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Tiddlywinks is a four-player game. Each player controls one colour of "winks" - small plastic discs, two of which are slightly larger than the other four. The person who is playing blue partners the person who is playing red; the person who is playing yellow partners the person who is playing green. If only two people are playing, each person controls both colours from a partnership.
Starting with the winks at the corners of a 6 foot by 3 foot felt mat, the players take turns to play a wink using a "squidger" - a (usually plastic) disc, larger than the winks - by pressing the wink into the mat; as the wink squeezes out from under the squidger, it is thrown across the playing area as the mat returns to shape. Players may use different squidgers to play different types of shot; some players have a large selection available to them.
There is a pot in the middle of the mat. If a player lands one of his winks in the pot, he gets another turn. If all his winks end up in the pot (he has "potted out"), that colour wins the game. Experienced players with all six winks positioned near the pot can get them all into the pot in a single turn, so much of the game is about either trying to get into that position, or stopping one's opponents from getting to that position.
If a wink is underneath - even slightly - another wink, the lower wink may not be played. This means that a player can capture (or "squop") an opponent, stopping him from being able to pot out. The owner of the upper wink may play it, so long as the squidger makes contact with the topmost wink first, so one can rescue a captured wink by squopping, in turn, the wink which had captured it. Alternatively, a player may want to use his colour to tie up both opposing colours, leaving his partnering colour more able to win. Although a wink which has been potted cannot then be "squopped", that wink can also no longer be played, and so cannot be used to attack opponents or rescue squopped winks. A player who has tried to put all his winks in the pot but failed part way through will be at a disadvantage in a squopping game.
For this reason, most games consist of "piles" built by "squopping" winks, with each side vying for control. There is a time limit on the game, at the end of which the colour in the strongest position wins, so the last few turns of the game are often stressful and tactical, as the players try to make the best use of the shots they have left. Games often end with no winks potted, since the points benefit for potting may be outweighed by having to free opposing winks.
Tiddlywinks is often compared to croquet, if croquet were played with 24 balls. Advanced play is similar to how chess would be played if it were possible to miss w hen taking a pawn.