The opposing sides each have two balls: Blue and Black against Red and Yellow. Each side may be one or two people (i.e. singles or doubles). Each side plays alternately in rotation: blue, red, black, yellow, as shown by the sequence of colours from the top of the centre peg.
Each turn consists of one stroke only: no extra turn is gained by running a hoop or hitting another ball (contrary to Association Croquet). To start the game, toss a coin. The winner of the toss plays blue and black, and blue always starts.
The opening strokes are played from within one yard of Corner IV (nearest hoop 4), and the players aim to run the hoops in order from 1 to 12.
The winner is the first to reach 7 points. A deciding hoop (hoop 3 again) is run if the scores are equal after 12 hoops, making 13 in all.
To score a point, a ball must run completely through the hoop in the correct direction. A ball has run a hoop if you can slide a straight edge down the front of the hoop without touching the ball. It may run the hoop in more than one turn, or be knocked through by another ball. If a ball should go through two hoops in order in the same stroke, both points are scored.
The side that first gets a ball through Hoop 1 scores that point and then all balls go for the next hoop in order (i.e. Hoop 2). All players contest the same hoop. A player may play towards the next hoop before the previous hoop is run. However the opponents may ask that any ball more than halfway towards the next hoop when the current hoop is actually run, is brought back to a penalty spot halfway down the east or west boundaries.
A ball that goes off the court is replaced on the boundary where it went off but may be temporarily moved if it interferes with the playing of another ball.
The striking of the ball in a turn must be a clean, single hit; there are a number of faults that a player may make when striking the ball. These are listed in the detailed rules. After a fault, all balls are replaced in their positions before the faulty stroke and the player loses that turn.
If a player plays out of sequence and it is noticed before the opponent plays, the opponent may either have the balls left where they are or replaced were they were before the erroneous stoke - the opponent then continues play with either of their balls. If more than one ball is played out of sequence before it is noticed, play continues in the sequence set by the last ball played, no balls are replaced. See the Wrong Ball rule in the detailed rules for more details.
To allow evenly contested games between players of different abilities the weaker player is given a number of extra turns that can be taken at any stage of the game. However a hoop may not be scored for the player's side in an extra turn.