Written by: Shani Fowler
We often think that the traditional games have gone for good, our world taken over by Xbox and play stations, but it’s great to see that good old conkers remains popular. So what’s the secret to being the best conker competitor?
Firstly you need to know what a conker is – it’s no good turning up to play if what you have attached to your piece of string is actually an acorn! A conker is essentially the seed of the horse chestnut tree. When it’s time, usually in October, the green outer prickly case gives way and falls to the ground, revealing the juicy rich brown conker it hides. You need to get out and get them quick because not only are they snapped up by other conker enthusiasts, people also collect them as they are said to keep the spiders out of homes (it’s a competitive business)!
Getting the right conker is crucial to being a conker champ. To test the conker is not damaged or mouldy inside, place in water. Damaged conkers will reveal themselves by floating in the water and the good ones will sink to the bottom. Then from the good conkers you need to select conkers that are not cracked, are symmetrical and hard.
Prepare for the fight
There are a number of ways to make your conkers stronger. You can soak them in vinegar, bake them in the oven (always making sure adults are present with that one) or use one of your old winners from years ago! Once you are happy with the conker then you need to make a hole through the centre and thread a strong piece of string (around 25cm) through it, tying a knot at one end securely.
Let the game commence
Ok to the conker battleground. Players take it in turn to hit their opponent’s conker. If you are the first to be hit then let the conker dangle from the string at a height your opponent chooses. Hold still now – no cheating! The striker then wraps their string around their hand, takes the conker in the other hand, draws back and then in for the strike by letting the conker go. The game continues until one of the conkers is completely destroyed.
If a player misses the opponent gets two goes, so aim well! If the strings tangle the first player to shout “strings” gets an extra go – so be ready! If a player hits the opponent’s conker causing it to complete a circle, known in conker jargon as “round the world” the player gets another go. And beware if you have your conker knocked from your hand or if you drop the conker – because the heat is on. If the opponent shouts “stamps” they can jump on it and destroy it, so be ready to get in first shouting “no stamps” so the conker remains intact.
An interesting addition could be to keep a record or diary of your prize winning conkers – dates of victories, who you won and how many strikes it took etc. And then you can bring your prize conker out year after year until it deserves retirement!
It’s great to see that some childhood games are still going strong and that technological games haven’t completely taken over – because once upon a time we were all bonkers for conkers.