Every Autumn, horse chestnut trees drop their conkers. For years conkers have been used for conker fights, but how do you get a winning conker?
What is Conkers?
The game of conkers is ages old. Using the dark brown horse chestnuts, not to be confused with the smaller chesnut, you can have hours of fun trying to smash apart your opponent’s conker.
The game of conkers, also called conker fighting, involves trying to smash your opponent’s conker which is suspended at the end of a piece of string.
How to remove spiky conkers shells
The first thing you will need to play conkers is a conker! Conkers are encased in a green shell that has spikes on the outside. When the horse chestnut ripens and falls from the horse chestnut tree, the outer casing often breaks open when it hits the ground. You can then prise the conker shell off with your fingers.
If the conker shell hasn’t come off, then there is a trick to opening them without hurting your fingers on the spikes. All you have to do is put the conker on the ground and gently roll it with your foot. By applying the right amount of pressure, the shell breaks open as you roll it.
Getting your conkers ready for conker fights
To play conkers, you will need to attach your conker to a piece of string or shoe lace. Make a small hole all the way through your conker with a meat skewer, bradawl or drill. The smaller the hole is, the stronger your conker will be as a bigger hole weakens conkers too much and makes them prone to being broken when hit. The hole does need to be big enough to fit your piece of string through though. If you choose a thin round shoe lace or piece of string, this will be best for your conkers. The string should be between 30cm and 50cm long.
How to play conkers
Conker fighting is great fun between two players. As long as you play fair, you will have a great time. Hopefully your opponent won’t hit your knuckles with their conker either!
The aim of conker fights
The general idea is that one of the conker players holds his conker still in the air by dangling it on the string. The other conker player then has to swing his conker overarm whilst still holding the end of the string so that the conker hits the opponent’s conker. The aim is to smash your opponent’s conker off the string.
Who goes first in conkers?
You usually toss a coin to see who decides to go first. The winner of the toss can choose to hit or receive first.
Conkers Game play
Conkers players take it in turn to try to hit the other conker. There are several outcomes of a swing. You can hit the conker and smash it off the string. You can miss the conker. You can miss the conker and get the strings tangled. You can hit the conker with no damage. You can hit the conker and break your own conker. Both conkers could get damaged.
To win a game of conkers, you have to smash your opponent’s conker completely off the string whilst keeping your conker on the string. A partial break does not count. Also, if you knock your opponent’s conker off the string without breaking it, then they are allowed to put it back on the string.
Scoring and rating a conker
Scoring is done by counting how many conkers your conker has broken. The winning conker also gains the rating of the losing conker. So if you both have “none-ers” because they have won none, then the winning conker becomes a “one-er.” If you have a conker that has beaten four others, and then beats a two-er, then it also takes on the score of the losing conker and becomes a six-er.
Making Unbeatable Conkers
Everyone who has played conkers will know that you will most likely win if your conker is tougher than the other conker. Technically, if you make the conker harder, it also makes it more brittle. What you have to do is to make your conker tough. You also have to try to make your method undetectable, so this rules out coating it in an epoxy resin!
Pickling conkers in vinegar
Pickling conkers in vinegar is said to make them rock hard. This can however cause the inside to slowly rot.
Baking conkers in the oven at a very low heat is one of the best ways to make a winning conker. You need to leave it in the oven long enough to makie it tough without making the outside wrinkly.
Using old conkers
The best way to get a winning conker that is unbeatable is to use conkers saved from last year. So, start collecting next years winning conkers now!
Applying clear varnish to conkers can give them a hard shell, but this can be detectable.
Hand cream on outside of conkers
One method that does seem to make a winning conker is to coat the outside of your conker with hand cream. This makes the outside more resistance to impact. I would bake the conker in the oven first to make the inside tougher, and then coat the outside of the conker with hand cream to make the conker shell more flexible to the impacts.
Conkers banned in schools
Apparently, conker fights are dangerous. The powers that be have decided for you that you should not play conkers in case you get hurt. OK, so there are risks of hitting your opponent in the face, or smashing your conker into their hand, but they will need to have quick reactions to avoid your bad aim. If you can’t play at school, you can always play at home.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
There is also a popular computer game called conkers. The game stars Conker the Squirrel and involves a number of levels to complete. I would rather be outside trying to smash my friend’s horse chestnut to bits than be indoors playing on my own on a computer.
More information about Conkers