From our coach, Pixie Jones (see 'Documents' for an easy-to-print PDF version)
Association Croquet - Bisques In handicap play, the higher handicap player has extra turns. This is determined by taking the difference between the handicaps of the two players in a singles match. In a game of doubles, the handicaps of each pairing is added together and the difference is taken between each sides’ total and is then halved. Either player of the side receiving the bisques can use the bisques. A bisque is an extra turn in which points can be scored for either side. They are used to get a break started, to continue a well set out break or to prevent the opponent from gaining an advantage.
When a senior player is opposing a junior player in a social game, the senior player will often say “take a bisque” but this really sends the wrong message. It is better for coaching purposes to tell the junior player to “have another go at the croquet (two ball) shot”.
Think of a bisque as an opportunity to create, or to continue, a break (proactive) rather than simply stopping the opposition from playing (reactive). Also look at what you are leaving for the opposition if you do not take a bisque, but don’t just automatically take one because you have “broken down”. Try to assess your opposition. They may not be playing well or their skill level may be no better than yours. Which ball do you think they will play, can they make a break from what you are leaving or are they nervous because you have a lot of bisques?
Always consider carefully whether or not to take a bisque. Once you leave the lawn or have told the opposition that you are not taking a bisque, you cannot change your mind. But if you say you are going to take a bisque, you can then change your mind before you hit the ball. Always finish your turn (ie do your continuation shot) before you re-start, using the same ball, when taking a bisque. In fact you should be thinking about the decision of whether or not to take a bisque, before the continuation shot is played in order to play your continuation to a strategically good place. Plus you must indicate clearly that you are going to take a bisque.
Sometimes in a game of doubles you might get a half bisque. You cannot score any points for either side with a half bisque but they can be very useful to set out a break. Once done, then take a full bisque and start to play.
If you receive many bisques, say 6 or more, use one to set out the lawn in a 4 ball break, then take another to start play. To do this at the start of the game, if you win the toss choose to go 2nd. If your opponent goes out to the East boundary, you could go into the centre near the peg. Your opponent will probably go out East again. Now you fire on him and if you miss, take a bisque and start formulating your break. Once done, take another bisque and make some hoops. You are getting used to the lawn while your opposition is sitting nervously on the side line.
At other times during the game, if you notice that there are two balls near your hoop, or in the centre of the lawn where you can make use of them, use the ball going for that hoop to fire at your other ball landing close to it if you are likely to miss. Take a bisque and start setting out your break.
Using bisques to set out a 4 ball break should be your goal but sometimes things just don’t work out well on the day. How many bisques do you have left? With a large number of bisque you have more opportunities always remembering that two taken together should be considered. The first to set out the break, the second to start using the break. Once you understand a 4 ball break (pivot ball) you will find this fascinating game a lot easier to play, and very, very satisfying. Your aim is to make as many hoops in a turn as possible and the easiest way to do this, as a new junior player, is to play a 4 ball break.