The idea behind this tabletop golf game is simple enough but it works so well that Table Golf Association (TGA) has already become one of our favourite dexterity games! It's designed by John Garcia, with art by Rob Terrell. It can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, and tho' the rules suggest 1-8 players, the only upper limit on player count is the players' patience in waiting for their turn.
Table Golf Association is played using as a ball a puck that is made of a ball bearing in a plastic surround. Older players may recognise the pucks as similar to the bases of the tiny Dalek toys that were popular in the very early pre-regeneration days of Doctor Who. Along with four of these golf ball pucks, the game comes with 25 large double-sided heavy-duty wooden terrain hexes. These are used to create each hole, so the game is played on a modular board; always starting with a tee hex and ending with the actual hole. The rulebook includes a few pre-designed holes but you can use the tiles to create your own.
Rather than striking the ball as you would in golf, in TGA you're flicking the puck to try to get it into the hole with the minimum number of flicks. When you lay out a hole, the rules suggest you work out the minimum number of shots it will take to get to the hole (ie: reflecting any twists and turns) and then add one to set the par for the hole. Players' score for a hole is in relation to the par; so if you down your 'ball' in four flicks on a par 5 hole, you score -1. As in golf, the object is to end the game with the lowest score. You'll need to decide in advance how many holes you'll be playing. You could go for 18 holes as in 'real' golf but that will mean a very long game: even with just two players or solo, the set up and take down for each hole could well take the playing time to 2 hours. We'd recommend playing six or nine holes.
Of course, the different designs on the terrain hexes aren't just decorative: they represent the Fairway and various hazards, so it's not just a case of flicking the puck. If you're on a Fairway hex, you can flick the ball with any finger. From a hex that's considered Rough, you can use any finger on your non-dominant hand. If the ball has landed on the Trees, you must use the middle finger of your non-dominant hand. Land in the Sand and you must use the thumb of your non-dominant hand. If your ball is in the Water you reposition your ball but take a one-stroke penalty. Likewise if you hit a Cliff or go 'out of bounds'. Ridge hexes represent slopes: you follow the arrow on the hex to indicate where your ball rolls. In addition, each terrain has a limit set on how far (how many hexes) the ball is allowed to travel.
That's not all. There's a custom six-sided die and spinner to determine wind direction and strength. This adds further movement to your ball after it lands. Wind can prove to be a hindrance or a help...
The chunky pucks can obviously obstruct each other so one way of playing is to have each player complete a hole before the next player takes their turn. The game includes markers for each colour of puck (mini post-it notes), so the alternative is to remove your ball and replace it with a marker so that the next player can take their shot. This method more closely replicates the experience of 'real' golf and it keeps everyone involved throughout.
There's a huge amount of play value in Table Golf Association, and there's more to progress to once players think they've mastered the art of the controlled flick... There are 'Pro' Rules that modify some of the hazard effects. The game includes a dozen 'Pro' character cards. These each come with a special ability; for example, to ignore the negative effect of a particular hazard. You might therefore want to include these at the start with new players because they actually make the game a little easier.
We've been impressed with the production quality of Table Golf Association. Too often in modular games, the tiles move about during play - annoying in any game but potentially game-wrecking in a dexterity game. You won't find that happens at all with TGA because the hex tiles are solid and hefty. Our copy included a trophy for you to award when playing tournaments (or more likely hold aloft in a Facebook selfie when you win). It also came with four mini 'golf clubs' that could be used instead of flicking the pucks with your fingers. These are intended for use by players who may have a disability that makes it difficult for them to use their fingers. It's a nice idea but the cardboard golf clubs look feeble in comparison with the high quality of all the other components; it's a pity the game didn't include mini 'woods'.
If you get hooked on Table Golf Association, you can register at www.TableGolfAssociation.com to earn a TGA ranking and get access to official tournaments. It seems that like 'real' golf, TGA can become a way of life!