runs its hoop in order and hits a dead ball that, at the start of the stroke, was clear of the hoop on the non-playing side, then that dead ball is deemed to have become live before the impact for the purposes of law 12.c and so a roquet is deemed to have been made.
[This law, to the effect that a roquet on a dead ball is sometimes permissible, is mainly to make the game more pleasant. In its absence, the striker would be obligated to measure carefully before the stroke whether the impact would come before or after the dead ball had become alive.
Note that this law does not apply to a dead ball that was not clear of the hoop at the start of the stroke]
12.f Deemed roquet situations.
[This situation arises when the striker’s ball is placed in contact with a live ball after entitlement to a baulk-line lift; also when the striker’s ball comes to rest in contact with a ball that it peeled through a hoop].
[ Summary of hoop and roquet situations (to indicate correspondence with current laws): 17(a) If, during a stroke, the striker’s ball both completes running a hoop in order and hits a ball that, at the start of the stroke, was clear of the hoop on the non-playing side, the following applies: the hoop point is scored by the striker’s ball and the other ball become live before the impact; and so a roquet is also made ( 12.c) provided the other ball was the first live ball so hit (this proviso is not in the current laws but is probably intended to be there) This applies no matter whether the ball was live before the stroke, and regardless of the actual order of events. 17(b) OTHER CASES If, during a stroke and before or after completing the running of a hoop in order, the striker’s ball hits a ball ("the relevant ball") that, at the start of the stroke, was: live and not clear of the hoop on the non-playing side, a roquet is made on the relevant ball provided the relevant ball was the first live ball so hit (this proviso is not in the current laws but is probably intended to be there) and the hoop point is deemed not to be scored for the striker’s ball (10.b.3); or dead and not clear of the hoop on the non-playing side, the hoop point is scored but, a roquet is deemed not to be made on the relevant ball (by definition 12.c); or in contact with the striker’s ball, the hoop point is scored but, a roquet is deemed not to be made on the relevant ball (by definition 12.c). 17(c) BALLS COMING TO REST IN CONTACT In the preceding two cases, if the striker’s ball comes to rest in contact with the relevant ball, a roquet is deemed to have been made on the relevant ball (12.f.1). ]
13. Taking croquet.
13.a To take croquet from a given ball means that the striker’s ball becomes placed on the ground in contact with the given ball and then a stroke becomes played , hereafter called the croquet stroke, according to the following two provisions and those of 13.f below when they are relevant:
13.b If the striker’s ball made a roquet on a ball (see 12.c) then it becomes required to take croquet from that roqueted ball.
13.c After the start of a croquet stroke the roqueted ball becomes known as the croqueted ball.
13.d Consequences of a croquet stroke. If, as consequence of a croquet stroke, the striker’s ball
13.e Another consequence of a croquet stroke. If, as consequence of a croquet stroke, the croqueted ball leaves the court, then the turn ends unless the croqueted ball gets pegged out in the stroke.
13.f Croquet strokes involving groups of balls. In case the striker takes croquet from a ball that forms part of a 2-group or 3-group (see 5.c), then the balls in that group other than the roqueted ball all become ball in hand during preparation for the croquet stroke (see 13.a) and may be placed by the striker in any order provided that at the time of the croquet stroke these balls again form a 2-group or 3-group as before and the striker’s ball is not in contact with any ball other than the roqueted ball. The striker remains entitled to reposition the balls until the croquet stroke is played. A croquet stroke that involves a 2-group or 3-group is known as a 2-group cannon or 3-group cannon respectively.
13.g When preparing for a croquet stroke, the striker may touch or steady the roqueted ball or apply such pressure to any ball by hand or foot, but not by mallet, as is reasonably necessary to make it hold its position, provided that neither its original position nor, if a peel is to be attempted, its rotational alignment is finally disturbed. If necessary, the balls may be held in position by grass clippings or similar material.
12 November 2008
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