A couple of weeks ago on the Nottingham list there was discussion about making Association Croquet more 'interactive', so that it would be less boring for top players, some of whom we were in danger of losing to other games, notably GC.
There were various suggestions for changes in the laws, including three from Reg Bamford. Last weekend two of these were adopted on an experimental basis in the consolation event of a weekend tournament. The Ranelagh Gold Cup was thought to be a good event to try the experiment because:
The experimental laws were:
a) to move the 4-back lift to 3-back;
b) to give a contact if the second ball, also, runs 1-back and 3-back in the same turn.
The CA sanctioned the experiment for the games to count for the purposes of the AHS and rankings.
The most useful feedback was obtained before anybody actually played any games under the experimental laws:
1) Only the really expert players (-1.5 or -2) acknowledged that there was any need to make games more interactive; everybody else thought the game was quite interactive enough and welcomed having within their grasp the opportunity for a 'perfect result' of 26TP now and again.
2) There was a feeling that these experimental laws would not, in any case, fulfil the objective. In particular a QP is only slightly more challenging for an expert player than a TP. A whole raft of alternative experiments were debated, including introducing another lift hoop at 4, 'unpeeling' opponent's balls and extending the baulk lines so lift shots were not as long.
3) Most players were reluctant to enter into the experiment. On probing it became clear that any change was unwelcome; they wanted a nice comfortable weekend with their friends doing what they know best. This is not meant in a derogatory sense; it is human nature to reject change, especially when no benefit can be seen. By contrast, one 'expert player' said that he enjoyed having to think, rather than doing the same thing over and over again, almost on autopilot.
About a dozen games were played under the experimental rules format. Players adopted a variation of tactics. The most popular was to take on the QP, even among those for whom a TP was far from routine. Only one was achieved. A couple of expert players went the whole hog and tried SXPs.
Other tactics included just trying for the 3-back peel, without bothering with the others, or taking first ball to peg, conceding a contact.
In summary, I suppose I would have to say the results of the experiment were inconclusive. If we achieved anything it was perhaps to move forward the debate by one rung.
Ironically, one of the semi-final matches of the main event proved exactly why such a change should be considered. The Maugham/Dawson match comprised three games, all 26TP and lasting only 21 turns in a little over two hours.